The auto-battler survival genre exploded in popularity in 2022 thanks largely to the indie sleeper hit Vampire Survivors. With its simple but addictive gameplay loop of leveling up a character who automatically attacks hordes of monsters, Vampire Survivors sparked a wave of clones all trying to capture that same magical formula. One of the latest attempts comes in the form of Hero Survival, a new entry seeking to put its own twist on the survivorslike genre by swapping magical spells for an arsenal of deadly firearms.
Developed by PigeonDev and Sometimes You, Hero Survival pits players against waves of classic horror monsters across four stages, armed only with their dodging skills and a quartet of orbiting firearms that automatically target nearby enemies. It’s a novel spin that shows some promise on paper, but does Hero Survival manage to pump new life into this increasingly crowded genre? Or is it just another shallow attempt to cash in on the auto-battler survival craze? In this review, we’ll take a deep dive into every aspect of Hero Survival to see if it’s worth your hard-earned cash and precious gaming time.
We’ll scrutinize the gameplay loop, progression system, visuals, audio, and overall amount of fun factor to determine whether Hero Survival has what it takes to stand out from the growing horde of Vampire Survivors imitators. There’s certainly potential in the concept of blasting away horrors with heavy firepower, but execution is everything. Does Hero Survival nail the survival shooter thrills, or does it shoot wide of the target? Read on to find out.
A Bright and Cheery Pixelated Horror Show
At first glance, the retro pixel art style of Hero Survival looks like a breath of fresh air compared to the gloomier gothic tones seen in many other auto-battlers in this genre. The chunky and vibrant sprites give the game a cute, almost cartoon-like vibe that pairs unexpectedly well with the horror movie monsters you face off against. Werewolves and zombies have never looked so huggable! The heroes themselves showcase a fun chibi style, with large heads atop small bodies. It’s hard not to crack a smile when you see Indiana Jones or Rambo rendered in such an exaggerated cutesy fashion.
However, while the pixel art is well-executed and visually distinct, it does lead to some gameplay issues. The large heroic sprites take up considerable screen real estate, which can make it tricky to properly position yourself in the middle of sprawling hordes. The chunky monster designs also frequently blend into the backdrops, occasionally making enemies difficult to perceive. More than once, I’d take mysterious damage only to suddenly notice too late that a ghost or witch had partially merged with the background. This leads to some frustrating and unfair hits, marring the otherwise pleasant visuals.
So in summary, Hero Survival leverages its retro pixel art style to stand apart from its peers and create a more inviting tone. The sheer cuteness makes it hard to stay mad even when you suffer an untimely demise. But technical issues with sprites blending into environments do detract from the experience. Overall though, the vibrant and cheery graphics help Hero Survival’s horror aesthetic feel more fun than fearsome.
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Functional But Forgettable Sounds
On the audio front, Hero Survival rests firmly in the realm of just good enough. The soundtrack consists of generic looping background music that does little to enhance the gameplay. The repetitious melodies quickly fade into the background as you become focused on dodging enemies and watching your orbiting guns blast away. None of the tracks feel especially catchy or memorable. Quieter, more atmospheric tunes could have better complemented the horror vibe.
The situation doesn’t improve much on the sound effect front either. You’ll hear the same generic gunfire noises regardless of whether you’re wielding a dainty pistol or bulky mini-gun. The complete lack of differentiation makes new weapons less exciting to obtain since they all sound identical in action. Even explosive weapons like grenade or rocket launchers produce mundane blasts. More visceral audio feedback would significantly amplify the core run-and-gun gameplay.
In the end, it’s hard to find much inspiration or artistry in Hero Survival’s functional but uninspired audio design. The music fades into the background while the repetitive weapon effects grate over time. While serviceable, the sounds fail to enhance immersion or gameplay engagement in any meaningful way. Polishing the audio could go a long way towards making Hero Survival a more compelling and satisfying experience. For now, it’s instantly forgettable.
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Familiar Loop with Frustrating Flaws
On the surface, Hero Survival follows the standard auto-battler survival formula closely. The core gameplay centers around tackling waves of monsters across four distinct stages, with a climactic boss fight occurring on the tenth wave. Before starting a run, you get to choose from a modest selection of hero characters with minor statistical differences. Rambo packs more health while Indiana Jones has higher greed to collect more coins from fallen foes. Once selected, you’re armed only with your trusty starting pistol as monsters begin to spawn.
This is where Hero Survival diverges slightly thanks to your weapons orbiting your hero rather than firing independently. It’s a unique concept that adds spatial considerations to your positioning, as staying too close to enemies will block your own gunfire. While interesting in theory, in practice the floating weapons can make properly surrounding yourself with monsters while staying safely out of their attack range overly difficult. The large hero sprites exacerbated this issue further by consuming precious real estate.
As you clear waves, level up, and collect coins, you’ll unlock more weapons to equip and new heroes to play as. However, the progression system is poorly implemented, providing little sense of true advancement. The subclasses you select from at the first level up massively impact your playstyle, but two of the three options are near useless compared to the overpowered freezing skills of the Cryomancer. This imbalance diminishes replayability.
Other unlocks are equally disappointing. New weapons can’t be upgraded or improved, temporary stat-altering items between waves are ineffective, and permanent level up bonuses are minor at best. Even heroes play almost identically once you adjust to their slight stat differences. Nothing allows you to feel truly powerful, even after hours of grinding. To progress, you’ll mainly have to rely on your slow manual skill improvement rather than any meaningful upgrades.
This skill-based progression is undermined by Hero Survival’s flaws and bugs though. Hitboxes are unreliable, leading to unfair damage from enemies you thought you dodged. Getting body-blocked by large mobs is a constant issue. Weapons randomly malfunctioning or failing to fire also need addressing. These technical shortcomings add unnecessary frustration to an already challenging game.
