I for one am guilty of purchasing games that may be known for great online game play or even an excellent campaign. The funny thing is that despite my reasons for purchasing a game, I tend to gravitate to secondary play modes, specifically survival. Call of Duty was a game I purchased specifically to play online with friends back in 2010. What I found myself doing more often than not was playing the zombie survival mode to push myself to unlock new areas and survive wave after wave of creepy zombies.
This was also the default when I would play with friends locally as well. There is just something about starting with nothing and slowly gaining abilities or weapons to increase your chances of survival. Pushing your limits wave after wave.
Arena Hero, originally released on Steam in January of 2017, does just that.
What is Arena Hero?
You play as an unnamed hero with the sole purpose of fighting and defeating waves of enemies in multiple arenas. Your goal is to work your way up the arena tiers and take down enemies by acquiring new abilities, skills, and items. Each arena is different, but they are all border-less, making it easy to fall to your death if you do not die at the hand of your enemy.
There are really two ways to go about conquering each arena. A hack-n-slash approach wherein the player wields melee weapons or a ranged approach with laser pistols. If you are feeling frisky, then a combination of the two may also suffice, but ultimately you will need to kite your enemies around the arena to ensure survival, while you burn your enemies down.
Every 10 waves or so a boss will join the fray. These boss fights generally come with additional mobs and new mechanics. They also carry a significant health pool which puts the burden on the player to balance a healthy dose of offense while maintaining evasive maneuvers to survive. As you work your way up the tiers of arenas, you will need to overcome more waves of enemies, which means more bosses in order to clear a specific arena or entire arena tier. The challenges range from very easy to extremely difficult the further you advance.
As you advance through the stages of the arena, you will notice that the arena itself will change. Some will be smaller, others larger, and others will change shape and size mid-fight. The arena will continue to evolve as will your approach based on random item drops.
As you clear each arena you will be awarded with experience and skill points. You will be able to use the skill points to progress through the skill tree, where very early on, you can decide to be proficient with either melee or ranged weaponry. Other skills include a boost in your small health pool, or even a self-heal after the completion of each wave. the skill tree helps to specialize your character to mold to your play style.
In addition to skill points, you will also unlock specialized items as you conquer the arena. These items can then be used in your custom load-out, which enhances the overall survival experience. These items can be acquired permanently or temporarily. If temporary, you will be able to use the weapon, skill, shield, etc through the end of the current arena, while permanent items can be added to your custom load-out and used going forward.
Outside of weapons, there are two other key areas that will help you to thrive and survive: armor sets and enhancers.
Armor sets can be collected in pieces and will likely be slowly acquired as you climb the arena ladder. These are powerful sets that will alter your strategy and drastically impact your ability to succeed. Enhancers can be gained by killing special enemies. Once you have acquired an enhancer, you can add it to your load-out and earn the perk going forward. Up to three enhancers can be equipped at once and they give unique perks which will alter your strategy.
While the genre of Arena Hero appeals to me personally, the game is not without it’s flaws.
Pros: the game has high replay value with the randomly generated items that will change your experience drastically even in the same arena. After you master your first few arenas, you will find yourself getting sucked in to the game once you grasp the nuances. Custom load-out features and character progression make this a very appealing game.
Cons: The arena itself, while consistently changing, does not feel dynamic. Enemies are relatively straight-forward. There is no co-op mode, which would likely make this game more “port-worthy.” Little in the way of a tutorial, leaving the player to figure it out on their own.
As a fan of survival games, I enjoy the ability to customize my character through a skill tree and load-out menu. The game is simple, yet strategically nuanced, which leads me to give it a score of 7.3/10.
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