Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes review

Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes review
A big throwback RPG that doesn’t meaningfully mess with Suikoden’s 30-year-old formula.

Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes is exactly what its lofty crowdfunding campaign promised it would be: a Suikoden successor in all but its name, built by a team of veterans who first made that classic in 1995. And so Hundred Heroes is another impossibly massive, turn-based, party-centric RPG. It tells another wartorn story about resisting an empire, cut through with goofball moments where an eyepatched Aussie kangaroo might yell made-up words.

And – because doing anything else would be blasphemy – there’s another 100-plus party members to find, cosy up to, and experiment with in your six-character party. Reclusive hunters, kings, talking sharks (shi’arcs here), a literal travel bag with glowing Jawa eyes, your cute auntie who does nothing but bake cherry pies – they’re all here, and the cast’s staggering size is still what sets the Eiyu-Suiko-den group of games apart.

Trying to catch ’em all recalls the pleasures of a collectathon as you rapidly scan the screen for signs of unusually detailed NPCs to recruit. (No interview process required – everyone’s allowed in, accused criminals included.) They can pretty much be found anywhere. You’ll get dozens by just following the main quest. Dozens more are in towns on standby mode until you walk into their presence. Some will only appear in the open world when you’ve progressed to a certain point or met prerequisites.

Here’s the pre-launch trailer for Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes.Watch on YouTube

Everything costs something, though, so most recruitable characters will ask you to scratch their back before returning the favour. It’s just a shame that Eiyuden Chronicle so often throws you into grindy MMO-like territory to nab such eccentric characters. Seriously, a bag!

Side characters will frequently ask you to do something mundane, like, let’s say, kill five boars or collect a special type of egg that can only be found on a certain enemy’s corpse. This is as unexciting as it sounds, especially when retreading a dungeon or forest that you explored a few hours prior. It definitely takes away from the feeling that some of these characters are anything more than pawns – they’re more like rewards dangling at the end of a quest – which stings extra hard coming off of Unicorn Overlord and its endless cast.

But Eiyuden Chronicle’s hundred heroes still dish up a fair share of missable moments that are as gripping as anything in the main quest, from secret bosses to entirely skippable mini-games (card games, sand ship races, a fantasy Bakugan clone) with their own small vignettes attached.

Seign and Dux Aldric face each other in a dark research facility in a screenshot from Eiyuden Chronicle.

Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes screenshot, showing the Bakugan style mini-game with wooden toys spinning on a table.

Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes. | Image credit: Rabbit & Bear Studios/505 Games

I’m glad these big highlights sit alongside the yawn factories, though, because all 100 heroes have a cumulative effect on the game. Their existence forces you to take everything in, to notice it all, to really discover the world and talk to everyone, including the passerby villagers or the pet mice or the bag that you’d likely walk over in any other game. Sure, sometimes exploring diligently will only yield a cooking recipe, but I was more than happy to poke my nose into every corner for the chance to discover a new opening in the map.

That’s another piece of the puzzle, I think: the map. Eiyuden Chronicle never lists all the outstanding tasks you might stumble across. When a bulky mercenary requests 100,000 gold, or when a capybara dad asks you to come back after you’ve built a spa at HQ, the game won’t jot it down for future reference. Again, listening to the world and learning the invisible ways that it connects is always rewarded here.

Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes screenshot, showing a graphic that celebrates the construction of a hot spring.

Nowa and Seign stare at each other in a grand hall in a screenshot from Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes.

Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes. | Image credit: Rabbit & Bear Studios/505 Games

So while Eiyuden Chronicle highlights its three main faces in its box art, the titular army was what kept this train chugging across my 50ish-hour playthrough (though there’s still tons still left to do).

Speaking of that playthrough, Hundred Heroes initially follows Nowa, a fresh-faced soldier in the League Of Nations, and Seign, an up-and-coming star in the Imperial Army, who at first are teamed up in a peacetime mission to mark the two side’s new alliance. Shady backroom string-pulling and whispers of betrayal soon plunge the world into war again, placing our two main stars on opposite ends of the battlefield, which is when Nowa is sort of forced to lead a resistance. Forest guardian Marisa then joins the roster to round out our leading trio.

