Roguelikes are the "in" thing right now, as fashionable as side-scrollers were back in the days of Xbox Live Arcade, and that's no bad thing – the genre offers inherent replayability that's hard to find elsewhere, mixing things up to keep players on their toes.
We've had Dead Cells, Slay The Spire, Spelunky and, of course, Hades, but Team17's latest, Rogue Heroes: Ruins of Tasos is set to join that pantheon.
What Rogue Heroes lacks in story and context, it more than makes up for in ridiculously over-the-top dungeon crawling and co-op fun.
Loot and Recruit
Rogue Heroes is a truly pleasant surprise
If you've played any of the earlier Zelda titles, you'll feel right at home here – at least on the surface. Rogue Heroes' world is bright, full of lush, top-down grass and foliage. It's pretty to look at, in the kind of way that makes you warm and fuzzy.
Look a little deeper, though, and you'll be impressed at the game's hidden depth and underlying systems. You'll head into dungeons, slay beasts, and return to your town to improve its amenities and increase its population. Those dungeons are procedurally-generated, too, so while they aren't as handcrafted as something you may find in similar titles, they will keep players on their toes.
So far, so roguelike and the way in which upgrades are tied to new inhabitants for your town is neat, too. It makes what could traditionally feel a little like a never-ending set of menus feel more akin to a small-scale city builder, and adding a Blacksmith to craft new gear or a merchant to sell your wares is fun.
Tale As Old As Time
The only real criticism we have of Rogue Heroes is that its story is as cookie-cutter as they come.
Players wake up in their bed, before setting out on an adventure to batter four monstrosities that were previously locked away years prior. It's not bad, per se, it's just a little trite.
Still, with a focus on co-operative play, we weren't expecting anything too taxing in the narrative department.
Rogue Heroes may look simple, but it's full of content
Perhaps one of the most impressive aspects of Rogue Heroes is in how it respects a players time. Everything players do is rewarded, be that in additions to the hub or in new tools and abilities for your chosen character. It's ideal for bursts of play or longer sessions, and makes it ideal for the Switch (although we reviewed it on PC). It's the kind of "one more run" late-night addiction that the genre's finest achieve, constantly pressing towards a new upgrade.
Every dungeon you enter has something useful, it's just up to you to find it, and exploring each is an absolute joy. Each class has its own abilities, with a tanky knight, a teleporting mage, a thief, and even a pirate. Each offers something unique, usually tied to a stamina gauge that can be upgraded to increase your output.
That prevents players from spamming attacks and abilities, while also offering a nice power curve and a challenge.
Unlike the games it clearly takes inspiration from, there is a handful of quality of life improvements that make the game much more forgiving. If you've ever died in a dungeon and has to return to the start, you'll weep tears of joy seeing that you can essentially fast travel to a previously accessed floor of a dungeon at the cost of some coins.
Once you're rolling with a group of two or more players, you can light up the screen with your abilities. No four characters feel mismatched, and none feel too powerful, and learning to charge with your Knight while a Mage plays a supporting role will see you power through encounters – but it's not mandatory, and it's just as much fun to see how much carnage you can cause as you move through the world.
Rogue Heroes best parts, though, are the boss battles – the Titans. These sizeable beasts will test your squad's mettle just the right amount without feeling infuriating and are still enjoyable to battle alone. It's a tough tightrope to walk, but Heliocentric Studios makes it look easy.
Usually tucked behind some light puzzle rooms, these behemoths have varying mechanics to learn to keep things fresh, and while they're tough, the game has much more to offer besides.
Chief among those is the Infinite Dungeon, it's a chance for the most tight-knit of squads (or confident of solo adventurers) to progress deeper and deeper into the game's subterranean areas for a chance at improving their characters and earning better rewards. The further you get, the tougher it becomes, and it's a great way to kick back with friends.
If you've been hankering for a Zelda-inspired dungeon crawler or a new roguelite obsession, then you'll find plenty to love about Rogue Heroes.
When you and three friends are in full swing it's a chaotic good time, and with an impressively diverse upgrade system and plenty of character classes, it'll keep you churning through its dungeon-bound monsters for weeks.
Review copy provided by the publisher.Reviewed on PC