What if you took an MMORPG and stripped out all that bothersome walking, streamlining the experience by bringing all the monsters to the player? With a basic party of three, an overhead map and combat abilities with cooldowns, Heroes & Legends: Conquerors of Kolhar proves that this idea has merit, even if the game falls short of achieving perfection.
Feeling partly like an old school RPG, Kolhar’s distinction is that it blends active-time battles with more modern character “abilities.” As players’ and enemies’ basic attacks charge up and automatically target the character directly in front of them, each member of your party has up to five unique abilities with timers dependent upon their relative strengths. For example, a low level spell that boosts your party’s attack can be used fairly frequently, but if you use a warrior’s ability to instantly kill one enemy it’s going to take several minutes before it becomes available again.
The strategy (and fun) comes from timing abilities and making the most effective use out of the ones you’ve selected; if you’ve frozen all the enemies in place and stopped their attack timers, then it won’t benefit you much if your warrior uses a battle cry to draw all incoming enemy attacks. As your characters level up you can swap in new abilities from a sadly limited selection, and this is perhaps the aspect of Kolhar which could most markedly improve. When it comes to character customization, each time you level up you can increase one of three randomly chosen attributes, but there is no skill tree to speak of — just a linear progression towards unlocking all your inherent abilities.
Kolhar shows some imperfections not simply in the missed opportunity for skill trees and in-depth customization, but for the fact that sometimes increasing a stat doesn’t appear to do anything; your party’s total Luck determines the quality of random items found when enemies are killed, but increasing this stat in one character doesn’t always contribute to the party’s total (and there’s nothing worse than feeling like you wasted a level-up). Between levels there is, theoretically, an opportunity for more individualized customization, where you can choose what stats to significantly boost by forging and enhancing one of three sets of armor. But unfortunately, at some point a bug prevented my armor selection from working and I could only enhance the default selection for any player.
Also between levels, depending on your party’s Charisma there are a limited variety of “chance encounters” that may appear on the map. These encounters range anywhere from the opportunity to gain free resources (used to enhance armor or forge specific weapons, if you don’t like your chance of finding them randomly), to being cursed by witches. While stumbling upon a trainer who increases your level is a cool find, sometimes the rewards or punishments can be a little too painful to bear; a permanent decrease in your HP doesn’t really seem worth the cost of gaining wood (the most basic resource). But perhaps most annoying of all is that once your Charisma reaches a certain level, entering and exiting the shop will produce a random event every time, creating a sadly easy way to game the system.
The story itself is mostly forgettable and involves something about an ancient artifact and the potential end of the world. Having a little more diversity along the linear story path would be a welcome distraction, and would mask the inevitable necessary grinding in past levels. As it stands, once you’ve put about twelve hours into the game and are finished with the campaign, there’s literally no reason to continue playing. The game does offer some “challenge” stages available from the main menu, but the attraction of a challenge in any RPG hinges upon building up your characters, and testing your selected skills against the enemy. In the Challenge maps, you start from scratch, with level one characters and weapons; stripping down that bothersome walking is great, but stripping down absolutely everything else and calling it a challenge is just one step too far.
Heroes & Legends: Conquerors of Kolhar is a great little game, with simple controls that would translate well to a mobile device. The trouble there is that each stage involves fighting a set number of enemies, which can take a while longer than someone on the go can focus on their phone for (and once you start a stage, you really need to stick with it if you want to make any meaningful progress). So what Kolhar ultimately is then, is a proof of concept.
How could developers take something as addictive as Diablo or World of Warcraft and make it more portable and easily digestible? The answers to those questions are, surprisingly, contained in the world of Kolhar: have characters, skill trees, quests, loot and leveling up. Just take out all the walking. As a result, Kolhar is a unique little beast that does something not quite like anything that has come before, and for that it’s certainly worth a gander — with a bigger budget, cleaner code and refinement of existing ideas, there’s a foundation here that is clearly worth building upon.
SCORE: 7.0 out of 10
A code for Heroes & Legends: Conquerors of Kolhar was provided to Pixel Related for review.