Heroland is one quirky title. It is an RPG that takes place at a theme park. You work at the park, and your job is to help guests live out their dreams of becoming heroes and vanquishing great evil. It’s all just imaginary action for the benefit of the guests, but it’s seemingly still full of thrills. Thrills for the guests, at least. For you, the player, I’m not completely sure yet. Based on what I previewed at E3, it could be an acquired taste.
A revival of Dragon Quest IV combat
The game story seems to be told in episodic missions centered around satisfying guests who come to the park. In a given mission, you proceed through scripted dialogue and battles, but there doesn’t seem to be any physical walking around. Everything proceeds in precise measures.
You have a party of four selectable characters for missions in Heroland, the number being modeled after legendary heroes of the past (hmm). Party members are park guests, and one of your goals is to increase their satisfaction with the park through various means. Party members equip weapons, use items, and have familiar classes like “Tank” or “Healer,” but combat doesn’t proceed as one would expect. Since you work at the theme park, it is only your job to guide and assist the party members.
This means party members act automatically when they have initiative, without your direct input. When a gauge fills, your player character may take one action, such as changing the general tactics of the party (“Do what you want,” “Go all-out!” etc.) or demanding that one character take a specific action. But that’s it.
Heroland is about setting a strategy and mostly trusting the AI to do the rest. In this regard, it is very similar to the original Dragon Quest IV (Dragon Warrior IV in North America), which did the same. If you’re into that sort of thing — terrific, you’ll probably love this game. If you prefer to have direct control of the party, this may be a hard sell. It was honestly a hard sell for me, though my preview only scratched the surface of what combat in the game will really be like.
Really quirky, enjoyable comedy
The saving grace of Heroland, if you’re weary about the combat style, is its sense of humor. Even as I hurried through dialogue due to being pressed for time, I found myself laughing on a regular basis. There are just goofy jokes of all kinds all the time. For instance, a character named Lua shows up to speak in lieu of your character, since classic Dragon Quest heroes are mostly silent. Lua describes herself as an “exposition fairy,” which I found hilarious.
There is also a stuck-up, annoying young prince who comes to the island to be a hero. His nickname is “18” because royal lineage has been altered and he is now eighteenth in line to the throne. Goofy stuff like this is everywhere, and I enjoyed it all.
Heroland is for a niche audience
Based off short impressions, it’s too early to say if Heroland’s brand of RPG action will be a successful change of pace or a repetitive blunder. But its sense of humor (and quality of localization by association) is already stellar. The graphics too — 2D sprites in three-dimensional space — are really attractive, thanks to having the Mother 3 art director on board. So basically, proceed with caution as this game approaches its fall 2019 release date for Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4.