Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes preview - Heir apparent

Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes preview - Heir apparent
Images via Rabbit & Bear Studios

Written by 

Harry Boulton

Published 

29th Mar 2024 16:26

It would be remiss to not mention Suikoden when approaching the excitement around Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes. Co-directed by industry icons Yoshitaka Murayama and Osamu Komuta, the former of which sadly passed away earlier this year, Hundred Heroes is a reimagining and spiritual successor to the legendary series in all but name - and even that has its own nods.

Of course, this does lead to fairly high expectations but plenty of excitement too, as we've all been able to follow along with the progress of the upcoming release as Rabbit & Bear Studios reached over £2.5million in Kickstarter funds. While I have only been able to play the opening five hours so far, Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes looks to be a worthy heir to the now-dormant iconic Suikoden series - albeit with a few little frustrations along the way.

Combat to the max

One of the biggest appeals of the Suikoden series was not only the sheer number of characters that you could recruit, but also the expanded party size in battle. Eiyuden Chronicle more than continues this tradition with over one hundred heroes to play as and returns to the six-character party combat that its spiritual predecessor is so well known for.

It's surprising how much of a difference this makes in the grand scheme of things, as not only will you have a larger number of skills to balance, but there is also the notion of formations and how each role fits into that.

Image of combat in Eiyuden Chronicle Hundred Heroes
Click to enlarge

I was only able to pick up enough characters to fill out my party during my playtime so far, but even then it offered intriguing dynamics and decisions to be made to best optimise combat scenarios. One melee-based fighter, for example, was functionally useless when he defaulted into my back row and couldn't do anything, but suddenly became one of the strongest members in my party when I shifted him front and centre.

Furthermore, creating that balance between tanky front-row characters and a support or ranged backline felt engaging as there really isn't one 'right' or 'best' way to play, and you're very much encouraged to experiment. This formation even applies to enemies that you'll fight too, as only certain characters can actively attack foes in their own back row, so you'll either need to rely on them or find a way to shift them forward.

This is all without the added challenge of balancing an incredibly wide cast of characters either - each, I presume, with their own specialisations, strengths, and drawbacks. I'm so excited to properly dive into this soon and figure out my favourite blends - especially when certain characters can combo together in stronger attacks.

Active Automation

Key to many of the combat encounters I faced so far in Hundred Heroes is the 'Auto' battle feature, which has your six characters act for themselves in line with pre-set instructions. This is almost akin to the Gambit system that first appeared in Final Fantasy XII, where you can set up an overall party combat style (all-out attack, healing focus, slow approach) alongside individual priority-based instructions for all six members. I was able to limit when certain party members used their SP, specific points at which they would use healing and much more.

While you wouldn't want to use this all of the time, of course, it does add fluidity to many of the standard encounters that make them feel much less cumbersome - and if you're smart enough I could certainly see you being able to create an overpowered routine!

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Slowing things down

While I have enjoyed much of my time with the game so far, one prevailing and persistent frustration was how slow certain aspects feel. From a technical perspective, it was frustrating to run into so many loading screens when playing - with some being rather lengthy, and I found transitions from the world to the menu, for example, to be frustratingly delayed.

Image of characters in a village in Eiyuden Chronicle Hundred Heroes
Click to enlarge

Moreover, although the narrative itself isn't 'slow' so far, its opening two hours or so are very much a stop-start affair where I felt like I couldn't go more than a couple of steps without a new cutscene that only lasted a couple of seconds.

This did definitely improve when the world opened up and I had more of a choice in terms of where to go, but I am slightly worried that more linear segments down the line continue to falter in this regard.

Finally, while perhaps not so much a frustration or complaint, it is odd that there is no form of turbo mode in the game at all - and I can see that being a point of friction for some players. The in-battle animations are great, especially when it comes to the rune attacks, but some can take two to three seconds each and that certainly does stack up when you're seeing them for the hundredth time. With random encounters prevalent in the game though I do wonder whether things would benefit from having an option to speed things up - although the Auto battle system does alleviate this somewhat.

Perfect portability

Image of Eiyuden Chronicle Hundred Heroes on a Steam Deck
Click to enlarge
Image via GGRecon | Rabbit & Bear Studios

As someone who loves their Steam Deck and sees it as often the perfect machine for 2.5D RPG titles, it is a joy to report that Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes performs wonderfully on Deck, and will likely work wonderfully for a full playthrough of the game.

I was able to reach a mostly consistent 60fps at 1080p, but I instead dropped the Deck's own refresh rate down to 30Hz and the in-game resolution to 720p to increase the battery life - which ended up being around 3 hours on a full charge (non-OLED).

Not only does the game still look fantastic on the handheld device, but it was perfect for just kicking back and playing in a more relaxed setting, either making progress whenever I found the time or settling in for some longer sessions.

Final Thoughts

I'm certainly excited to dive in again and continue my journey when Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes releases on April 23, with nearly one hundred more characters to find as my adventure awaits.

Previewed on PC & Steam Deck, code provided by the publisher.

Harry is a Guides Writer at GGRecon, having completed a Masters of Research degree in Film Studies. Previously a freelance writer for PCGamesN, The Loadout, and Red Bull Gaming, he loves playing a wide variety of games from the Souls series to JRPGs, Counter-Strike, and EA FC. When not playing or writing about games and hardware, you're likely to find him watching football or listening to Madonna and Kate Bush.

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