I really enjoyed prefacing my time playing Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption by telling the people around me, “Okay, time for me to go to hero school.” Like the original Quest for Glory protagonist graduating from the Famous Adventurer’s Correspondence School for Heroes, it was my turn to learn to be a hero and earn some of that elusive glory. This particular quest, however, does not follow the structure of the original series that has Warrior, Thief, Paladin, and Wizard roles. Instead, Hero-U places you in a fixed role as a
rogue Disbarred Bard, stuck within the school and working with your classmates to prove that Disbarred Bards can be as heroic as anyone. Still, I felt uniquely suited to the task as someone with a history of playing Quest for Glory who would choose to be a perpetual student if given the choice.
So, where to begin with this game? Humbly, as it turns out, in terms of both the game’s development and the game’s protagonist. Hero-U had a long and rough development cycle, with creators Lori and Corey Cole taking out loans and taking to Kickstarter and Patreon to make sure the game was produced to their standards. It’s not an easy time for protagonist Shawn O’Conner either, as he gets caught during his initiation test for the Thieves’ Guild and is forced to either enroll at Hero-U or be arrested. Personally, I think he should be arrested for the sheer number of puns he delivers during the first scene. Of course, that’s beside the point, but it does show the Coles’ commitment to form and eye for detail. These puns can match anything from earlier titles in the series and show this game is truly a labor of love in the strictest sense of the word. Like the original series, Hero-U is a valiant effort to merge the good qualities of graphic adventure games, RPGs, and storytelling. Even though it falters at points, it’s an immersive and worthwhile game.
There are only a few minor issues holding Rogue to Redemption back from being a classic game, in my estimation. I want to address those immediately so I can resume gushing. More than a few of said issues are due to limitations playing what is essentially a point-and-click title on the Switch. No matter how you approach it, no alternative feels as natural to use as a mouse when you’re scanning the environment. Even if it’s slightly more awkward, this title is honestly one of the best experiences I’ve had with this type of title on a handheld console, regardless. Transolar Games has done an excellent job making the interface more smooth and accessible, such as toggling your walking speed with one button and highlighting objects you can manipulate to minimize pixel hunting. I would have also liked more dialogue options and extended conversations with my fellow students, especially since there are so few of them and NPCs are limited. There were times when I definitely felt the sting of dialogue loop, but part of that could have been to my personal pace in the game, or because the dialogue quality was remarkably good, so I wanted there to be more of it.
The Quest For Glory series has always blended genres with action-oriented combat, character stats, and inventory object puzzles. Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption keeps most of this, but also veers heavily into RPG territory. Ithas the same day/night mechanic that the original series innovated around, but now you can fill your time talking to the intriguing cast of faculty, staff, and other students in your Disbarred Bards class in addition to the usual stat-boosting activities and real-time combat adventuring. The most impressive thing is how much you want to interact with other characters. They all have personalities, goals, and motivations throughout the school year, and they—and their plans—sometimes even change in response to events at the school. While you cannot interact with the mage and paladin classes, you can get to know Professor Glenshannon (Paladins) and Professor Featherstonehaugh (Wizards) and learn some of their skills in an elective class. It’s odd to say it, but some of the gameplay here feels a bit like Persona.
When Shawn is not tip-toeing around in an exaggerated fashion to increase his Stealth (no, really), there is a bevy of fun ways to enhance his other stats, from Moxie to Magic. Time passes as you explore the school, and I genuinely appreciate how you can spend time doing activities to improve stats, but interactions with both teachers and classmates perform this function just as well. It’s a good thing, too, because there is no shortage of matters to investigate. No matter how you choose to specialize, there are plenty of opportunities to test those skills: the game is designed so that you have checkpoints on your rogue skills with exams, but there are multiple ways to solve the school’s larger problems. If you play your cards right, you might just learn more about the mysterious benefactor that placed you at the school in the first place.
