Review: Rogue Hearts18 Apr 2018 4
Review: Rogue Hearts
Released 18 Feb 2018
The most shocking thing about this game is the fact that nobody else has previously thought to combine two of the most common RPG title Mad Libs to get those sweet sweet search engine hits. But don't be fooled. This is not a roguelike, nor is it a spiritual successor to the surprisingly affecting Disney/Squeenix Kingdom Hearts series. Rather, it's a totally generic JRPG-styled dungeon-crawler that costs about a buck yet is still full of gatcha nonsense.
You might be attracted to the prettiness and polish of the screens at first. The graphics are somewhat chibi styled during the crawls, reminding me a bit of Final Fantasy VII. The animations are well-done and expressive, and it’s easy to tell where you are and what you are doing--except when you sometimes get behind a wall and have to rely on highlight outlines alone. It's a professional product to be sure.
Then the game throws full-on anime paper dolls at you during dialog scenes. Clearly a lot of care has been put into making the ample chests of the female characters heave through the cleavage windows of their scant armor just so. Characterizations are just as bad: if every woman is a femme fatale with huge ... tracts of land then every man is a grizzled brooding Jon Snow type with cool scars.
Further, the text should have been looked over by a native English speaker before publishing, but that wouldn't excuse a story that relies on the hoariest tropes of fantasy fiction. There are strange happenings in the mine! More monsters than usual! Could it all be the consequence of an evil dark crystal? Probably!? (Spoiler: Yes.)
But nobody comes to an RPG for the story, right? Unfortunately, the gameplay relies on the same expected, worn out tropes as the story. You'll fight the usual slimes and trolls with the usual swords axes and bows. You'll use the usual handful of special abilities like area effects and stuns. You'll delve into mines and caves and castles. There's nothing here you haven't seen a hundred times before, and more often done better elsewhere. The side quests are the biggest offenders. 'Mining' quests just give you a room where you can smash some rocks. Treasure hunts make you find a secret code to open the big chest in the final room (hint: it's in the other room). The dungeons have some random elements to them, but they're hardly mazes, just interlocking paths that look too similar to one another.
In combat, of course you'll want to pick off the biggest threats first, focusing your attacks on one baddie at a time, and making sure to pick the best time to use your special abilities. It doesn't require a lot of thought most of the time, so I was surprised when boss fights became a bit of a challenge. Bigger enemies have their own special abilities that you'll need to avoid or mitigate, bringing some variety to the combat. But all this really does is emphasize how dull and grinding the rest of the combat really is.
To be fair, the controls are nicely done. Outside of combat, you have a responsive swipe-anywhere control stick to run around and collect stuff. In combat, various intuitive swipes and taps will trigger your abilities. It's easy and quick to tear through some baddies but also giving you precision when you need to be careful. A basic tap, for example, launches an attack at the most likely nearby target, making it a breeze to chew through some grunts. Movement can be made by swiping or by choosing a specific space to move to.
You could spend hours upon hours optimizing your gear. Each piece of gear has a handful of special effects in addition to its basic ability to do damage. Junk lying around dungeons can be sold for money, dissolved into skill points, or used to enhance your current weapon. You can collect ends on ends of raw materials and refined materials (or refine them yourself), discover blueprints for weapons, and have them crafted by the blacksmith. To do this, you might need to invest in some currency purchased with IAP, but you could just as well grind it out.
But then, why would you want to? You can pick up perfectly good weapons from crates you find in dungeons, and then you don't have to deal with shopping lists of junk you need to craft a +1 axe nor with a backpack full of piles of chopped wood and various ores.
Rogue Hearts has gatcha blood without being a straight up gatcha game, which makes it an odd duck. Its market price is less than a hamburger at McDonalds, which is a good deal for a pretty polished and lengthy, if generic, RPG. The in-app purchases, currencies and crafting are ignorable if that's not your bag. Ultimately, though, it’s just too uninteresting to seriously recommend. It's only worth playing if you've somehow already ploughed through all the hundreds of hours of far better JRPG experiences out there.