Hero Generations preview: each move costs you a year of life

Hero Generations

Before me lies a map covered with little nuggets of interest: towns to visit, shops to browse, monsters to fight, gold to gather, secrets to unearth, and at the map's edges, entrances to new lands waiting to be discovered. I want to do it all, naturally, but there's a ticking clock: my own mortality. Each step I take and each square I cross takes a year from my life. I'll never live long enough to accomplish everything, but someone else might complete my unfinished tasks: my offspring.

In Hero Generations, an upcoming roguelike RPG from developer Heart Shaped Games, aging is as big a concern as death itself. No matter how well-equipped and battle-hardened you've become, you're simply not long for this world. Before you strike out across the map to explore a forest tile or loot a mine or mix it up with a boss monster, you have to ask yourself: am I too old for this? Will I be able to make it back before I die? Should I instead go to town, find a mate, sire an offspring, and let him or her handle it?

It's a neat concept, making time the most precious of resources, and it adds an extra layer to the RPG format. The prioritization of tasks is of supreme importance. What does my hero need most? Gold? Fame? And is gathering more of them worth it in terms of the years it will cost?

It's also fun in terms of continuity, as attributes and even items can be passed down from generation to generation. One of my characters found an iron hammer, and he gave it to his daughter when he retired. She passed it down to her daughter, and then it passed to the daughter's son. There's something great knowing the weapon you're holding once belonged to a distant, long-departed ancestor.

Hero Generations

Combat is initiated each time you occupy the same square as an enemy, and is determined with a dice roll based on your attributes. Fights only take a single round: the loser of the dice roll either dies or retreats, and in the latter case you can reengage them on the map if you wish (or flee, if you're the loser). Hovering your mouse over an enemy lets you know what sort of challenge they pose, so you don't need to waste years of your life chasing someone down only to discover they're way too tough for you to handle, or way to wimpy to bother with.

There are other activities, such as building improvements like farms, barracks, or other structures around towns, which provide extra gold, fame, additional mates, or improve the attributes of offspring you raise there. These structures can age just like you, meaning your children or grandchildren may have to rebuild them later. There are also quests, like finding and beating boss monsters or building special structures.

I'm having a nice time with the game. It's very light, almost casual in nature, and often times a single character's life can be played though in a matter of minutes. At the same time, the elements of family and inheritance, and the constant decisions I have to make based on my character's mortality, give it depth and challenge.

Hero Generations will be released on Steam on April 10.

Hero Generations

Christopher Livingston
Senior Editor

Chris started playing PC games in the 1980s, started writing about them in the early 2000s, and (finally) started getting paid to write about them in the late 2000s. Following a few years as a regular freelancer, PC Gamer hired him in 2014, probably so he'd stop emailing them asking for more work. Chris has a love-hate relationship with survival games and an unhealthy fascination with the inner lives of NPCs. He's also a fan of offbeat simulation games, mods, and ignoring storylines in RPGs so he can make up his own.