Any long time reader of my reviews and columns know I antagonize the chief editor about some of the games I get sent. Well, this one is all on me as I actively requested this game and am now thinking about what has led me down this dark road. I was excited when I saw the trailer for Hero Must Die… Again (HMDA) and asked for a code to dig into a nice RPG. As soon as my code came in I downloaded it and opened it up. It was a personal record for how fast this game hit a sour note. For those wondering, it was seventeen minutes.
Here is the brief recap of what happened at the beginning, your hero killed the great demon by himself using a sacred combat art and died in the process. Now some benevolent deity has turned you into a zombie
brought you back to life. You can now go do whatever you like over the next five days, except that as time goes by you will get weaker and eventually die, again. They even mention you can go spend time with the woman you love, even though you barely remember who she is and what she looks like. From here on we will refer to Whatshername in lieu of looking it up online. So, to recap, you are dropped in a beautiful world with a ticking clock and literally hands-off storytelling.
This mechanic was quirky in Lightning Returns when you had to quest during normal business hours and not on bank holidays. With HMDA it started grinding my nerves straight away and did not get any better. It took a few go’s before I managed to get through the game and, here is where the crux turned out to be… this game is art. Not as in “this game has beautiful art in the scenery and characters” but rather “This is a beautiful game that makes you think and focuses on a message.”
The overall point of HMDA is to have multiple playthroughs and try to get all of your different funerals after accomplishing different tasks in the game. Yes, your reward for playing well is a slightly nicer funeral at the end of the adventure, and then you get to try again.
Setting aside the fact that the world situation is not at all conducive to a game where having a beautiful funeral is the end goal, here is the problem with sacrificing your main character over and over again in order to earn a tribute: I just didn’t care about any of it. For this mechanic to work, and again this is terrible timing for a game with this theme, then you have to care about the character having the funeral. This was done really well once in the Hitman series. In the Requiem mission, the thirteenth and final level of Hitman: Blood Money, you are actually probably going to be pretty sad seeing our antihero about to get cremated. Thankfully, you can resurrect and get your final revenge on the evil mastermind of the game. But Agent 47 is a carefully crafted character that we have grown to love through good storytelling over many years.
In Hero Must Die Again, the main character is literally a blank slate that has the same personality as my reusable shopping bags. There is very little, if any, real character development in the entire game. HMDA is instead content with making you watch the noninteractive post credits sequence about thirty times trying to earn all of the endings (there are supposedly 33 different funerals you can sit through – joy!) None of any of that was fun for me. I wanted to take time to enjoy the world and the characters. Instead, I get a reverse Legend of Dragoon game with a stopwatch duct taped to the front.
I know there will probably be a lot of people who say that I “just don’t get it or the art,” but a videogame should be fun. Full stop. I don’t care about the genre or the developer, this is a rule we live by. A game just must be fun at its core, or at least interesting. I would even take amusing with this one. HMDA instead is tedious, boring and the payoff is below average.
I probably should have rated Hero Must Die even lower, but the scenery is rather gorgeous and the game, for the most part, played like a typical RPG control wise before you hit the timed wall and mandatory funeral scene again and again and again and again. Hero Must Die. Again earns 2 GiN Gems. There is a slight chance that this artistic statement of a game might appeal to you, but you have been warned. Dress in black, because you have dozens of funerals to attend in your future should you play.