Review: Hero of the Kingdom: The Lost Tales 1
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Review copy provided by developer via Curator Connect
When a series loses its way, I’m always eager to see if the developers learn from their mistakes. I was incredibly eager to see this after Hero of the Kingdom III, because even with the love I bear for the first two games, the third was a massive disappointment for me. I’m not sure if that feeling was the consensus, and after finishing The Lost Tales here, it seems that the developers might not have felt they needed to change much since last time. There are enough improvements to get me through this bite-sized adventure, but not enough to give me confidence that the Hero of the Kingdom series will remain a favorite of mine.
You are a lone wanderer, emerging from the wilderness for the first time in god knows how long only to discover a town in the grip of fear. A dragon has been terrorizing the lands, burning homes to ash and devouring livestock. A young orphan named Brent has dreams of felling the beast and earning his place among the people, but all these dreams earn him is ridicule. With nothing better to do, you set about helping Brent on his quest, and in doing so help the people of town with their many, many, many problems. You’re also sure to turn up some dark secrets in your journey, and perhaps find that the villain of this story is not who you think.
It’s true, there’s a neat little twist near the end of this tale, but for the most part it’s a perfectly boilerplate quest to slay a dragon. The other Hero of the Kingdom games got by with generic quests to save family by inserting lots of fun twists and turns along the way, and also by varying up the many, many, many problems you have to solve through trading. That’s not the case with The Lost Tales, sadly, because the plot remains almost perfectly predictable, and your chores never extend past the most common of fantasy tasks. Gone are the quests to settle unquiet ghosts or construct your own tallship, leaving you to farm crops, mend fences, and kill many, many, many critters.
This was the big thing that killed the third game for me, the absolutely inexorable grind of monsters between you and anything of any interest. The Lost Tales gets frightfully close to a similar grind, but doesn’t really pitch towards it near the last quarter and still breaks it up a bit with other tasks. You’re also not on such razor-sharp margins of resources here, meaning you can stock up heavily on potions and power-restoring food to make barreling through a cave of spiders or a marsh of crocodiles go that much faster. One welcome improvement in this installment is a wider variety of ways to get common resources, such as alternate crafting routes in addition to centrally-placed vendors.
It’s also easy to keep track of all the NPCs and services here, because the world you have to explore is really, really small. This will no doubt be a disappointment to fans of the other games, but The Lost Tales is very noticeably smaller than its predecessors, barely clocking in at 3 hours for a 100% clear. I’ll admit this does help keep the monster grinds from wearing out their welcome, but it does make the generic quests and lack of variety sting that much more. You’d think with a game of such limited scope they might take the story or mechanics in new, more interesting directions, but this is easily the most uninspired of the series, as well as the smallest.
If it sounds like I’m not really selling The Lost Tales here, then I’ve pretty much gotten across how I feel about it. After two fantastically fun and chill experiences in the first two games and a huge disappointment in the third, this one kinda lands with a big, unremarkable thud. That being said, I’m not going to recommend against it. I got through it, and I enjoyed it a bit, which is more than I can say for the last game. But really The Lost Tales is here for people who absolutely need more Hero of the Kingdom right now, and don’t expect much for their trouble. If this is the where the series is going, then the first two games might be more happy accidents than marks of something great. I can only hope that the developers are aspiring to more with whatever follows.