So in summary, Hero Survival brings some fresh ideas like orbiting weapons to the auto-shooter table, but is held back by core design and technical flaws. Progression feels unrewarding, subclasses are imbalanced, and dodging is hampered by bugs. While the core loop can be mindlessly enjoyable, the lack of meaningful upgrades and other problems prevent Hero Survival from reaching its full potential.
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A Progression System That Quickly Loses Steam
Unlocking new content and steadily growing stronger through progression mechanics are integral to making any roguelite truly shine. Unfortunately, this is where Hero Survival stumbles hardest, implementing a dull upgrade system that reaches a dead end surprisingly fast.
New heroes and weapons are locked behind incredibly steep in-game currency costs. Even a complete multi-stage run nets only a few thousand coins, while individual heroes can cost five times that amount or more. This forces excessive grinding to simply access basic content that adds little meaningful variety once unlocked. The difficult second stage also harshly disrupts early progression until you learn to overcome the brutal difficulty spike.
Repeated runs themselves fail to provide any sense of advancement either. There are no permanent stat upgrades, no weapon upgrading, and no way to improve your character between attempts. The main replayability comes from incrementally improving your manual dodging and kiting skills. While skill-based progression has merit, some underlying sense of power growth is still expected in this genre.
The limited class system initially shows promise for build experimentation but falls flat quickly. As mentioned earlier, the Cryomancer’s freezing ability is so vastly superior that the other two class options feel like traps for new players. Even if balanced evenly, three total subclasses isn’t much depth to discover. Additionally, the temporary stat boosts between levels are wholly ineffective and quickly forgotten.
After conquering the initial progression hurdles of the steep starter costs and second level difficulty spike, there’s disappointingly little to find in Hero Survival’s end game. No endless modes or daily challenges exist. The dull trickle of insignificant upgrades quickly stalls out. Even class diversity is rendered pointless due to poor balancing. All that remains is grinding coins to fill out your roster of functionally identical heroes.
In the end, Hero Survival completely wastes the potential of its progression system. The satisfying sense of growth and discovery so vital to roguelite success is wholly absent here. Outside of improving your own skill, progression is limited to amassing piles of useless coins to unlock lackluster content. Once the initial honeymoon phase fades after the first few hours, Hero Survival’s flawed progression causes the experience to go stale rapidly.
Fun In Small Doses But Lacks Longevity
Hero Survival successfully captures some of the magic that has made the auto-battler survival genre so wildly popular as of late. The sheer addictive fun of dodging hordes of encroaching enemies while your guns mow them down does provide regular adrenaline rushes, especially in the opening hours. There’s enjoyment to be had in the non-stop run-and-gun action. The novel floating weapon mechanic also allows for unique spatial and positional considerations missing from similar titles.
However, once the initial novelty fades, Hero Survival’s litany of flaws become impossible to ignore. The lack of meaningful progression ruins any sense of advancement or growth. The woefully unbalanced subclasses and meaningless temporary boosts make your choices feel pointless. For every new idea Hero Survival contributes, there’s a critical issue dragging down the experience.
Diehard fans of the genre willing to grind through repetitive hours may still eke out some fun from the mindless dodging and shooting core loop. But with so many superior alternatives like Vampire Survivors and Brotato readily available, it’s hard to justify investing precious gaming time into Hero Survival’s shallow progression and technical troubles. It’s a disappointment given the clear potential visible behind the problems.
An Unpolished But Promising Concept
While Hero Survival ultimately crumbles under the weight of its issues, there are glimmers of a great game buried here. The core run-and-gun gameplay provides adrenaline-pumping fun in short bursts. The floating weapon concept is rife with untapped strategic potential. A lengthy round of satisfying monster slaughter highlights what Hero Survival gets right. Unfortunately, those high points are dragged down by the lackluster progression, frustrating technical problems, imbalance issues and repetitive grind.
However, with extensive improvements, there’s hope Hero Survival could shed its status as just another derivative clone and transform into a genuinely great entry in the genre. Significantly expanding progression options, rewarding permanent upgrades, addressing technical problems, properly balancing heroes and classes, and adding more enemy and level variety could make Hero Survival a title worth sinking hours into.
As is though, it’s hard not to feel disappointed by this missed potential. Here’s hoping the development team learns from these mistakes and returns with a sequel that realizes the untapped promise buried within this flawed but fun freshman effort. For now, it serves as just another middling and repetitive option rather than the refreshing standout it could have been.
Hero Survival brings some fresh ideas to the saturated auto-battler survival genre, like its novel floating weapon mechanic and cutesy pixel art style. However, critical flaws in progression, balance, replayability, and technical issues severely hamper the overall experience. Diehard genre fans may squeeze some fun out of the addictive core run-and-gun gameplay, but most players will quickly bounce off Hero Survival’s repetitive grind and lack of meaningful advancement. It’s an unpolished concept that hints at hidden potential, but ultimately fails to realize it.
- Addictive core gameplay loop of dodging and shooting is enjoyable
- Unique floating weapon mechanic provides spatial considerations
- Bright and vibrant pixel art visuals stand out
- Shooting hordes of classic horror monsters is satisfying
- Mindless fun in short bursts
- Lack of meaningful progression ruins sense of growth
- No way to permanently upgrade or improve weapons
- Steep costs for new content requires excessive grinding
- Technical issues like unreliable hitboxes and weapon glitches
- Poor balance between subclasses
- Temporary boosts between levels are ineffective
- Very difficult spike early on hampers progression
- Shallow endgame lacks modes like endless or challenges