Developer: Paon / Publisher: Nintendo / ESRB: Everyone 10+ (Alcohol Reference, Animated Blood, Fantasy Violence, Mild Language, Mild Suggestive Themes) / Played on: DS / Price: $29.99
The Nintendo DS is becoming the portable gaming system of choice for role playing game fans with its ever-increasing lineup of RPGs. With classic turn-based action and a unique battle system Glory of Heracles is hoping to become another stellar RPG experience for the dual screen handheld. A moderately engaging story and uninspired characters keep the game from being a truly magnificent outing but Glory of Heracles still has enough to offer for an enjoyable RPG experience on the DS.
Glory of Heracles takes players all across Greece and features a variety of locales ranging from villages, temples, dungeons, and even Mount Olympus itself. The locations are all rendered well but they look rather average and do not feature anything out of the ordinary in terms of unique and memorable details. On the other hand characters and NPCs are all in full 3D and animate very well. Characters move smoothly while navigating towns and during the game’s frequent battles. While in battle characters will react differently to certain attacks and spell effects, falling to the ground when put to sleep, for instance, or hunching over when poisoned, or even panting when running out of health. The playable characters all have a bit of charm to them graphically that differentiates them from the rest of the characters you’ll encounter. The same can’t always be said with the design of the monsters as some of them come off as plain or cliché monsters you’d see in other games in the genre. Boss encounters with massive enemies like krakens and other creatures from Greek myth are definite highlights of the game, however, both in terms of graphics and gameplay. The only glaring flaw that can be seen graphically comes when moving the camera while in a town, as it sometimes results in frame rate slowdown. In the end the graphics in Glory of Heracles are what you’d expect from a standard DS game: no mind blowing achievements but nothing particularly bad either.
As the title suggests, Glory of Heracles centers on the famous Greek hero Heracles (who you probably know by the Roman name Hercules) and group of immortals who are seeking answers about their immortality. While engaging enough, with some clever if not predictable plot twists towards the end of the 20+ hour game, Glory of Heracles’ story is overall forgettable when compared to other RPGs available for the handheld. There are some legitimately funny sequences in the game such as characters being aware of their immortality and not being afraid to jump off entire mountains because of this. But for each of these funny moments there are an equal number of ridiculously silly moments as well. You will eventually travel to Sparta during your quest and while hearing a warrior shout out “This is Sparta!” once is rather humorous, the fourth and fifth times can get a little annoying.
Glory of Heracles doesn’t take many risks in gameplay as the core of the game is based around random battles. Each battle is turn based with you selecting attacks or skills for your characters to use. Standard attacks like sword slashes and firing arrows are all straightforward and your characters can learn special skills attributed to their weapons or fighting style like shield bashes and war cries to inspire allies. Through leveling up your characters from defeating enemies you can learn new skills and magic attacks to use.
The magic system in Glory of Heracles is perhaps the most unique aspect of the entire game. In order to learn new spells you have to seek out various temples throughout Greece and pray to the god being worshipped there. Only by doing this can you acquire newer and more powerful spells, including ice, fire, healing, and spells revolving around the powers of the gods. In order to cast the spells effectively you’ll need to not only have enough mana to cast it but you also need to make sure enough ether is present on the field. Ether is the life force the gods left on the planet when they left and is what is called on when players use spells. Not having enough ether on the field when casting a spell results in a difference of HP loss, which can be downright devastating with stronger spells. The casting of spells themselves is also unique as it requires certain stylus inputs in order to optimize the spell for maximum damage. The inputs break down into simple mini-games involving touching rotating circles or touching numbers in sequential order.
With so many options for attacks, spells, and abilities, as well as a front and back row to attack from and enemies being strong or weak to certain attack types, the frequent battles in Glory of Heracles are a definite highlight. If you’re not feeling like being as strategic as you can with your battles, there is also an automatic attack option to have the AI control your characters and they do a great job of exploiting enemy’s weaknesses and taking care of your teammates when you’re not feeling up to it.
Glory of Heracles has a control setup that will be familiar to anyone that has played an RPG in the past. Movement can be controlled with the d-pad or the stylus and touch screen and both worked well, although by default I found it easier to use the d-pad. A lot of RPGs focus on managing your character’s equipment and inventory and Glory of Heracles is no exception. Navigating menus and inventory screens is easy with either the stylus or buttons and a very helpful hint system will guide you through the menu screens the first time you visit them. The game does a good job of keeping you on your toes with battles as the magic system stated above is both engaging and fun, breaking the monotony of battle. While you can control the camera with the L and R buttons inside of towns, you’re not allowed to swivel the camera around while in buildings or dungeons which can lead to some rather frustrating moments when chests and items are hidden under trees or walls you can’t see through. But overall it is just a minor inconvenience to an otherwise excellent control scheme.
Slow and somber music in town and dark and eerie music in dungeons accentuates the range of music in the game. The music always picks up where it needs to, like in the heat of battle and with the introduction of new characters and locales, and the selections are fitting for the scenes. You’ll hear the echoes of poison-tipped arrows whizzing through the air and the thunderous sounds of boulders being summoned from the sky. The entirety of the game’s story is told through the characters you come across and this results in a lot of text to have to read. While it’s not entirely bad to have to read these, it would have been nice to see some voice acting in some of the more cinematic scenes, especially in the latter half of the game. When fighting in battle your characters will spout out witty banter to one another and to the monsters, and this would have been an ideal place to incorporate voice acting or at least some sort of effect to go along with the words.
Glory of Heracles is a good RPG that fans of the genre will find entertaining, if not a bit familiar. The storyline is a rather interesting one but the pacing and lack of interesting characters involved result in an average adventure. The engaging battles and intriguing magic system are worth taking a look at if nothing else, incorporating great use of the DS’s touch screen. Glory of Heracles is a good game to pick up if you’re looking for a new RPG to play on the go, and fans of RPGs should definitely take a look at what it has to offer.