It’s rare that a game is truly irredeemable. Most 1/5 games still had something going for them. Perhaps it was a noble concept that the developers just couldn’t make work. Or perhaps it was a game that was just too different, ambitious, or a personal project that was only ever going to appeal to the developer that made it. With most terrible games you can look at them and see something of the vision and intent that was put into them. Almost no one wants to make a bad game. Not Asterix & Obelix: Heroes, though. Oh no. The only thing that you can see in this is cynical trash.
Asterix & Obelix: Heroes is a Slay The Spire clone with a half-effort Asterix & Obelix coat of paint over it. That’s it. That’s all it is. It’s a lazily and charmlessly cobbled together deck building card battler, and manages to tick off every single possible way to irritate players.
It’s a nasty grind, for one thing. Every map in the game has multiple paths, but you can only take one path with each “run.” You need to cover every possible path, however, because you need to collect the purple stars by defeating certain enemies on each map, and it’s only possible to pick up a few purple stars with each run.
Because the game assumes that you’re going to play through levels over, and over, and over again, progress is glacially slow. Characters gain experience levels slowly. You gain new cards at the rate of a lame trickle (though given that there are only 150 cards in total, that trickle’s probably the only reason the game has any sense of longevity at all). What little story there is takes forever to play out because you’re running through each level between beats so many times.
If any of this were fun, then it wouldn’t be such a problem. But it’s not fun at all. You build two decks of cards – one for your main party, and then a “support” deck, and then select four heroes. Three “battlers” and one “supporter”. When you run into an enemy the action plays out just like in Slay The Spire. On a character’s turn they get a couple of ability points to use, and can play cards from their hand, with more powerful cards costing more ability points. Some cards do damage or cause harmful effects on enemies, while others build up the shields or health of your allies. Finally, enemies project the attack they’re about to do, giving you a few turns to prepare for it.
There are so many problems with this, though, despite it being such a basic implementation of an idea that has already been done so many times over. Characters all use the same cards, so Asterix can use a card that depicts an Obelix attack, and so the actual differences between the characters aren’t much more than aesthetics. The variety of cards is pretty limited, the tactics available through deck building shallow, and the art on them is dismal, making this one of the least “collectible” deckbuilding I’ve ever come across.
The art doesn’t get much better outside of the cards, either. Characters are drawn cheaply, and the developers cut corners wherever they could. Characters aren’t even animated on the map, for example. They just slide around, like the developers never bothered to advance that part of the design beyond the prototype. Then, in battle, attacks lack style, and half the time don’t even look like they’re related to the card you just played.
I’m a huge fan of Asterix. Asterix & Obelix: Slap Them All – a old-school brawler – is an absolute hoot that captured the aesthetics and style of the classic comics perfectly. If Heroes captured the core appeal of Goscinny and Uderzo’s sharp and enthusiastic satire, then I would have forgiven so much of how dully generic the gameplay is is. But, of course, the developers didn’t do that. As if it were a bad fan fiction, the narrative duplicates all the series’ old jokes, but fails to understand the actual humour of the series. The game takes you to many iconic locations from the comics, but does it with so little charm that event the biggest fan won’t get a kick out of this. Finally, the game’s music seems like it was pulled at random from a sound library. It has nothing to do with the Asterix property, and to add insult to injury, it sounds like the developers paid for the cheapest version possible (or simply used free samples), so it’s low resolution and unpleasant on the ears.
The best thing the game has going for it is that there are 24 characters in total to collect, and that means it digs pretty deep into the obscure end of the lore. Unfortunately, thanks to the lack of worthwhile writing, all the expansive cast does is turn the game into an even greater grind… if you feel the need to level them all up, of course. Which you won’t. I can’t imagine there’s a single person out there that commits the kind of time that the game’s asking to you to level up its entire cast.
I realise that Asterix & Obelix isn’t as commercially valuable as, say, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars or the Fate anime property. It’s never going to attract a major project from a top-flight developer. Nonetheless, there are small developers who have taken the iconic French comic and done something that shows respect; at least they have done their best. There is nothing like that in Asterix & Obelix: Heroes. It’s a cheap and tacky cash-in, and everyone involved in the comic over the years (the 40th book in the series comes out this year!) deserves better than this.