Rogue Heroes: Ruins of Tasos is the answer to the question: “What if you mixed 2D Zelda aesthetics with a modern, procedurally-generated roguelike?” The two sound like a perfect pairing, and in many ways, Rogue Heroes completely pulls it off by managing to mix the two in an interesting and engaging way.
Rogue Heroes is honestly a bit of an open book. It’s up to you to carve your own legacy in the world. There are some general goals you can focus on, such as taking on one of the game’s procedurally-generated dungeons. You can also spend your time focused on building the main hub area, populating it with citizens, building a farm and customising your own home. You can even spend your time fishing if that’s the kind of thing you’re into.
This open-world is backed up by one of the most rewarding gameplay loops I’ve experienced in a long time. Building up the village at the centre of Tasos requires a specific type of currency called gems. These gems can only be found in the procedurally generated dungeons, and with each visit to the dungeon your character can subsequently spend these gems building and upgrading the village. By building the village up, you can add the likes of a blacksmith or a gym, which in turn enables you to upgrade your character.
Every action and achievement in Rogue Heroes feels like it’s rewarded with something, whether that be gems, new weapons and tools, additions to your town or upgrades to your character. I often found myself just going for one more dungeon run because I had my eye on a specific addition to my village or a particular statistic I wanted to increase.
This gameplay loop is further enhanced by brilliant top-down Zelda-like combat. Much like Link in the original 2D outings, your character can swing their sword in eight different directions and use a shield to deflect incoming attacks. This is backed up by an arsenal of weapons and tools such as a bow and grappling hook. You can permanently unlock the tools as you go through the game, but you can find temporary versions of them within dungeons which expire upon death.
Dungeons are designed around a procedurally-generated set of puzzles, room shapes and enemies. It’s surprisingly complex considering how many pieces have to fit together, and while you will start to see repetition upon repeated visits, the developers should be commended for just how much they’ve managed to fit into each one of the dungeons. Even when repetition started to set in many, many hours into the game, the basic gameplay loop and combat are so fun that I didn’t mind at all.
Rogue Heroes is brutally difficult, to the point that many of your initial visits to a dungeon will end in quick death. With each returning visit you’ll be stronger and wiser, meaning you’ll last a little longer. I hate to make the dreaded comparison, but Rogue Heroes reminds me of the Souls series, at least in the way that death is ultimately a method of learning, and a vessel for self-improvement. Each of the main bosses are also a lesson in trial-and-error, as each one has distinctly different mechanics that you’ll need to learn to overcome.
What makes Rogue Heroes unique is its four-player co-op gameplay. You can team up with three other heroes locally or online to take on the dungeons of Tasos together. Echoing The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords, playing Rogue Heroes with a group of friends is absolutely the best way to experience it and perfectly captures the essence of one of the most overlooked Zelda titles.
I feel Rogue Heroes only really shortcoming is the narrative. There was a real opportunity to build a fantastic story here, but instead the plot just takes a bit of a back step next to the gameplay. The team behind it could have done so much more with the premise, so it’s a real shame that this portion of the title was so underdeveloped in comparison. My only other complaint is that the climbing and movement when ascending stairs locks you in an animation for slightly too long, which often results in receiving damage from an enemy.
Once players have conquered the main dungeons, it’s time to take on the infinite dungeon. An endless amalgamation of the previous dungeons which challenges heroes to see just how far they can descend into its depths. It’s a great way to extend replayability, and it also provides players with the opportunity to max out their characters. It also extends the viability of multiplayer, as groups of friends can tackle the infinite dungeon.