With the current COVID-19 pandemic occurring at the time of this writing, it seemed appropriate to take a look at some games that prominently feature the end of the world as we know it, or at least the post-apocalyptic landscape of the time after. This time I’ll be looking at One Way Heroics developed by Smoking Wolf and published by PLAYISM in 2013.
The apocalypse this week is something a little bit different from zombies or nuclear war. In One Way Heroics the land is slowly being consumed by darkness, ala The Never Ending Story. Apparently the only way to stop this, and save the world, is for a hero to defeat the Demon Lord.
One Way Heroics is a role-playing game with turn based movement and combat, plus a randomly generated game world. You start off by picking a name, a class, and perks. Initially, the available classes are Swordmaster and Knight. Your class determines the base statistics and abilities your character starts with. Perks let you customize your character further by raising particular statistics with additional points. You can select five perks from the list, including duplicates, to finish making your character.
There are also 6 additional classes that can be unlocked through various means while playing through the game. Additional types of perks can also be unlocked. Mind you, not additional slots for perks – just different bonuses that aren’t available on the initial play-through.
After character creation you are dropped into a castle and given a brief introduction to the situation at hand. Your character receives a few starting items, and can get some information from the residents of the castle if you take the time to chat. You are also given a fairy companion, Iris, who can provide some guidance and answer basic questions during the game.
The big concept of the game is that the Darkness is literally coming from the left side of the screen and eating away the world. Once things scroll off the screen, they are gone forever. You will need to keep moving right until you can find, and defeat, the Demon Lord.
There are two difficulty settings: Walk in the Park (easy) and Afternoon Stroll (hard). On Walk in the Park, the Demon Lord appears at a set location, 400 kilometers from the starting castle, and you get a bonus to the amount of weight your character can carry. On Afternoon Stroll, the Demon Lord will appear at intervals to attack, before disappearing. In this harder mode you will likely need to flee to survive.
This game is designed around replaying it many times. Aside from unlocking new classes and perks, there are also allies you can find, rare items that don’t appear in every game, and multiple endings – many of which are fairly difficult to unlock. Multiple game worlds, or dimensions, are also introduced after your first play through.
When starting a new run through the game, you are presented with multiple dimensions to choose from. Each dimension has some modified game rules, usually offering a mix of bonuses and disadvantages. There is also a dimensional vault that lets you can store limited items to carry over from one campaign to the next attempt.
The game primarily uses keyboard controls. You can use the eight number pad keys to move up, down, left, right, or diagonally. There is an attack key, which swings your weapon in the direction that your character is facing, or fires an arrow if using a bow. You can also use abilities, which are mainly derived from your character’s class. As an example, the Knight can use Great Wall, which reduces physical damage while draining stamina.
In classic role-playing game fashion, your character gains experience by defeating monsters. Leveling up increases your stats, though the specific ones depend upon your chosen class. Leveling can also unlock new skills, again dependent upon character class.
The three main stats are Life, Stamina (ST), and Energy. Life and Stamina recover over time, while Energy decreases over time. Life is a measure of your health; if it drops to 0, then you are slain and it is game over. Stamina is used to activate class abilities.
Energy is a measure of exhaustion. If you run out of it, then your character’s Stamina stops recovering and their Life recovery over time decreases. There are some other stat penalties for running out of energy, so suffice to say you should try to keep some food items on hand that can be used to restore it.
There are a lot of little details in this game that make for some interesting choices in how to approach building a character and playing the game. Mountains can be climbed, but if your climbing skill is low then it can take multiple turns where the Darkness will advance. Swimming across water is a similar challenge. The walls of buildings are also destructible, so in case of emergency you can hack your way out before the Darkness gets to you.
There are also various ways in the game that you can recruit allies to accompany you on your journey. While I won’t spoil all of the methods here, I will say that the Charisma stat for your character relates to getting allies. You can also have multiple allies accompanying you at the same time, which is a nice touch in my opinion.
Items in the game do have weight, forcing you to make decisions about what you will keep and what you will abandon. If you go over your character’s weight limit, they can no longer move. Since you need to constantly flee the Darkness, this can be quite inconvenient.
Items are also not away clearly identified. You know that you found a sword, but not if it is enchanted or cursed. In some towns there is a merchant who can be paid to identify items, or you can just equip them and hope your character will figure it out.
When you complete a run through the game, which typically ends by your character dying, you are then given a rating and Hero Points. These points are used to unlock those additional perks noted earlier, or to expand the number of items that can be kept in the Dimensional Vault.
The graphics, for the most part, are fairly simple and reminiscent of older console role-playing games. The character art done for conversations is a Japanese Anime-inspired style, which can be seen above in the screenshot with Iris. The graphics are nothing groundbreaking, but holds their own in a game whose selling point is more solid mechanics.
There are numerous soundtracks, which tend to change out whenever you enter a different region in the game. In my opinion they mesh well with the design of the game, and the variety keeps them from feeling overly repetitive. The sound effects are fairly minimal, but they fit well enough into the game as well.
All in all, there is a lot packed into a game about walking to the right! One caveat that I have read about, but have not actually run into yet, is that some of the conversations with certain characters may be more intended for a teenage/adult audience. So, like most games I play, there may be some sections that are not appropriate for a very young audience.
Overall, I enjoy this compact indie title. I give it a solid “B+” or an 8.5/10 stars. A bit of that may be just how inexpensive it is to pick up, when compared to how much play time you can get out of it, without the game feeling like needless grinding. One Way Heroics is worth picking up at full price, but if you see it on sale then I strongly recommend adding it your collection.
One Way Heroics is available on Steam and Humble, or directly from the publisher here.