The dungeon crawler genre has been done a ton of different ways this generation. Whether it’s a classic like Diablo III, or indie offerings like Torchlight and Brut@l, there are plenty of options. To stand out in this crowd, you need to bring something unique to the table.
ReadySet Heroes, a new dungeon crawler for PS4, does exactly that. While it has a typical roguelike mode, it’s the signature “Crawl ‘N Brawl” that offers a fresh new way to think about your strategy each match. Does this speedy take on the genre race to the finish or lose its momentum before it can reach its potential? Let’s find out.
A Fresh New Spin on an Established Genre
ReadySet Heroes first caught my eye when it was shown during one of the State of Play streams. Its colorful palette and friendly character designs make it very inviting for players of all ages.
A quick glance at the gameplay makes it look like a pretty standard isometric dungeon crawler, but when you start to peel back the layers, ReadySet Heroes shows its true colors. One thing I always like to see in these types of games is local co-op, and ReadySet Heroes offers that across both of its primary modes (including up to 4 players in the game’s standout mode).
While there’s no story or campaign to speak of, the game does have a standard roguelike dungeon crawling mode for you to get your feet wet. In this mode you have three lives and thirty levels to fight through. The enemy placement and order of the levels, along with the order of bosses, is shuffled each time.
In true roguelike fashion, you start each run with nothing but a wooden sword to your name. As you break barrels and take out enemies, colored gems drop that represent your main stats: strength, health, speed, magic, and defense. Each gem increases your stats for that run, offering a nice feeling of progression as you move through each level.
At the end of each level, a chest appears that offers a random loot drop. These are color-coded by rarity and include everything from new weapons to armor, to sidearms and spells. The random numbers game here means you can get some excellent items or repeats of what you have, but regardless of what you get, you can rest assured that another chest is waiting at the end of the next level.
The levels themselves are simple, but there’s a nice mix between all out combat encounters, and areas with puzzles and traps mixed into the fray. There are also some hidden areas and secrets to find if you’re so inclined.
If it was just the one mode, ReadySet Heroes would be a solid, if uneventful dungeon crawler. What elevates the experience to another level is the signature “Crawl ‘N Brawl” mode. This mode, up to four players locally or online, turns things up a notch by applying a timer.
Everyone begins in their own instance of the dungeon, moving through the same maps in the same order as a timer counts down from eight minutes. The start with nothing, allowing them to race for as much loot and gems as possible.
Running into a boss gives you the opportunity to bring the timer down to 20 seconds if you can defeat the boss. Otherwise, the game continues until the timer reaches zero. At this point, everyone is thrown into a final brawl that comes in a few different flavors.
One of these is a typical brawl that leverages the loot and stats you’ve accumulated until that point, but the others have creative goals like lighting as many fires as possible or collecting gold from defeated enemies. Some are certainly better than others, but they all offer a final competitive push to see who wins.
It’s here that ReadySet Heroes really shines. The fresh start that each run offers, combined with the mystery of which brawl will round out the run, makes it exciting to jump in and race through as many levels as you can.
There’s a pretty solid amount of content at launch, including unlockable skins, hats, and characters, but the developers have committed to adding more as time goes on, including free maps down the road. The game has also received a patch since launch to address some of the issues, but I still ran into a few problems.
Each time a chest appeared at the end of a level, the frame rate would hitch for a moment, which can be detrimental for the other players who may be in combat when the game stumbles. This issue extends to online multiplayer, which was difficult to test because I had a lot of trouble finding teammates and opponents via matchmaking. I did get into a couple matches, and experienced lag that I don’t normally see in multiplayer.
This resulted in some frustrating moments where my character would warp around the screen or fail to pick up objects I needed to progress. Given the speediness of the first patch, I’m confident these things will be ironed out, and those who plan on playing locally won’t need to worry about the lag issue beyond the aforementioned hitch during chest spawns.
The split-screen, while welcome, also uses very small screens on a large screen. Two players, for example, uses up the center area of the screen instead of splitting a full screen down the middle. This isn’t a bug, but it does make everything quite small and leave a good portion of the screen black. It’s not a deal-breaker by any means, but worth noting.
A Beautiful Brawl
ReadySet Heroes is a beautiful game with a vibrant style and fun characters that make it inviting for players of all ages. There’s certainly a challenge to be had here, but its wrapped in a package that doesn’t alienate any players, which I appreciate.
Boss fights and variety in the enemy designs combined with a nice selection of locales keep each run from feeling stale. In the end, ReadySet Heroes succeeds immensely as a local co-op party game with its Crawl ‘N Brawl mode taking the majority of the spotlight.
As a single player experience, it’s fairly bare bones, and while the online has potential, it needs some additional tweaks to be a smooth experience (the promise of upcoming cross-play with PC should help). Taken this way, those who have a group and some DualShocks to go around should absolutely check this one out.
Final Score: 8.0/10
A copy of ReadySet Heroes was provided to PS4 Experts for review purposes.
Article by - Bradley Ramsey
Insert date - 10/7/19