Despite hiccups, Dawn Of Heroes Shines
For anyone who’s been paying attention, Majesco’s Dawn of Heroes has been taking a little while. First announced to be released in the winter months of 2009, several delays have pushed back the tactical RPG. Finally, as of September 2010, nearly a full year after its intended release date, the game is out. For those who are curious, the reason for the postponement seems to be due to a delay of licensure from Nintendo to distribute the game. Why? Who knows? And it doesn’t matter anymore either, because it’s out, and it’s a surprisingly fun game.
Dawn of Heroes is technically a role-playing game, specifically a tactical role-playing game. The DS system provides an ideal platform for a game in the genre to shine. In Dawn of Heroes, the bottom screen is utilized to show the battlefield from an aerial view, allowing for a point and click tactical feeling with the stylus. Meanwhile, the upper screen is used to display the eye candy of the graphics and battle reenactment as well as explain various stats and abilities as well as the game’s dialogue.
The game’s combat is fairly simple, for a TRPG that is, but still more in-depth than your standard game. The thing that particularly jumped out at me is how Dawn of Heroes had obviously been heavily influenced by 4e Dungeons and Dragons. Characters are divided into four general class types which correlate directly to 4e’s defender, leader, striker, and controller archetypes. There is a big focus on controlling movement and status effects; even party sizes are capped at five. It’s not a bad thing; 4e certainly has some great things going for it that are ideal to borrow.
The central plot of Dawn of Heroes is light-hearted and whimsical. A band of adventurers discover a talking belt that designated them as “The Chosen Ones” and inspired them to complete a series of missions to break the spell controlling the leaders of different baronies. The dialogue along the way drives the story forward, albeit in a comical fashion. The heroes constantly get frustrated with one another and get themselves into bizarre situations… such as fighting on the back of a giant turtle with no idea quite how they got on it. Along the way you will have opportunities to recruit and hire more adventurers to your party. Over twenty characters are available to choose from when forming your active party of five. Characters are also able to be equipped with a slew of weaponry, armor, and accessories to raise their combat prowess or provide extra benefits. The items and recruitment help tremendously in keeping things fresh and interesting between battles and allowing for even more strategic planning.
For as carefree as the plot and dialogue is, battles have serious tactical mechanics. Even the easier battles require some thought on how to best approach the situation. Each character can do damage in the form of physical, magical, or affliction. To counter that, everyone is resistant to each type of damage to various degrees. Also, under most circumstances a character can only be attacked once per round, making careful coordination of attacks and effects paramount. Some particularly nasty enemies won’t be people you’ll want to have running wild on the battlefield against your team for very long, so figuring out the best way to take them out of the game as quickly as possible while also eliminated the lesser threats is central to Dawn of Heroes strategy. A few battles vary from the goal of “defeat all enemies” and veer into keeping a certain character alive while boss battles get more creative and often have a series of waves that must be completed.
The biggest shortfall of the combat is the inability to skip past the combat animations, which get repetitive quickly. When you’ve watched your Summoner suffer the same status effect rendering her moveless for the twentieth time and realize you’re going to have to sit through it every single time she’s in your party for every round she’s active, it gets annoying quickly. You’d think it wouldn’t have been hard to include a button press to skip over the current animation to speed things up but apparently the developers decided we were to watch every combat rendering ad nauseam and appreciate the work they’d put into it.
Music and sound effects are nothing special and don’t particularly help or hinder the overall package. While I wouldn’t call the music particularly grating, it does get repetitive and led to my muting of the Nintendo DS on several occasions when I was all battle-music’d out. It should go without saying there’s no voice acting. Or at least I hope it should.
Dawn of Heroes also supports multiplayer battles against friends. This was a feature I was unfortunately unable to try out but is a wonderful inclusion. As fun as the battles were against the computer AI, playing against a buddy would be even better. The tactical aspect of the game would be put to their best use when trying to out maneuver an living, breathing opponent.
All in all, Dawn of Heroes is a fun game with a lot to offer gamers on the handheld platform. Tactical RPGs aren’t abundant and ones that are both fun and have character are even less common. The game certainly isn’t perfect; combat can get repetitive at times and battles take longer than it seems they should, but it is hardly enough to distract from the overall fun factor it offers. Dawn of Heroes is a wonderful game with a unique charm and has thankfully finally made it to store shelves. I, for one, plan on keeping this in my regular DS rotation with plans to finish more of the optional objectives.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.8 Graphics
Graphics are colorful and fun, but the character art is reused far too often. 4.5 Control
The stylus makes for an ideal method of battle planning and grid movement. 3.4 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The music can get repetitive after an hour or two, but it’s not overwhelmingly bad. 4.0
Although a few aspects are annoying, such as the inability to skip combat animations, the game offers a nice balance of complexity and accessibility and should keep gamers coming back, making it easily worth its price of purchase.
4.0 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.