There was only one word that came to mind after playing Has-Been Heroes, a lane-based, roguelike. That word? Frustration.
Part of that frustration comes from missed opportunity, because Has-Been Heroes has a lot of things going for it. The game has an interesting combat system that, while initially overwhelming, has the habit of really "clicking" during hectic battles. Essentially, players take control of multiple characters, each with a lane that quickly fills with approaching enemies. The key is to stack attacks by switching lanes and wearing down the stamina of opponents, all the while prioritizing the most serious threats. Though battles have a habit of dragging on for far too long, they're always engaging and exciting.
But that combat system is largely left to the player to discover because Has-Been Heroes starts with a woefully inadequate tutorial mission that fails to explain even basic game concepts. With only a vague understanding of important mechanics, players are thrust into one of the most difficult roguelikes ever created, let loose to stew in repeated failure.
There's no gradual ramp up in difficulty, as in Binding of Isaac or Enter the Gungeon and I never felt as though my skill was actually improving. Instead, the the randomized enemy encounters, which are either incredibly easy or seemingly impossible, determined my continued success. I was either slicing through enemies with ease, or being overrun by endless hordes. There was no middle ground.
I'm not opposed to difficult games-- in fact, I love them. With Has-Been Heroes, the difficulty isn't earned, isn't balanced, and simply doesn't feel fair.
Has Been Heroes has a unique and exciting combat system at its core, but fails to build anything around it. Even at $20, it's tough to recommend.