Refinance you farm with violence in Boot Hill Heroes [PAX East 2013 Preview]
It’s been some time since I played a old west-themed RPG, which is a shame because I think there’s a lot of room there for cool ideas. I absolutely loved the first Wild Arms, a game that mingled many fantasy RPG aspects with an old west theme, and have been dying for a something like it ever since. Experimental Gamer’s Boot Hill Heroes looks like it’s going to be filling in that void, providing me with a classic RPG experience combined with great music and, strangely enough, multiplayer.
I thought this game bore an alarming similarity to Mother 3 when I started playing it, but there are lots of other inspirations that poke their heads up in the landscape and battles. I can see elements of Phantasy Star and Lufia: Rise of the Sinistrals showing up during combat as well. The game proudly wears its heritage on its sleeve, drawing from many different art styles and pooling them into a single visual style that just clicks. It’s almost an overload for the SNES-era RPG fanatic in me.
It may look familiar, but it certainly doesn’t sound familiar in most places. Wild Arms managed to combine an old west and fantasy-styled sound, but this game goes full tilt into the old west. There were many nice guitar tracks that played during the demo, really hyping up the feel of the time period. The sound effects were nice as well, showcasing something that sounded like a harmonica when I picked up items. A lot of the audio design seems to have been done with instruments and sounds from the period and old western movies, so it really brought the whole package together. It is old west through and through.
Combat’s a different story, as the battle music pulls a little bit more from modern music and combines it with the old west sound. It was a really nice battle track to be honest, filled with high-energy acoustic guitar and trumpet sounds. It really got me excited for combat, and I liked it a great deal. I’m very curious to hear what Boot Hill Heroes will have for a boss track after listening the songs I did. They seem to have a good handle on the music and are capable of some creative strokes, so I think the boss tracks could be pretty awesome.
The actual fighting is a neat system, too. You have moves that cost a set number of points, so instead of the time bar telling you when you can go, it’s telling you what you can do. Each move fills up at the same time, with your character able to execute some moves faster than others. This all felt like Cyan’s sword abilities from Final Fantasy VI (Or III. I have no idea what to call that game these days), where you had to wait to do your most powerful moves. It eliminated the need for magic points or anything like that, so combat felt streamlined.
You also learn new moves over the course of the game; ones that will allow you to do more powerful attacks, cause status ailments, or avoid damage. It doesn’t sound like groundbreaking stuff, but the status ailments and dodges actually work in this game. In most other RPGs these moves tend to have low success rates, but in Boot Hill Heroes they all have high rates. This means that you’re likely to actually hit the enemies with your status ailments, making them a useful form of attack. Even more useful is that dodging works well, so if you’re fighting a particularly tough enemy you can set yourself to dodge around or defend yourself on the next turn and it will help a lot.
How will you know when to dodge, though? Can’t just hunker down and hope the enemy dies from exhaustion while hitting you, right? Well, in this game you can also see the enemy’s attack bar filling up at the same time as yours. A white line will be on that bar while it fills, and you can tell by how far that line is down the bar how powerful an attack will be. If the enemy has to charge for something that’s all the way at the end of the bar, you can believe that attack is going to hit like a ton of bricks and you’d better be ready to block or dodge. It adds a neat element of strategy to the game that I’ve rarely seen implemented well in RPGs. It’ll be cool to see how they use it to make some really challenging fights later on.
Local multiplayer should keep the fights even more interesting, though. It’s been a very long time since I had someone play an RPG with me, but in this game up to four players can each grab someone to play as. Each character is then in charge of their own tactics during combat, letting a bunch of people all play the game at once. It looks like it makes planning combat a little bit easier and fast-paced, and should be a great addition to the game.
I didn’t get to see anything on how the player would control those same four characters on his own, though. I did see that you can set up certain attacks in advance by selecting them early, so I’m assuming that is probably the best method in the battles. Another nice touch about that was that the game speeds up once you lock in an attack, so you’re not always waiting for the bars to slowly fill up once all of the tactics have been programmed in.
It really is looking like it will be a lot of fun. It’s got a serious story intertwined with many goofy moments, showing a sense of humor that knows when to poke its head in to lighten things up. The subject matter can be depressing, with your journey starting off with you fighting off the foreclosure of your farm after your father’s death, but soon the game will have you laughing at some of its enemy descriptions and small odds and ends. It’s all played pretty well, never feeling like the game is losing track of its tone or anything like that. From what little I played I’m already interested in its unique plot, something that I rarely say about games these days. It’s engaging and doesn’t waste the player’s time.
My friends and I are all ready to go when the game’s first episode launches sometime soonish. The developers are still putting some touches into the game and couldn’t give a concrete release date, but I know what I’ll be doing the day they finally launch it.