Class of Heroes

Class is in Session

Because we just can't seem to get enough school, we've decided to go hands-on with Class of Heroes, Atlus' matriculation dungeon crawler.
Author: Sam Bishop
Published: February 19, 2009
We may go on and on about the lack of PSP games these days (and, judging by the number of reviews and previews we've been pumping out recently, it's a trend that finally looks like it might be dying off), but if there's one genre that's been served fairly well, it's role-playing games. Now we didn't say there were a ton of great RPGs on the PSP, and the overwhelming majority of them are of the Asian persuasion (thanks, no doubt, to the success of the system in the Land of the Rising Sun), but for pure hours-for-dollars value, few genres can compete.

And it's not like there haven't been a handful of honest-to-goodness great RPGs on the system either, but one of the emerging sects of the genre has been the dungeon crawler. Some have you making your own, while others send a steady stream of randomly-generated offering your way, but both varieties pack a ton of exploration onto that little UMD, and Class of Heroes, situated squarely in the latter camp, seems poised to bring more of that same longevity to our favorite little handheld.

Heroes plunks you into the freshly polished boots of a new inductee to Particus Academy, a school on the rise and situated near one of apparently a great many labyrinths that change every time someone enters them (convenient, no?). The students, then, enroll, are educated on the ways of adventuring, and seek out whatever spoils may be locked within the twisting halls of this ever-changing maze. As one of those students (or perhaps more accurately, the embodiment of a collection of them, either pre-selected or built from the ground up one stat, sex, class and karmic alignment at a time), it was our job to learn the ins and outs of Particus as we explored the first few hours of the game.

It started by building a party, and though we decided against building one entirely from scratch, we did take a crack at making our "leader" from the available options. We made her a girl ('cause they're so cute, y'see), opted for the devilish Drake race (because little bat wings make 'em even cuter), and then started distributing a handful of points into her strength, wisdom, faith, vitality, agility and luck. We then made her nice and evil because what self-respecting devil-girl wouldn't have a dark side? Interestingly enough, everything from the characters' base stats to the number of additional point that could be added were randomized every time we backed all the way out of the menus -- important because we also had to pick a particular major, the game's brand of classes, and these determined weapon use and advancement, but required certain base stats and alignments to proceed.

With so many different possible combinations, the game has taken it upon itself to also include a handful of affinities for the various races, classes, and alignments, so there's ample room to customize a party that works best with all the myriad factors, but because we're both shallow and desperate to see more of the game, we just went with an all-girl party based on cute names and whatever majors weren't already taken up by our created character.

After a brief little tour that stopped in all the various departments of the academy where we met the various faculty members that could teach our party members more advanced techniques, but since we just wanted to get at some monsters and scoop up some treasure, we waved 'em all goodbye and took on our first quest, which was a bit of light training and exploration. It wasn't until we got into combat that we realized the importance of a) making sure our characters were equipped with proper weapons/armor, b) putting ranged fighters in the back row and melee thumpers in the front and c) that enemies also fell into back and front rows. Lessons learned by simply bumbling our way through things, we quickly got up to speed.
Combat in the game feels a bit like the SNES dungeon crawler Arcana (if anyone even remembers that), with the party taking up slots on either side of the main screen and everyone locking in their commands before taking turns casting spells, attacking with weapons and, as was often the case, healing up a bit. Since spells have a limited number of uses, and can only be restored by resting, it took a little bit of back and forth between exploration and clumsy combat (ours, not the game's) before we finally got it all figured out.

Class of Heroes is definitely unlike most RPGs on the PSP, which may well be why we were so intrigued by it all. The old-school nature of running through a first-person dungeon, having six party members (and often as many enemies) all smacking each other around and what looks like it'll be a nicely diverse cast of characters in the game will hopefully add up to a healthy dose of randomized dungeon crawling. We've got a good month and a half to find out, though, and rest assured that when the game hits in early April, we'll let you know how all our adventuring went.