Review: Class of Heroes (PSP)

reviewcoh

Title: Class of Heroes
Format: UMD / PlayStation Network Download (143 MB)
Release Date: November 5, 2009
Publisher: Atlus
Developer: Acquire/Zerodiv
Original MSRP: $39.99
ESRB Rating: T

Gameplay:
At it’s core, Class of Heroes is a classic old-school 1st-person dungeon crawler. You create your party from a multitude of races and classes (or “Majors” as they’re dubbed here) and set off to explore dungeon after dungeon, grinding stats and equipment as you go. What sets Class of Heroes apart from other games in the genre is the somewhat goofy school theme and anime art.

Dungeons may not be visually stunning, but they're interesting enough to hold your attention.

Dungeons may not be visually stunning, but they're interesting enough to hold your attention.

In Class of Heroes, the world has been overrun by underground tunnels and dungeons, so a bunch of academies are set up to train would-be adventurers. That’s where you enroll as the newest students. Roll up some stats, select from 10 races and 15 majors and it’s off to the dungeons. All the fantasy archetypes are represented here, from Elves, Dwarves, Halflings, Wizards, Thieves and Warriors to more obscure fair like Cat-People, Celestials, Sprites, Samurais, Ninjas, Psychics and much more. You won’t be short on choices, that’s for sure. Each race starts out with two portraits to choose from, one male and one female. I found this pretty disappointing, especially if you want to have two of the same race & gender in your party. Another odd thing is the near complete lack of in-game documentation for describing what stats do or even overviews of the classes & races. Granted, it’s a simple solution to open up the instruction manual and read up on it, but it does seem like an odd oversight in this day and age.

Creating your characters is a lot of fun if you're into that sort of thing.

Creating your characters is a lot of fun if you're into that sort of thing.

Once your party is set (or you choose the pre-created party) it’s either off to the dungeons or to the lengthy tutorial “lessons”. While the tutorial stuff is pretty long and boring, it is fairly recommended so you know exactly what you’re doing. Now here’s where I have some issues with Class of Heroes. Beginning the game is really tough. You’ll constantly be low on cash, even to the point where you can’t afford basic healing when you return to town and forget about buying any of the astronomically-priced equipment! You can get around the healing thing by having someone with healing magic rest for free to restore MP and heal everyone over and over. While that works fairly well, it seems like a really cumbersome workaround for something that shouldn’t even be there. Equipment has a better system in place where you can collect materials in the dungeons and craft your own weapons & armor in the school’s alchemy lab. It’s pretty much a necessity to craft to get the best new stuff. However, you still have to pay a (sometimes expensive) fee to create anything and it all is dependent on having the right crafting materials. This is especially annoying since all material drops are completely random and even after finding them you’ll need some means of identifying the item, either through a spell, ability or paying the shopkeeper to do it. Now I keep saying this is all an annoyance “in the beginning” because once you finally have your party outfitted with decent equipment the game becomes much, much easier and feels a lot more balanced.

Even your teachers are anime.

Even your teachers are anime.

Actually moving around the dungeons is done in a first person perspective with smoothly scrolling 3D corridors. They do look a little bland however and it can be easy to get lost if you aren’t good at navigating this type of game. You can pull up an auto-map, provided you have a map of that particular dungeon, to keep track of your journey. It’s on a separate screen however and I would’ve really preferred a small version of it overlaid on the main screen for easier navigation. You’ll also run into your fair share of traps in the dungeon, whether they’re on the floor or on a treasure chest. Be sure to bring a character capable of identifying and disarming them.

Combat is equally simple. Static 2D enemies will attack you and you’ll choose your standard RPG combat options like Attack, Magic, Item, etc. from the menus. You never see your characters attack, just slashes from their weapons or mundane special effects from their spells accompanied by a sound bite. You have a Tension Gauge that when full, allows you access to the Group Gambit options. These are heavy hitting group attacks allowing your whole party to slam the enemies or even run away. The Group Gambit also depends on your characters affinity for one another. Certain races have predetermined dispositions towards others, so take this into account when creating your party.

The battle menus are pretty standard and you'll be seeing them a lot.

The battle menus are pretty standard and you'll be seeing them a lot.

As mentioned, everything has a very anime look to it, so think of it as a Japanese take on a classic Dungeons & Dragons theme. The only problem is, I found it pretty generic looking. The art wasn’t bad by any means, but it didn’t seem like anything special to me. I suppose it’s funny to see dwarves as some sort of dog-people and your usual fantasy monsters drawn in anime style, but I didn’t feel it did much to add anything to the game. The static backdrops at the academies are well-done, but you end up seeing them so many times it does get a little annoying. Music was nothing to write home about either. At best it’s non-memorable, at worst it starts to grate on you when you hear the same tune ad nauseum.

Thank goodness for the auto-map!

Thank goodness for the auto-map!

So what’s the drive to keep playing the game? It’s pretty light on story, but the game is really about the grinding. It does get addicting to try and get your characters to the next level and learn new abilities and spells or find that last piece of junk you need to forge a mighty weapon. While what story there is proves fairly interesting, this game is really about the journey, not the destination. The time commitment is pretty massive and there’s some cool post-game content to keep you busy so you’ll definitely get your money’s worth.

Conclusion:
Class of Heroes is not a bad game, it’s just that it’s been done better before. I mentioned in the podcast review that Atlus’s own Etrian Odyssey series on the DS is essentially the same type of game but done much better and more refined. Does that mean it’s not worth checking out Class of Heroes if this is your type of game and you only own a PSP? Of course not, in fact I urge you to rent or buy it if you think it sounds interesting. But be forewarned this is not a game for everyone, even casual RPG fans, so just make sure you know what you’re getting into.

Score:
7.5

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Written by Mark Senger

Glenn’s second co-host on the podcast , Mark graced the airwaves from late 2007 to early 2010.

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  • madeup6

    I could never play this game… Especially since it has anime art.

  • Vedderist

    Awesome review Savory….. You guys should be getting paid for this stuff. Keep up the good work.

  • madeup6

    You should be getting paid….

  • damikki

    Cheers Mark aka the Great Lord Savory master of Atlus RPG's,

    Great review 5 * 's

    I went and imported this game having heard about it on your podcast (damned UK never gets these titles) and you know what it's exactly what I'm looking for. It's almost Etrian Odyssey but it's on the PSP which is sweet.

    Thanks and please keep the recommendations coming in your podcasts as it's always interesting to hear about them.

  • damikki

    Cheers Mark aka the Great Lord Savory master of Atlus RPG's,

    Great review 5 * 's

    I went and imported this game having heard about it on your podcast (damned UK never gets these titles) and you know what it's exactly what I'm looking for. It's almost Etrian Odyssey but it's on the PSP which is sweet.

    Thanks and please keep the recommendations coming in your podcasts as it's always interesting to hear about them.

  • damikki

    Cheers Mark aka the Great Lord Savory master of Atlus RPG's,

    Great review 5 * 's

    I went and imported this game having heard about it on your podcast (damned UK never gets these titles) and you know what it's exactly what I'm looking for. It's almost Etrian Odyssey but it's on the PSP which is sweet.

    Thanks and please keep the recommendations coming in your podcasts as it's always interesting to hear about them.

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