Preview: Second Chance Heroes PC
Second Chance Heroes is an action dungeon crawler that most people would instantly refer to as a ‘Diablo’ game and whilst there are similarities this Greenlit title is considerably scaled down from Diablo’s triple-A presence to match its indie development. This means that the gameplay is significantly simplified, which is not necessarily a bad thing and it feels like a nice starting point for anyone interested in the genre, but find games like Dungeon Siege and Torchlight maybe a bit too confusing at first. The nonsensical plot, wacky characters and colourful environments make Second Chance Heroes an easy pick-up-and-play kind of game, leaving character development, item handling and class-structuring behind in exchange for the type of gameplay that anybody can jump in and out of, without having to understand much about the game or keep up with the current storyline. In other words, it’s easy going.
Although, this game isn’t your ordinary fantasy game full of warlocks, warriors and hunters. In fact it’s main selling point is that you instead take on the role of cloned, hilariously exaggerated historical figures such as Joan of Arc, Abe Lincoln, Nikola Tesla and Julius Caesar. Each character has unique health, defence and damage output, as you might expect and even come with their own unique attacks based on their persona. For example, Marie Curie shoots ‘radiation’ beams out of her eyes , which is obviously what she is famous for and similarly Nikola Tesla wields an electric current gun. Although, where Queen Elizabeth I and Abe Lincoln are concerned, weapons of any kind are sort of hard to conjure for them, so they are equipped with a mini-gun and chainsaw respectively, which is totally random but incredibly comical. This sets the tone for the entire game, especially the story which takes you through a military base, a mall and even an underground cavern full of hobos in search for the fabled ‘Trashcaliber’. No joke.
The gameplay itself, as mentioned, can be described as a simplified Action RPG. You control your character from a bird’s eye view using the WASD keys for movement and the mouse to direct and attack, must carefully manage HP and MP, and equip relics that contain specific powers and collect a whole lot of gold. Although, instead of selecting a character and focussing on buffing them up for the rest of the game, the beginning of each stage allows you to pick a new team. I say ‘team’ because you are actually allowed to select two characters and quickly swap them out during gameplay, or switch to the alternate if one dies, which is a feature I really liked especially when having to play such a multiplayer-feeling game on my own. It mixed up the simple battle mechanics and added a little more strategy to switching up my ranged and close-up game.
Combat itself will be familiar and is really just about left clicking on your target to strike or holding down the button to use weapons like the mini-gun. Each character has a primary attack and a secondary MP-draining skill that can vary from a teleport to an area-of-effect attack, or even planting a team healing area. Unlike most Action RPGs that allow you to level up and unlock new abilities by progressing through a skill-tree, in Second Chance Heroes relics are unlocked by completing in-level missions such as finishing a boss off with an environmental hazards or by eliminating all of the hidden zombie chickens in a stage. Each relic comes with a unique ability that also drains MP, and up to three can be equipped at once. These relics are really the only way to customise your character and mostly just allow the odd use of stronger attacks.
In-level missions are also a way to earn gold and trying to complete them adds just that little bit more to the game, breaking out of the occasionally monotonous feeling that can creep up after playing through four levels all with the same design and similar layouts. Whilst these missions might require the player to find a set amount of chests or simply not die, each level also has fun sequences that occur throughout such as becoming trapped and having to survive, and navigating fire and spike traps like some insane obstacle course or mini-boss fights. This is where Second Chance Heroes really shines. When there’s not the urge to inspect every nook and cranny in the search for new loot there needs to be other reasons to explore and whilst I would prefer both, Second Chance Heroes never had me wanting to make a bee-line for the end of the stage for fear of missing the fun side-quests.
Sadly the game sometimes halts exploration by giving you a choice of paths to take and blocks off the exit, should you choose correctly. My behaviour when playing games has always been ‘go the wrong way first’. Going to wrong way often yields secrets and collectibles and it’s how I’ve always gamed, so I really didn’t enjoy being punished for choosing the correct path, especially when it restricts access to mission-required objects and enemies. The enemies themselves consist mostly of plain zombies, some with special powers such as the hippy zombie that releases hallucinogenics, and other miscellaneous creatures such as werewolves, robots and psychic headcrab-looking-creatures. Mini-bosses include crazy cat women that wears a dustbins, karate zombies and much more. There are a lot of variety but with the sheer amount of enemies you face with the constant hordes, enemies are quickly figured out and battles are rather easy, but are hopefully scaled when playing co-operatively.
Unfortunately, the same things that may be appealing to some can be rather off-putting for others. I personally like a bit of depth to combat, character building and skill upgrades, it allows me to build something one-of-a-kind, something of my own design. I can battle the way I want to battle and it adds a tonne of replay-value, using different character and weapon types or even just acquiring different skills. In Second Chance Heroes, the only way to upgrade a character is to give them more health or attack power by paying an increasing amount of gold, which is a bit too simple for my taste. Although, it is made quite clear that this isn’t what the game is about. It’s shallow, silly fun and it doesn’t try to be more.
Of course, the game is still in beta so just about anything could change before the final release, but I doubt much will. Overall the game felt nearly complete and, with the exception of a few minor bugs, combat and the interactions with the world felt nice and smooth. The art style is bright and colourful making some of the stages stand out fantastically and the characters are fun to play and hilarious to listen to. Hearing Queen Elizabeth I say “I’m here to drink tea and kick bottom and I’m all out of tea”, Julius Caesar say “Caesar the day” or Abe Lincoln say “Come at me bro” is something I never expected and the voice acting is pretty great. Second Chance Heroes may be worth checking out for anybody wanting to start the action RPG genre or for a few friends that want to cool off and play a laid-back game.