DUNGEONS & DRAGONS HEROES
GRAEME MASON LOOKS BACK AT THE XBOX HACK’N’SLASHER DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS: HEROES
While the action RPG genre has been around a while, it was only in the early Noughties that this style of game exploded in popularity.
When Black Isle farmed out its famed Baldur’s Gate IP to Snowblind Studios, the idea was to create a version of the deep RPG for modern consoles such as the Nintendo GameCube and PlayStation 2. Two years later, Atari took charge of another adventure based in the Dungeons & Dragons universe and enlisted Brenda Braithwaite (now Brenda Romero) to help design what would become Dungeons & Dragons: Heroes.
In the complex backstory, an evil wizard called Kaedin harnesses a powerful force using four Planar Gems, with a fifth forged to control them all and left in the charge of a Beholder. Four heroes are sent after the power-mad Kaedin and succeed in killing the wizard. With his last gasp, however, he takes revenge on the quartet, killing them in return. Castle Baele is subsequently constructed on the scene of the battle, and peace returns to the realm. One hundred fifty years later, a group of evil clerics seek to foolishly channel the Kaedin's powers. Revived from the dead and understandably a bit grumpy, Kaedin annihilates the clerics and takes up his reign of destruction. The four heroes, also raised from the dead, must again battle this seemingly unstoppable evil.
In Heroes, up to four players can choose a hero and fight the many denizens of the world to defeat the wizard. As with RPG-lite classics such as Gauntlet, the characters vary in strength, speed and magic power, although all four are useful in a fight, and the gameplay is as uncomplicated as the genre demands. There's a good variety of monsters to slay, treasure chests to open and a limited set of skills to upgrade as the player levels up. But beyond this, D&D: Heroes is all about hack 'n' slash, and in this respect, it provides plenty of action for anyone who fancies a fantastical scrap with little else to distract you.