All three characters have moments of meaningful introspection, and we certainly learn more about their inner lives than some of the hundred heroes whose personalities boil down to, like, cute anime mage or… bag. (Optional friendos frequently interject in cutscenes with unique voiced lines, though, a detail that always put a smile on my face.)

Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes screenshot, showing the shadowy inside of a seaside cave.

Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes screenshot, showing a character introduction graphic for Nell with the caption:

Nowa runs across dunes on the world map in a screenshot from Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes.

Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes. | Image credit: Rabbit & Bear Studios/505 Games

All three characters also, unfortunately, often take a back seat to the real juiciness going on: the political drama. Eiyuden Chronicle starts as tropey as can be, but you start to spot the darker crevices pretty quickly and political webs abound. Even Nowa’s ascent to leadership is somewhat orchestrated. Layers of schemes, hidden agendas, betrayals, moles, large-scale ambushes and regicide conspiracies make Eiyuden Chronicle a popcorn-worthy political soap opera, which I suppose makes up for the fact that our trio sometimes gets swallowed up in war table negotiations.

Eiyuden Chronicle dedicates almost as much time to tapping through dialogue as it does to your typical monster-bashing. Combat has you command six characters at the start of a battle, choosing between basic attacks, special abilities, magic, or a defensive option (usually a guard, dodge, or charge-up move.)

The turn order is displayed at the top of the screen, so you can properly plan to either take out a foe before they move or protect a friend from certain death. I wish Eiyuden Chronicle went a step further and borrowed a page from Grandia or Child of Light’s playbook to allow for enemies to be purposefully delayed, though. Attacks will occasionally and randomly stun foes to make them skip a move, but there’s no creative planning when you leave something like that up to chance.

Nowa looks out at lily pads and glowing water in a screenshot from Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes.

Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes screenshot, showing a boss battle against a giant mechanized foe.

Nowa goes fishing in the woods in a screenshot from Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes.

Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes. | Image credit: Rabbit & Bear Studios/505 Games

My bigger peeve is that Eiyuden Chronicle’s fights are almost numbingly straightforward for the opening dozen or so hours. In fairness, that’s just the opening chapter in games like this, but it would be wicked of me to not mention that for those of you suffering from adult responsibilities.

Act One can pretty much be powered through with basic attacks, partly because that’s all you have access to. Hundred Heroes works with a materia-lite system in which you can equip characters with “rune-lenses” – magical items that’ll give party members elemental abilities or stat boosts, for instance. Additional rune slots unlock as you level up, meaning that movesets are pretty limited in the early hours and enemy encounters can’t properly stretch you.

Take Final Fantasy 4 as an example. That game never lets you build your own team and sometimes sticks you with purposefully bad party compositions (a knight, a bard, and a summoner could be the setup to a pub joke if it weren’t already a hilariously inefficient team). But that allows the game to mod difficulty and force new, interesting strategies onto you since – let’s face it – most of us optimise the fun out of games when given the option to do so.

Nowa stands around a snowy village in a screenshot from Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes.

Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes screenshot, showing character talk around a war table.

Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes screenshot, showing a battle against zombied soldiers.

Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes. | Image credit: Rabbit & Bear Studios/505 Games

This is where Eiyuden Chronicle slightly buckles under the weight of over 100 playable characters. The game doesn’t know what your party will be capable of before a fight, so most encounters are flattened to allow just about any team to survive. Presenting endurance tests and high health pools is the most common way that Eiyuden Chronicle squeezes out difficulty, though at least boss battles usually have a pretty fun gimmick attached.

Eiyuden Heroes is a grower, then. Combat gets dramatically wilder when you have access to more varied movesets. Fiddling with parties becomes even more of a joy as the roster expands. Even your upgradeable homebase – at first a rundown, empty pile of bricks – plays host to delightful character moments, skippable threads and zany activities once you’ve sunk enough resources into it.

Ultimately, Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes scratches a very particular itch. It’s cosy and nostalgic and sometimes overwhelmingly big, painting a twisting resistance story spread across an entire continent with dozens of key characters in play. And while it doesn’t seriously rejig a formula set up three decades ago, those who power through its unwieldy length can expect a throwback RPG hiding oh so many fun secrets.

A copy of Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes was provided for review by 505 Games.

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