Pixel Heroes: Byte & Magic brings a tongue in cheek attitude to the light-RPG genre. Everything from the story-telling and the quests to the battle system and the roster of heroes reveals a lighthearted attitude towards RPG stereotypes. It’s a game that does a great job of lampooning expected genre themes, and presenting a casual RPG experience. Unfortunately, once the player tries to dive beyond the surface of the game, it begins to become a repetitive and predictable experience. The game does to a great job of using humor to keep the player entertained, but it is not enough to overcome the overall lack of depth.
On a basic level, Pixel Heroes: Byte & Magic is a turn based RPG that makes use of a permadeath system. The player begins the game in the town tavern and must hire three heroes to travel with and save the world. The game generates six random heroes to choose from out of the 30 unlockable classes in the game. Each class has its own stats and special abilities, but they will typically fall into one of three categories: Healer, Mage, and Warrior. Each hero also comes with their own back-story which explains their stats, but the stories themselves, while humorous, are forgettable.
The issue is that the stories of the heroes along with the explanations of the quests are very simplistic. This is not a game for players who are looking for a deep and layered story. Every quest is just a brief excuse to send the party of heroes to one of the dungeons spread throughout the map. The player is then taken to an over-world and watches the party move towards the dungeon. As the party moves along the map, they will get randomly stopped for a mini game, in which the player must make some type of choice. The choices have a very Dungeons and Dragons type feel to them. In one example, the party may come across a hand sticking up, out of the ground. The game then presents several choices to the player: Attack it, Yank it up, or Look closer at it. Each decision can lead to a battle, to loot, or to nothing happening.
The choices present an interesting way to break up the act of traveling to the dungeons, but they also suffer from a lack of depth. The brief explanations aren’t enough to make the decisions feel that important, but they do provide an outlet for the team at The Bitfather, the developers of the game, to stick their humor into the game. Although the writing may be fairly shallow it is infused with a good amount of lighthearted humor. Pixel Heroes: Byte & Magic is a game that doesn’t take its self too seriously, and is actually quite endearing because of that.
Eventually, the party will make it to the dungeon, and each dungeon is presented to the player as a series of eight rooms leading to the boss room. The player doesn’t get a choice in which order that traverse the rooms, and each room either holds a treasure chest or three random enemies specific to that dungeon. This set up sadly leads to a lack of variety between the dungeons. Without the strategy of navigating through the rooms, and the fact that almost every room is a set of three random enemies, the dungeons can feel like a tedious slog.
The combat in Pixel Heroes: Byte & Magic employs a turn based battle system with a typical three vs three set up; there are three rows on each side, and only certain weapons can reach certain rows on the enemy’s side. Each hero has two weapon slots and two special abilities that they can use on one or all of the enemies they are facing. This adds some strategy into the fighting, as the player must decide which of the enemies can be hit for the most damage. The heroes’ special abilities also become a major factor in the fighting. Each of the abilities has a different cool down timer, so it’s possible to be stuck without the use of a special ability for several turns if they are not managed effectively. The combat is enjoyable, but it can get very repetitive. Since the battles are always against three enemies, and there are only 4 possible moves for each hero, the player will find themselves using the same moves over and over again.
Another issue with the combat is that the turn-based system can seem unfair. The turns switch after every single action, so the enemy gets to make a move after every single move that the player makes. On top of this, many of the enemies inflict status effects like poison. When a hero gets poisoned they will take a little damage every turn, but it is not just their turn. The status effects get applied after every single player and enemy action. This can mean that a hero can take up to 5 turns of poison damage before they can be healed. This can lead to the quick death of a hero, and since this game employs permadeath, that pretty much spells the end for the party. Once all three party members have been killed the game is over, and the player must start over with a new game in the tavern.
The game presents the player with a graveyard in the main menu so they can go back and see the graves of their different parties. It will show their stats and how far they made it on their quest. This is a nice touch, but it does little to ease the frustration of losing all of your progress. Having to start completely over with a brand new group of heroes isn’t a fun prospect, especially due to the repetitive nature of the combat and the shallow writing of the quests.
Pixel Heroes: Byte & Magic uses its happy-go-lucky attitude to its advantage. It’s a great game for players who are looking for a very light RPG experience, or players who don’t have the time to pour into a more absorbing game. Sadly, there is not much to fall back on under the surface mechanics, but Pixel Heroes: Byte and Magic can stand up on its own as a quick, fun, and lighthearted game.