Every major obstacle in dungeons, from the Sea Caves to the Dire Rat Queen’s lair, is a problem you can face—even successfully—in multiple ways. My favorite example of this is early in the game when I found a friend/classmate in disguise and helped them track down and defeat a boss in the Wine Cellar. While there is a way to tackle that fight on your own, why do that when Esme clearly has been tracking the problem and wants to solve it? In many cases, the timing of this wine cellar issue coincides with her getting her first exam back with unsatisfactory results. If you follow up with her about this, you will learn that a language/writing barrier is causing the issue and can help her get accommodations with Professor Van Urwald. (What a welcome thing to see in a game!) If you don’t follow up, another helpful student will step up and work with her.
This is where the game reveals itself to be exceedingly well crafted, because not only are there multiple ways to approach each dungeon and conflict, your choices have weight as they all factor into helping the Disbarred Bards’ class standing within the school, or your personal goal of becoming Rogue of the Year within your cohort. Additionally, the school is a genuinely beautiful place to explore. Visuals are consistently pleasant, though not something you’d see from a AAA studio, and the music creates a charming background, especially in the Paladin wing.
Now that we’ve covered school recruitment pamphlet-worthy reasons to attend Hero-U, let’s get into an example daily routine:
7:00 am – Wake up late due to previous night’s adventuring. Tell actual bard roomie to clean his laundry up, but promise a jam session later.
8:00 – Actually write notes on the Rogue lectures for the upcoming exam. Unfortunately, unlike some OTHER video game school exams, this one seems primarily based on my answers, not stats.
8:30 – Deliver a snarky reply to Prof. von Urwald, get a nice Moxie increase and approval of Katie, the pirate girl classmate, and Joel, the “entrepreneur” classmate.
9:30, 10:00, 10:30 – Taunt Sosi, my class rival.
11:45 – Eat the apple tart I borrowed from the mess hall yesterday instead of offering it as a gift to Thomas. Oops.
1:00 – Entertain several of the usual money-making schemes I have to employ early in the semester. Curse Joel and his price gouging. Not sure if working in the kitchens for hours or killing Drats (dire rats) is worse. At least I might find something valuable in the wine cellar.
1:30 – Taunt Sosi outside class. Challenge him to a card game without yelling, “IT’S TIME TO DUEL” (Yes, there’s a card minigame called Poobah.)
2:00 – Quick jaunt to Sea Caves to feed the sea serpent friend.
3:00 – Realize I am still wearing leather pants and adventuring gear from Sea Caves jaunt. No school uniform, no tie. Use secret passages to avoid Terk, the pompous, overzealous, power-happy admin, and avoid demerits.
3:30 – Rush to mad scientist class to learn how to make bombs and greasy, grimy goo to trap monsters and threats to the school. Rogue of the Year, here I come! So glad I passed midterms and was able to attend this class.
4:30 – Go to the training room next to class. Gotta get swole and improve my acrobatics at the same time. Chatted with Joel in the hallway. He made some slightly uncomfortable remarks about my leather pants.
5:00 – DINNER. WILL NEVER EVER MISS IT even if I’m in the deepest recesses of the darkest corner of the castle.
6:00 – More adventuring in the Sea Caves using new traps to fight off Sea Drats. Was able to disarm a few of the traps this time, too!
8:00 – Trap blew up in my face. Luckily, Katie found me, and Prof. Glenshannon patched me up while scolding me. Will be more careful next time.
9:00 – Jam session! Best music around the entire school, except maybe the Sea Caves.
10:00 – Bathtime. I need to stay charming for class and game time in the Rec. Room tomorrow.
10:30 – Forgot homework. Decided not to rush through it, despite the late hour. Guess I’ll be tired in class again tomorrow.
It’s quite an entertaining and satisfying rhythm, and of course, it’s up to you to establish your own priorities during the school year. No matter how you choose, and whether you play on Switch or PC, Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption worth the price of tuition. Well, not Shaun’s non-existent tuition, but worth the cost of the game on either platform.