Review – Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption (Switch)
It seems that many point-and-click adventure games from the 80’s and 90’s are having new life breathed into them. Some have gotten full reboots, like Sierra’s King’s Quest series that saw brand new episodic adventures in 2015, while others like Beneath a Steel Sky were given long awaited sequels, like 2020’s Beyond a Steel Sky. Not all of them have been winners, but it does indicate that there is a strong desire for nostalgia. Lori and Corey Cole, the creators of the highly regarded Quest for Glory games, have teamed up with Transolar Games in order to bring us Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption, a point-and-click action/adventure RPG with the classic 90’s feel we all know and love.
After getting caught pulling a heist, our protagonist, Shawn O’Conner, is given a choice. He can either be turned into the authorities or he can enroll as a student in the mysterious, Hogwarts-esque Hero-U academy. Naturally, he chooses the latter and is whisked away to Hero-U, a school that trains warriors, mages, paladins, bards, and rogues. He’ll face a multitude of challenges like monsters, thieves, betrayal, and homework. With lots of hard work and cunning, Shawn might even win the coveted title of “Rogue of the Year”.
Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption is a point-and-click action adventure game that is made to feel like it was plucked right out of the early 90’s. Shawn will interact with objects and examine them or add them to his inventory for later use. He’ll also speak quite a bit with other students and faculty members, and you’ll be able to select from several dialogue options. These will affect your relationship with others and even impact certain events in the game. If you’ve played any point-and-click adventures from back in those days, then you’ll know what to expect.
This isn’t a straight-forward point-and-click adventure though. Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption also features a timed aspect. Shawn will spend his days in class and after a certain time, he’ll be free to do whatever he wants for a while. He can practice his skills to gain better stats, study his class notes to increase his intelligence, socialize with the other students, or just explore the castle grounds. However, he’ll have to use his time wisely as each activity and movement around the school will eat away at his available time.
While I like the time mechanic in Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption, it’s not explained very well in the game. You’ll chat with some students and make your way to the practice room, only to be automatically hauled away to the dining hall when it’s dinner time. Looking at objects in a room can take only a few minutes, but crossing two corridors can take over an hour. This wouldn’t be a big deal if it weren’t for having to complete your missions within a specific time frame.
To add insult to injury, you’re never given an idea of when exactly you’re suppose to complete your tasks by. You’ll get an objective in your journal’s To-Do section and it will stay there until you’ve either completed it or missed your window of availability. If you don’t complete it before its time is up, then it’s gone forever. This can also greatly impact other missions you might have been given down the line. There are some quests you’ll never experience if you don’t finish your tasks before they disappear.
This leads me to another problem with the timed quest system: not all of them can be completed as soon as you get them. In fact, there are quite a few significant missions that can only be tackled on a specific day. Once again, you’re given no indication of this. I can’t tell you how much time I wasted trying to find the solution for some task, fearing it would be lost to me forever if I didn’t figure it out soon, only to be lead to its answer at a particular point in the story.
The story itself is another matter. The premise is great and reminiscent of Harry Potter in a way, but the pacing is awful. It’s interesting for the first few days, but then it drags so slowly for the next couple weeks that you’ll more than likely get bored. I know I did. Thankfully, it does pick up again and gets much more intriguing after those first few weeks, but I can see many players getting turned off by its earlier portions. It’s also a lot longer than it needs to be. The game takes place over fifty days, but it could have easily been about half that length and still hit all its major plot points. There are tons of days where nothing of importance happens at all.
Perhaps it wouldn’t feel so long if the combat was engaging. Unfortunately, it’s not. While the combat is mostly turn-based, Shawn can actually choose to avoid most encounters by sneaking past enemies. However, the sneaking speed is so slow that you’ll more than likely just settle for enduring another boring, bare bones, turn-based fight. The fighting is even more annoying when playing on Switch, as you’ll have to use the Joy-Cons to move the cursor around. This can occasionally result in selecting the wrong target, action, or item. I honestly don’t understand why all of these point-and-click adventure games don’t take advantage of the Switch’s touchscreen capabilities.
Visually, Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption is a mixed bag. Whenever Shawn moves around the castle, everything is rendered in 3D. It’s not cutting-edge graphics by any means, but the characters look clean and easily identifiable. Some of the environments are gorgeous, especially later in the game when you’re able to explore more than just the school corridors. On the other hand, when the characters are talking or there’s a cutscene, it’s all done with hand-drawn illustrations. Surprisingly, these often times looked worse than the basic 3D graphics. Each character only has a few different facial expressions to convey emotion and many of them look bizarre or creepy. Shawn’s confident smile in particular makes him look like a lecherous degenerate and made it hard for me to root for him.
I couldn’t even connect to him through speech either, as there’s no voice acting in Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption. This isn’t really surprising though since this is a game modeled after the RPGs of the 90’s. Although, there’s not any sort of strong sound design in here. A good soundtrack is key to these kinds of games, as the tone of each scene is expressed through various songs. The musical score in here misses the mark entirely. I put many hours into this game, and I couldn’t tell you how any of the tunes went.
Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption is a game that fans of Quest for Glory will probably love, but other gamers won’t. It plays similarly to those games in many ways and makes tons of references to them as well. The writing is humorous and full of puns, but the story takes far too long to get interesting. The combat is uninspired and tedious, as is the music. The time mechanic is a great idea and adds a level of strategy to the game, but it’s poorly explained and results in a lot of wasted time trying to figure things out. If you’re a fan of 80’s and 90’s action/adventure RPGs, especially the Quest for Glory games, then maybe give it a try if it’s on sale. For everyone else, if you’re looking for a great point-and-click adventure game, try Röki instead.
When playing the game, the graphics are in a simple yet clean 3D models. When talking to someone or in a cutscene, the art style changes to a hand-drawn 2D look which often make characters look bizarre or creepy.
It’s a point-and-click RPG that works pretty well, although using the Switch’s Joy-Cons can make clicking on objects and engaging in combat occasionally frustrating. The time mechanic is clever, but not well explained.
There’s no voice acting, limited sound effects, and a musical score that’s completely forgettable.
Fun Factor: 7.0
Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption pays homage to the classic point-and-click games from the 80’s and 90’s, and has some fun ideas, but they’re not always well implemented. The time mechanic is confusing and it takes a long time for the game to get interesting.
Final Verdict: 6.5
Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption is available now on PC and Switch.
Reviewed on Switch.
A copy of Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption was provided by the publisher.