One aspect of videogames that make them feel particularly special is that games tend to be a great vehicle in mediating and adapting other forms of media. The Dark Eye: Book of Heroes is the latest table-top to digital game to hit Steam. Based on a popular Dungeons & Dragons inspired boardgame in Europe, The Dark Eye: Book of Heroes is a top-down RPG that focuses on cooperative play.
Players begin the game by selecting from a pool of several tarot-like cards, each featuring stunning watercolour illustrations that evoke the feel of a classic fantasy setting. Those accustomed to deep character creation suites or even traditional table-top affairs will appreciate the nuance and complexity present in Book of Heroes. In-fact, in many ways, The Dark Eye: Book of Heroes feels like a 1:1 translation of a table-top experience.
One aspect that I appreciated during the character creation process in Book of Heroes, is being able to dictate my characters’ past, which felt imaginative and well-realized, akin to descriptions found within other, table-top titles. For my playthrough, I went with a Blacksmith Dwarf character, haunted by the extermination of his family at the hands of evildoers.
RNG affects everything from the aforementioned character creator, to the random dice-rolls that dictate everything from attacking and blocking, to the success rate of dismantling traps and patching up wounds. Unfortunately, although faithful to a true-tabletop experience, The Dark Eye: Book of Heroes may come off as feeling frustrating or even unintuitive, to those looking for more of a typical RPG gaming experience.
Upon creating your character, Book of Heroes drops the player into a tavern which acts as the central hub and lobby of the game. From the inn, players can interact with various NPCs and vendors that help you get ready before starting a dungeon or encounter. The bulletin or job board acts as the level select and online lobby, allowing players to either venture solo or with friends. Sadly, when playing with friends it seems, you are unable to recruit NPC characters, which make certain dungeons rather difficult with less than a full party.
Those playing solo, although not ideal, will still at least be able to get through the game, as Book of Heroes offers NPC character that takes the stead of real players if need be. A full party is paramount, as with any decent roleplaying game, Book of Heroes often requires a well-rounded team in order to come out alive. The dungeons themselves feel very old school, with caves, forests and clearings all rendered in a top-down perspective with the map gradually opening up as the party ventures deeper therewithin.
The map itself looks as if it was ripped straight out of a table-top set, with players able to label individual zones or squares with markers indicative of classic fantasy trappings. Exploring levels and dungeons in Book of Heroes ultimately feels a little too formulaic, with each quest or mission requiring a key to end the instance, usually after slaying a boss or group of enemies. The Dark Eye: Book of Heroes is by no means a bad game, just one that will most likely only appeal to those either familiar with the series or fans of table-top experiences. Players seeking out an experience that feels like other high fantasy RPGs may ultimately be disappointed as The Dark Eye: Book of Heroes is first and foremost a direct translation rather than an interpretation of a table-top venture.
I can only recommend The Dark Eye: Book of Heroes to those who want to experience a slower, more traditional feeling RPG or those who are fans of the series and have a full party to dungeon crawl with.