Preview: Forrader Hero

2022-10-10 by George P

Forwarding and Choosing

Forrader Hero is a unique turn-based roguelike with tactical elements that entered its Early Access phase on the 2nd of August earlier this year. In Forrader Hero you will choose from a cast of powerful heroes, all equipped with unique skills and abilities, and you will delve deep into the Forgotten Proto.World’s darkest dungeons to fight countless waves of abominable enemies to save your soul. I am glad to say right from the start that for me Forrader Hero was not only a very enjoyable experience but also a very surprising one for all the good reasons. It is a game that manages to execute a very simple concept in a way that feels clever, deep, and engaging, which is without a doubt a very impressive achievement. Not only is the game built upon a simple concept, but minimalism is also at the heart of Forrader Hero’s greater design direction. In the game’s gloomy “Forgotten Proto. World”, moving forward is not a choice but a requirement. Every turn, your character will be forced to move forward a tile and confront one of Proto.World’s many terrors. The game will even let you know right from the very beginning that stepping back is something a hero would never do (Not to mention that “forrader” literally means “forwarder”).

Using this basic element as a foundation, Forrader Hero creates an addicting decision-making gameplay loop through its three-lane system. While the hero can’t stop moving forward, the player is each turn given the choice to switch to one of the adjacent lanes by moving either upwards or downwards. Every lane holds a variety of randomized threats and opportunities, and players will have to not only carefully evaluate the immediate outcome of each transition, but will also have to consider the long-term consequences of their choices. Beyond the three-lane system, Forrader Hero further reinforces its enjoyable decision-making gameplay loop with a few other additions that align with the game’s minimalist philosophy. For example, each dungeon is split into a large number of mini-segments where at the end of each one the player will encounter a chest with three possible upgrades to choose from. These options will empower the player with new active and passive abilities that the hero can utilize for both offensive and defensive purposes. Once again, players will have to carefully analyze their choices and evaluate potential plans and synergies that will help them reach the final section and defeat the dungeon’s main boss.

Blast from the Past with a Modern Touch

Before entering one of the game’s dark dungeons, the player will have the opportunity to choose from one of the game’s distinct heroes. At the time of writing this article, Forrader Hero offers a total of five hero options: the Knight, the Wizard, the Rogue, the Necromancer, and the Alchemist. Picking a class or a character before starting a run is by all means a common staple aspect of roguelike games, but what truly surprised me in Forrader Hero was how much each hero altered the overall experience. In many other similar titles, class options can feel trivial as they lack proper impact, but in this game, every hero comes with unique sets of abilities, items, and traits that completely transform the gameplay loop and influence the strategies within it. Forrader Hero’s fun and engaging gameplay loop is also aided by an overall excellent visual presentation.

The game’s pixel art is wonderfully executed both in regard to character and object design as well as in regard to the background environment. The animations are stellar and make the overall experience feel much more dynamic and fluid. Additionally, there is such a wide range of interesting and distinct enemy designs, from spectral beasts to demonic fauna to cursed necrolords to all kinds of mutated abominations. (It is also important to note here that these different types of enemies are not just a matter of aesthetics as they are all accompanied by matching gameplay characteristics and specific special traits.) What every player will notice immediately when booting up the game for the first time is Forrader Hero’s extensive effort in recreating a sort of “arcade spirit” with its visual presentation. The graphic direction, the UI design, the curved screen, the RGB artifacts, and many other elements are all subversive details that build up to a strangely nostalgic feeling as if you were staring at an old arcade monitor. I was initially slightly skeptical of the game’s retro visual direction but I am very glad to say that I was quickly proven wrong. There is something peculiarly charming about Forrader Hero’s graphical vision and there were movements where I almost felt like I was in an arcade in the 90s. The whole game feels like a clash between the retro and the modern, forging a unique combination. There is no doubt that vital factor in the creation of this distinct feeling. There is also the game’s musical direction as well as the overall crunchy and arcadish sound design.

The Road Forward

In my long experience of testing games in Early Access, the common pattern that I have noticed is how developers struggle with shaping a proper identity for their title and with establishing foundational principles and polished mechanics. Forrader Hero is one of the rare exceptions where these matters are not issues at all. This is a game that has not only already figured out what it wants to be, but it has also managed to execute a simple concept in a way that feels thorough and engaging while always maintaining its minimalist philosophy. Forrader Hero is a great example of how a basic conceptual bedrock can develop, through smart game design, into an experience with genuine depth and strategy. And through its brilliant art direction, Forrader Hero’s clever decision-making gameplay loop becomes even more energetic and adventurous. It is clear that this is a game that can only get better with every subsequent update as new heroes, levels, and maybe even modes are introduced.

This is a title that I will certainly keep revisiting in the future and I am confident that by launch time Forrader Hero will have developed into an even more re-playable and complex final product. But with the very low price point of 3$, Forrader Hero is already a great choice for all fans of minimalist roguelikes, as well as any player who would enjoy a simple but engaging monster bashing experience with tactical elements.