StoryFHUL takes place in a world where mankind is suppressed by beings known as “Decoders.” Forced to live in secret bastions for the past decade, one of the last habitats of humanity discovers what is known as “Hero Artes,” which may very well turn the tide of the decade-long battle in their favor. Within this hideout is a band of varying individuals, four of which are playable characters. I only played as one of them, but it is my understanding that the story unfolds the same regardless of your choice. This is due in part to the presence of all playable characters in your story missions (ie. all characters are visible during cutscenes despite you only viewing/controlling a single one during the heat of combat).
Here’s the thing: FHUL isn’t the type of game you play for its story. It’s about as tropey as it gets, including but not limited to your annoying as piss youth that thinks he can take on the world despite getting his butt handed to him on a consistent basis. The other characters are more tolerable than this douche, but that isn’t saying much. Ultimately, the entire script suffers from an inconsistent translation. While it is coherent enough to understand, things tend to be worded awkwardly at times. The bottom line is this: don’t expect much out of the story and its characters and you shouldn’t get overly upset about it after finding out it’s not that great.
The story of FHUL is segmented into missions, which can be signed up for from your hideout. In addition to story missions, you also have access to various side and EX missions. All three sets of content offer various rewards and difficulty settings, but only the story ones move the progression ball forward. While the latter two mission types are generally pretty short, story missions can be quite long. This isn’t inherently a bad thing, but can become an issue once you realize that there isn’t a checkpoint system. You could literally die at the last second at the end of a mission and have to do the entire thing over again. Luckily, you do get some experience for the setback, but it can still be aggravating on those longer missions when you choke up at the last second.
Your companions will occasionally chime in with some dialogue during your missions, but it is almost always delivered at the worst possible time. It is typically impossible to read any of this stuff in the midst of combat. Additionally, the text box itself tends to take up a rather large portion of the screen and actually becomes a hindrance when you’re under heavy fire. While I can appreciate the fact that the conversations were designed in a way as to not break the flow of gameplay, it is a moot point if you can’t read it in the first place. I would have much preferred a slight pause to view these discussions rather than having to ignore most of them because I’m trying to stay alive.
GraphicsFHUL, in many ways, looks like a PS1/N64 era game, but lacks the charm that made many of those titles interesting. While I can appreciate the variety of playable characters, including a kid, a bird man, a luchador, and a robot-wielding adolescent girl that wears skimpy clothes (I get that it is an anime-inspired aesthetic, but why?), the actual art design doesn’t do anything exciting to really accentuate their differences.
There is a small sample size of enemies that you will face, and it won’t be long before you start to see palette-swapped copies roaming the fields. Overall, the graphics are just not interesting at all. Don’t confuse that with a desire for “better” graphics, as there are many games out there with what most would consider suboptimal graphics, but manage to be pleasing to the eye nonetheless due to proper design.
CombatThe actual gameplay is what I was hoping would uplift FHUL as a whole, but sadly it does not. FHUL is a hack and slash action RPG, where you will traverse different maps while battling it out with your adversaries. There is a light and heavy attack, which can be combined with different button combinations in order to execute combos. On top of that, you have access to a skill tree that adds both active and passive abilities to your repertoire.
On the surface, it seems that you have a lot of choice in how you approach your encounters. In reality, you have a limited attack pool because the actual enemy design and layout becomes incredibly unfair very early on. You can pull off some pretty sweet combos on the first couple maps, but pretty soon you will default to either hit and run tactics or the same simple 2-3 hit combo in order to avoid multiple melee attacks at once and dodge projectiles (often off-screen).
In most ARPGs, this isn’t an issue. However, your character is locked from moving for a longer-than-expected time once you execute a combo. Also, enemies begin to hit like a truck after the first few maps. This means that those pleasing attack chains you did in the first few maps become obsolete because your survival quickly trumps it.
Character DevelopmentYou have complete control of your character build, from stat allocation to skill selection. This freedom, in theory, is a good thing, and would lead you to believe that you could build your character to counteract the issues mentioned above. The sad truth is that stat allocation feels almost worthless simply due to how hard enemies hit, regardless of how you spec your character. In fact, I built my character around an ability that can stun most enemies, and it became almost mandatory to use the further I progressed. Even with a stun, I found myself struggling to stay alive, let alone execute a different ability for a change.
That’s not to say that FHUL is impossible, but it most definitely requires a degree of hit and run mechanics that just aren’t appealing to me. Why offer all of these different combos and active abilities if you can’t use them for 99% of your encounters? Perhaps I’m just terrible at ARPGs (I’m not doubting it), but I could not find a logical reason for that kind of design.
GearPrior to playing, I heard that the gear treadmill in FHUL was Diablo-like, and that thought alone made me excited to get into it. There is some truth to it, as a selection of weapons can drop, and those pieces can spawn random modifiers. Gear can be upgraded to further increase damage and add other modifiers as well. The problem, again, lies in the fact that enemies get to be so brutal that any weapon upgrade (outside of finding a newer tier one) feels like you transitioned from a wet noodle to a dry one. Both of them suck. The groundwork for the systems is sound, but, like other sections of FHUL, the execution just isn’t there.
ConclusionFHUL is not a good game, but I don’t have regrets about trying it. Sometimes you can find hidden gems regardless of what mainstream reviewers say. This time, however, it amounted to nothing but a shiny turd. I’m more disappointed than anything because FHUL does have some interesting mechanics. But the logic behind those systems must make sense in order for them to come to fruition, and thus, make you as a player actually desire to play it. I can easily recommend a “skip” here, even if you like action RPGs.
Great: Must Play.
Good: Worth your time.
OK: Some notable flaws.
Editor. Indie Developer. Weight Lifter. Pit Bull Advocate. All Around Nerd. Grew up religiously playing Final Fantasy II on the SNES. Each week, I would have to restart because someone would save over my file. But I did not care because life was good. These days, I'll play almost any RPG that doesn't put an emphasis on making everyone look like they're in a 90s boy band (looking at you, FF15)!
Nintendo Switch Friend Code: SW-3166-1959-0010
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