Far in the east, a wicked, ancient dragon reawakens, disturbing Winterfront's peaceful, snowless winters and summoning the forces of evil to run down the land's not-so beautiful forests and fields. To stop their impending doom, the inhabitants of Old Rock Castle take the most logical course of action and hire mercenaries to do the dirty work for them...and you just happen to be the mercenary leader. Are you up to the task? Elite Games' Hired Heroes takes you on a time-consuming humdrum of a journey across the land of Winterfront to confront and slay this evil dragon. It's not uncommon to find another RPG with a pitiful, under-developed plot, but sadly, its gameplay does not quite make up for its lack of story.
There are twelve, unmemorable heroes to unlock, but you may only use a select few in each level. Conveniently, eight of these heroes are simply stronger palette swaps of the first four. Before engaging in battle, you are given a certain amount of points to hire heroes, and there's no way to increase this total. You may then choose up to three relics to aid you in battle. Your prowess in combat is not determined by level-ups or even abilities, but by these very relics. Relics can enhance your strength, defense, health, regen, and move/ability range, but some relics also decrease other stats. They can all be purchased at the shop in the World Map, but you can't get any enemies to drop items. This system ends up being much more unhelpful than useful, especially since farming for money is miserably slow. Revisiting beaten levels is hardly worth it because it gets you mere pennies for winning and absolutely nothing after a loss. In Hired Heroes, money equals power!
It goes without saying that the game drags. Battles are turn-based ordeals in which you click your characters, move 'em, attack, and end your turn. You can choose to end your turn early, but the system is set up so that it's hard to switch smoothly between moving and attacking. There are some cool strategies to pull off, such as hiding ranged heroes behind melee units or using your area healers to attack and heal units at the same time. However, the overpowered, regenerating enemies have intense splash damage, range and raw power, which makes for a despicably tough nightmare of an RPG.
As I said before, the shallow background story could have been overlooked if the dry, turn-based gameplay had made up for it. It doesn't help that the in-game dialogue is riddled with unsightly typos and incredibly cheesy jokes. Instead, the lack of polish and replayability make this game almost entirely un-fun. While the 2D sprite artwork is commendable, the boring world names, such as "Small Village" and "North Forest", accurately describe the Hired Heroes' overall blandness. It's annoying how your strength is mainly based on relics, and if you choose the wrong ones, it's really hard to get more money. Hired Heroes just felt like it was missing something, an extra oomph to make it different from the average RPG adventure. You shouldn't play this for more than an hour unless you really want to see what that dragon looks like, and that's not quite worth it.
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