Glory of Heracles is a role-playing game promising to thrill you with the characters and locales of Greek mythology by featuring them in an original plot. Its gameplay mechanics are competent, highlighted by a unique magic-boosting system and good tactical depth, but its low difficulty, and monotonous, linear gameplay make for an underwhelming experience. In an overcrowded market, this generic trek through Ancient Greece does little to differentiate itself or to maintain your interest.
Though the story is a little mundane and confusing at times, its comedic style is refreshing and keeps the action upbeat. You're cast as a young hero leading a troupe of amnesiac immortals on a quest to save the world, interacting with famous figures from Greek mythology along the way. While many of the plot elements are cliche, there are still several entertaining twists as you unravel each character's past. Mythology buffs will have fun visiting famous locations, such as Troy and Olympus, but it's unfortunate that the game is so linear; it completely overlooks side quests and more open exploration in favor of sending you from town to town. This is disappointing because both aspects are sorely needed to break up the tedium of investigating the game's few simplistic mazes, though to be fair, you'll spend most of your travel time following the road. Dungeons are also fairly limited, brief, and unexciting, sharing the same basic puzzle mechanics and design, so they're as easily navigated as they are boring.
The battle system is turn-based and traditional, though it implements a few unique aspects. Melee combat proceeds in a typical fashion, with your teammates bludgeoning opponents with skills, but the standard magic system has been refreshingly expanded to include the use of elemental "ether," which powers your spells. If you run out of ether of a certain element, such as fire, you're then unable to cast fire spells without incurring a serious damage penalty for the privilege. This encourages you to focus on elemental spell variety and achieving overkills (that is, pummeling dead monsters) to collect spiritual ether, because running low can be devastating during boss fights. Though you can thoughtlessly toss spells at average foes, you also have the option to strengthen your magic by completing a variety of minigames in which you match up numbers or tap circles. While the system is relatively novel, it requires only minimal skill, and the minigames soon become repetitive and serve as unnecessary overkill for average foes.
Glory of Heracles boasts good tactical controls and emphasizes strategic play, providing sufficient--but optional--depth. Magic-boosting becomes a vital strategy during boss fights, when you want to strengthen basic elemental spells to capitalize on your opponents' elemental weaknesses. You're also encouraged to follow this basic strategy during random battles, which makes it somewhat tricky to keep your ether reserves up because the advanced spells incorporate multiple elements, quickly draining ether. You're given a good range of AI controls, so you can focus your allies on healing, conserving mana and ether, or unleashing powerful skills. A wealth of status effects muddle your battle plans, inflicting you with poison, confusion, and the like. Food consumption is a more interesting tactic: you can use food to regenerate health as well as activate a variety of passive abilities, easily giving you the edge. You can also equip food items to be used automatically when your teammates are in danger. The only major irritant is that your teammates will target foes already dead for overkills because you targeted them when they were alive, as opposed to targeting living--and more threatening--enemies that summon allies or replicate. While this is great for your ether supplies, it's frustrating during boss fights, when every tactical move counts.
One of the game's more baffling flaws is its somewhat unbalanced difficulty level. Even while solving primitive puzzles and navigating mazes and dungeons, you can fly through the first half of the game battling on autopilot; this makes the tactical options moot for the initial 15 hours as you fend off weakling opponents in mind-numbing combat. Eventually the difficulty jumps and you'll engage in annoying back-to-back fights that culminate in boss battles. Although you can always continue if your party succumbs, which lowers the difficulty and frustration, boss fights are the game's only truly challenging feature. Bosses heal, summon allies, replicate, regenerate mana, and use just about every trick in the genre to outmaneuver you, making for some satisfying fights.
Strong customization options add depth and let you create the ultimate gear for your warriors so you can lead an elite immortal team. The blacksmith enables you to forge new weapons from materials or boost the power of your weaponry, while an alchemist unlocks latent abilities from your weapons and armor, imbuing them with magic and skills. A polisher restores any rusty gear you find, often unlocking the game's most potent weaponry for enhancement.
An interesting visual style applies a cel-shaded look to detailed character models and monsters, which move fluidly but have intentionally rough faces that hark back to the days of sprites and pixelated features. The 3D environments are colorful and relaxing, including peaceful seaside settlements, pretty grasslands, and detailed architecture. The music is forgettable, but it's far from grating, with pleasant town melodies and invigorating battle tunes to accompany flashy battle effects.
Glory of Heracles is roughly 35 hours long and features a "new game plus" option, but choosing this strips you of your equipment and abilities, which undermines its replayability unless you want to tackle a dull survival mode that pits you against a never-ending onslaught of foes to see how long you'll last. The game is simple enough for genre newcomers, but it uses some complex options that are almost worthless during the first half and do nothing to enliven gameplay later. Glory of Heracles is competent but ordinary and is worth a look only if you find its customization options or ether system appealing.