Developer: Digital Continue
Publisher: Aspyr Media
Platform: Nintendo Switch (eShop)
Category: Action, Adventure & Role-Playing
Release Date: August 16, 2018 (EU & NA)
Fight! Die! Bug?!
Developed by Digital Continue and initially launched as an early access title on Steam, Next Up Hero is a dungeon crawler that after releasing on other consoles earlier this year, has finally landed on Switch. As for its premise, after the player dies in one of the game’s generated dungeons, an echo of their character is left in that challenge room to be revived by another player and recruited as an ally. Sure on paper, it sounds amazing, but how does it hold up when the idea is put into practice? Let’s find out!
With regards to story, the tale of Next Up Hero is about the Spoken World that is being invaded by creatures called ‘Ceaseless Dirge.’ To defend music and the Spoken World, Quinn and Ovalia have to sing, so that the heroes and the echoes of the fallen ones can work together to defend fight against the invasion.
Clearly, the game’s plot is a confusing one and sadly, it doesn’t get any clearer as you progress through the game. As you level up, new conversations between Ovalia and Quinn are unlocked and instead of shedding some light into the story and the world mythos, they seem to assume that the player is already on par with what is happening. So instead, you end up reading a few conversations that doesn’t make much sense without understanding the context and that don’t help you sympathize a lot with either character.
Graphically, it presents itself as a cartoonish Isometric game. This visual style is pretty to look at while playing and is reflected in most aspects of the environment making a coherent world throughout. This also applies to the playable heroes as each one of them has a distinctive look even in their different skins. Enemies also come in different designs and different pallets that helps players to distinguish between them. You can also work out their elemental type and their rarity level very easily, just by looking at them.
Sadly, I can’t say that the music and sound effects fared as well as the graphics did. After playing it for a few hours, most of the music present in Next Up Hero, struck me as being forgettable, due to it being hard for me to remember even a piece of any of them. I do however have to give commend to the end credits song, as it is the only that gets close to being memorable, but misses the mark just because the story isn’t well told. As for the sound effects, they never really felt an essential part of the gameplay experience, just like the music.
Moving on from these topics, one area where Next Up Hero really needed to excel, is in the gameplay and sadly, it didn’t as there are many problems that plague the player’s experience, which in turn results in it being a not so pleasant one.
One of the negative aspects, are the many launch problems (most of them which can be fixed via a patch), such as frequent slowdowns, moments where the game can’t continue (and can even lock you controller vibrating indefinitely) and even problems of my game connecting and downloading another player’s progress in the game servers, instead of mine. This last problem happened to me the first time I started the game, connecting me to an account that was already level 15 (which means I beat the story just by logging in) and I only solved this issue after sending the developer and publisher a message through their official Discord.
If these were the only problems, I would only recommend would-be players to wait until a patch is issued, but the problems run deeper than this. The game’s combat should be the star of the game, but instead, it feels unbalanced and lackluster.
Even in the Easy difficulty, the dungeons are hard to get through, but I think that it is more a result of a terrible balancing than of a real intention of the developers. In it, there isn’t an easy way to recover health and most of the enemies will rush toward you with almost god-like precision and deal a high amount of damage, especially when they also deal elemental effects. (In other words, when enemies combo their element attacks, instantaneous death can sometimes be the result.)
Gathering echoes (or playing co-op) can help alleviate the pressure a little, as they will also rush toward the enemy and deal enough amount of damage to be considered helpful. They can also be sacrificed to unlock some ancient abilities and with them, you have an interesting choice scenario that would have a bigger impact if weren’t for the other details, such as the fact that the number of echoes you can find in a level will vary a lot, ranging from 7 to 34 or more. This ends up making the experience on levels with fewer echoes more generic and unbalanced.
Combine all of that with the fact that you characters mobility isn’t the most versatile there is (you don’t have a dodge, just a fast run that is limited by your stamina and a right analog stick direction input), and you have a game where you frequently die not because of your lack of abilities, but because the game isn’t well balanced. All of these factors also make the ranged characters easier to avoid enemy attacks and causing more damage, so you may end up ditching all the melee characters like I did.
To make matters even worse, don’t start the game hoping that it will ease you into all you need to know. It explains the very basics of combat and some types of levels you can run into, but it still leaves out a lot regarding leveling up, unlocking special upgrades and many other details that if you want to understand, you will have to find by yourself or search for an explanation on the internet. (Talk about being left in the dark.)
Although its premise had a lot of potential, unfortunately, Next Up Hero never got the chance to live up to it, due to the lack of a tight control scheme, character mobility and a balanced combat that striped this game of being more than fun. Add that with the fact that the game’s main mode being online and dependent of a good install base, you have an experience that can be fun and only recommended for a short time or in short bursts, but that isn’t worth it in the long run.
THE VERDICT: 5/10
*Review Key Provided by Aspyr Media
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This post was written by Renanp2