Next Up Hero Preview
A brand new indie developer, Digital Continue, is currently hard at work on their second release, Next Up Hero, and I had the opportunity to give the beta a try via Steam. While still very early in development, it’s clear from what I played that Digital Continue might have a pretty big hit on their hands.
Next Up Hero is not really like any game I’ve ever played before (which in itself deserves some serious props) so bear with me as I describe the basics. First, you’ll select a hero. Each hero has a unique look and set of attacks (a basic attack and a strong attack that requires a sort of stamina that depletes when used but replenishes with time). Next, you’ll be sent to a browser screen that shows a number of sessions currently available. Here you can either create your own session or drop into an existing session. Only one gamer can join a session at a time (that’s right, no true multiplayer, unfortunately). Within the session, your objective is to navigate a maze like arena, killing all the enemies, and reaching the end point. If you die in a session, you’ll have a few choices of what to do next, such as choosing a new session or a new hero. Your dead body, or “Echo” remains in the session – and here is where Next Up Hero really adds a level of uniqueness. If another gamer plays the session, they can find your Echo and resurrect it, and your Echo will fight alongside them. Of course, this also means that as you play various sessions, you’ll come across Echos as well, and you’ll resurrect them and (depending on how many Echos are in the session) you could have a full army of Echos fighting alongside you! When it works, (ie: if there are actually enough Echos in a session), it can be a ton of fun as you lead your undead army of Echos through the swarms of enemies to the end.
One thing you’ll immediately notice is that this game is not easy, and I believe this is intentionally so in order to “kill” as many gamers, thereby providing other gamers more Echos to resurrect. In fact, there are no means to even regain health in the game (save for a special ability that you can utilize by “combining” some of your Echos into a special “Ancients” character that’ll briefly buff, heal or assist your hero). Even if you complete a level, you’ll still start the next level with the same amount of health. It’s pretty brutal and admittedly a bit of a turn-off. While I appreciate the rationale – because the more Echos you can resurrect, the cooler the game gets – it can also be a bit frustrating. The other thing I noticed was that heroes that just had melee based attacks were utterly useless in this game. In fact, the only success I had was with the one hero “Morta” who had a rocket launcher and a pretty powerful “mortar” attack. There will definitely need to be some tuning of the hero’s, otherwise, I can’t imagine anyone using the melee based heroes.
“Next Up Hero has a ton of potential”
Visually, the game has a very cute look to it. Each hero has a distinct look to them. However, since there is such an emphasis on other gamers using your dead Echo as an ally, it would have been better if the developers provided a “create-a-hero” option instead, allowing us to design our own heroes in addition to customizing the attacks and abilities. That way, when someone was to find my Echo, it would be distinctly “mine” and not just one of the handful of heroes (in the beta, we had access to five heroes, but it’s clear there are at least a few more heroes on the way). The game’s view utilizes an isometric perspective, not unlike games like Diablo III, Starcraft, and Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light. There were only two level types in the game, forest and snow, but I have no doubt there will be a far bigger selection in the final product. There is a vast assortment of enemies to kill, but there is are definitely some opportunities to balance the enemies, as some are quite a bit overpowered (either too tough to kill or too strong).
Next Up Hero has a ton of potential. Playing a session could last you only a few minutes or over 20 minutes, depending on far you can get. The more heroes in the session you can resurrect, the better your odds of surviving. Of course, one of the biggest problems was the game got dull really fast, simply due to the repetitive nature and inability to really achieve anything. However, as development progress, I’m sure you’ll be able to enhance your heroes more and there will be more incentive to really grind through the sessions. Next Up Hero will arrive on Steam Early Access later this year and on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Switch in 2018.
*** Next Up Hero key provided by publisher ***