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Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes

Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes Preview - Promising but not exactly enthralling

We've had a chance to play through the opening portion of Rabbit and Bear Studios' upcoming JRPG.

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I'm finding it increasingly difficult as a player to become excited for new and sprawling JRPGs. There is simply not enough time to play through games such as Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth, Persona 3 Reload, Final Fantasy VII: Rebirth, Unicorn Overlord, Dragon's Dogma 2, the list goes on. It's this very reason that puts a lot of pressure on Rabbit and Bear Studios' upcoming Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes to excel and stand out among its competitors. I've had the chance to check out and play through the opening portion of this game recently, where I've been wowed but also not exactly enthralled.

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Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes is set in the similar sort of fantasy world as that of Octopath Traveler. It's medieval but not gritty, and if anything more fantastical and magical. There are the same sorts of conflicts and narrative threads that we've come to expect from this type of setting, with conflicting and warring factions that split the world, plus a variety of uniquely designed and styled characters that impact and slot into the world in a multitude of ways. Hundred Heroes is a completely unique game, but it's also a very familiar one, especially if you're quite versed with the trends and setup of many JRPGs.

This also stretches to the art style and graphics too. Hundred Heroes has that beautiful mix of more realistic 2D-HD graphics and the pixel sprite-like characters, and as this style has succeeded in games like Octopath and even Live A Live, it also excels and brings great flair and charm to this universe too.

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But where Hundred Heroes sets itself apart from others is mainly in its combat and playable character list. As the name suggests, there are over 100 characters to find and add to your team, and that means both a huge variety in combat and strategy but also mega depth in storytelling, often too much depth if anything. When you have such a broad cast of characters to incorporate, it can be difficult to make them stand out and feel important, and even in this preview build where around 10 characters were available to find and test, I was beginning to feel a bit overwhelmed with choices. Thankfully, the combat is quite straightforward and limits the complexity of the broad character collection.

Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred HeroesEiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes
Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred HeroesEiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes

In Hundred Heroes, battles are turn-based but instead of taking time to plot out how and when your characters attack like a traditional RTS, here you select all of your commands and then see everything play out in one fast and swift movement defined by a timeline of events. You have six characters in your party at one time, and you select what you want each character to do at the start of the turn and then let it all play out in a series of seconds. This style promotes fast-paced and fluid action, and when you combine it with special attacks and abilities, some of which are dependent on the relationships that your characters develop, and unique battle gimmicks (for example, cover to hide behind or special attacks in boss encounters - one being a whack-a-mole-type deal), you can see that the combat has been fine-tuned to work quite well. It can become a bit of a bore at times however, including in boss encounters where you can't see how well you're actually doing, as the lack of health bars and information make it feel as though you're treading water. Still, I think the battles have more positives to point out than negatives.

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This is the same situation for the narrative too. On one hand, there are interesting elements and threads to follow, but at the same time the quicker combat pacing isn't translated here. Every couple of minutes your progress will be paused to present a cinematic style conversation, and while I can appreciate the fully-voiced dialogue, the constant breaks often make this game's story feel more like a chore. Considering there are dialogue beats present at pretty much every instance in the form of a social media like dialogue wall in the bottom right of the HUD, you have to wonder why there are so many, frequent breaks in the gameplay to explore mediocre and middling narrative excerpts.

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You can also tell that the broad and sheer scale that Hundred Heroes wants to offer has impacted the intricacies and complexities along the way. Dungeons aren't exactly exciting to explore, with limited and quite predictable additional paths to follow that usually just lead to a chest to interact with for a reward. Cities and towns are similar in this vein too, with only a few additional places to explore. You don't get that same desire to constantly peek behind the curtain, to wander off the beaten path or to enter every door you find. I do appreciate the idea that the world map is an overworld (similar to what was offered recently in Tiny Tina's Wonderlands) where you can physically and freely explore and quickly travel between dungeons and cities and so forth, but this map isn't exactly crammed with detail either and doesn't drive me to want to explore much beyond the core objectives.

So far, from what I've seen of Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes I'm not firmly sold on the game just yet. Sure, there are many elements that impress and remind me of Suikoden, but at the same time there are a few areas and places that lose my attention and leave me wanting more. As of now, I'm not sure this game will be pulling me away from some of the other JRPG projects currently available, but that doesn't change the fact that if you live and breathe this genre of games you will no doubt find something to appreciate in this upcoming title.

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