By Johnathan Stringer
The Wild West is a setting not often explored in RPGs. Boot Hill Heroes caught my eye on the PAX East showroom floor as it a retro-styled RPG that looks like Earthbound/Mother set in the Wild West. Boot Hill Heroes is a successfully Kickstarted game being developed by Experimental Gamer. Not only did I get a chance to interview Dave Welch of Experimental Gamer, but I also sat down with him and a few others to play Boot Hill Heroes multiplayer.
The demo takes place somewhere in the middle of the game's story, as the party is full and the characters have high levels with many learned skills and abilities. Multiplayer supports up to four players and is very similar to co-op found in Final Fantasy VI with each player controlling a character in battle. If fewer than four players attempt this, one of those involved will end up in control of more than one character. Player one will always control party movement on screen. While on the adventure screen, any player can pull up the menu to adjust equipment and skills without interrupting gameplay.
The demo starts in a western looking town and the graphics and visual style will immediately be familiar to anyone who has played Earthbound. Borrowing heavily from the look and feel of Earthbound/Mother is right in line with how the developers want to pay homage to RPG classics. The battle system appears somewhat similar, but plays out quite differently. Boot Hill Heroes isn't even strictly turn-based, as each character has a power bar that builds over time and each skill has a corresponding power cost to execute. As players select a skill they either use it immediately, if enough power is available, or will wait for the skill to queue up to the required amount before execution. This is an interesting battle mechanic twist that feels refreshing, especially in multiplayer, as it makes battles much more involving.
As the party walked around the town, characters interact with witty NPCs and would react to events that occur. Some such events included being attacked by a bull and teaching an unruly teenager a lesson. We eventually wandered outside into the wilderness on a quest where we fought wildlife, bandits, and eventually a tough grizzly bear mini-boss. Boot Hill Heroes looks like it will offer a good degree of challenge, as we often lost characters in battle and every fight kept us on our toes.
I enjoyed my time with the demo and was disappointed when it ended. The multiplayer component can be a good way to get friends together to play what would typically be a single player experience, while not sacrificing the fun of the other players. Boot Hill Heroes will be released in three parts on Windows and Xbox Live Indie Games. The first part is near completion, but as of now, there is still no official release date.