Pixel Heroes: Byte & Magic Review (Xbox One)
Pixel Heroes: Byte & Magic by developer Bitfather is a turn-based action game that reminds me of a mix between the original Dragon Warrior and Oregon Trail. It succeeds in satisfying nostalgic yearnings, but still leaves a few things to be desired.
In Pixel Heroes: Byte & Magic, you begin your adventure in a pub where you must assemble a party of three adventurers from seven unique classes. Each class has its own strengths and weaknesses, which are of the standard RPG tropes of Strength, Dexterity, Faith, Life, and Intelligence. Additionally, each class has two specific skills that can turn the tide of any battle. There are a lot of characters to choose from, which is a really nice feature. Initially, these character options are limited to a handful, but through the course of play you'll unlock 30 unique characters, each with their own skills, strengths, and weaknesses. This massive amount of variety and options are a huge bonus to the game's replayability, and you will do a lot of replaying.
After getting your team together, you will set out to complete three different adventures that get progressively more difficult. Within each adventure, you will encounter six randomized dungeons. After completing these six dungeons, you will come to a "final" dungeon for the adventure. Beating the final dungeon will unlock the next adventure difficulty.
Each dungeon has its own unique style. Figuring out a dungeon's weaknesses while defending against its’ strengths is can be very difficult. There are 16 different status effects and four different elements at play within Pixel Heroes. Knowing the weakness and strengths of each dungeon and being able to defend and attack against those is the biggest challenge within the game.
Being able to gear up your party is the most important part of the game. Unfortunately, there is no inventory stash of any kind to keep items. As you move on from dungeon to dungeon, you'll almost certainly have to re-gear your party from scratch with either found loot or items and spells purchased in town between dungeons. It’s really frustrating when you have to discard a weapon or some sort of equipment because you know it won’t be of any use during the next dungeon, only to need it at the following dungeon after that. Some kind of a stash at towns between dungeons or something would have been great.
The controls in Pixel Heroes are very simple and straight-forward, which you would expect in this type of game. However, while the UI is pretty basic, I found it to be very hard to navigate and understand what I was doing. The game features no instructions on how to use the UI and it took me awhile to get a basic understanding on how to equip and unequip items, as well as what these items do. It also took me awhile to figure out how to get rid of items and which items I need and didn’t need. Since you're not allowed to advance to the next room in a dungeon if you're overburdened, this took some time to figure out. While the controls are simple, not all of the buttons are used. It would have been nice if there were buttons to do the simple tasks, such as throwing away items or equipping. A tutorial or built-in instructions would have been helpful as well.
The combat in Pixel Heroes is pretty good. During each battle your three heroes go up against three enemies. Only one hero and one enemy may act each turn. After each turn, the hero/enemy must then rest the next turn. This makes for a nice, tactical experience. Each hero is limited to two attack actions and two special skills that have cooldowns that can last for multiple battles. While this may seem like a downside to some, it makes preparation for each dungeon even more important. When a hero dies in battle, their ghost follows along with the team for the remainder of the dungeon. If you complete the dungeon and get back to town, you will have the option to resurrect your fallen heroes. If all of your heroes die in a dungeon, your adventure ends, and your heroes get buried in the Graveyard, which you're able to visit from the main menu.
Overall, Pixel Heroes is a successful blending of that classic, turn-based RPG gameplay with a modern, rogue-like twist. The UI, lack of a "stash" feature, and lack of general instruction are my biggest gripes, but the combat system and deep replayability make up for those gripes.