Last week I fired up Boot Hill Heroes and set off on an adventure through the Wild West. I’m still making my way through the game, but having a good enough time that I wanted to share! Read on for some early, spoiler-free impressions of this cozy RPG that's perfect for sinking into during the chilly winter months.
Thank you to Experimental Gamer Studios for providing a copy of Boot Hill Heroes for review.
The Gist of the Game
Boot Hill Heroes is the first game in a planned trilogy from Experimental Gamer Studios. The game was born from a Kickstarter campaign and originally launched back in 2013. The sequel, Boot Hill Bounties, released in 2017 and actually came out on Switch first, earlier this year. The creators cite classic Final Fantasy, Chrono Trigger, and Earthbound as the major influences for this Spaghetti Western story. Players, up to four in co-op, control a group of characters adventuring through the 16-bit Wild West.
There’s a big narrative focus in this game, and surprisingly cinematic storytelling. The plot touches on themes of legacy, conspiracy, and prejudice, even early on. The moment to moment writing, meanwhile, manages to be light, silly, and fun throughout. I rarely laugh out loud while playing a video game, but this one has had me grinning several times.
The only thing that has me a bit wary about the story is that I'm not sure about its portrayal of Native Americans. It's clear that the plot is going to pretty heavily feature a native tribe, the Chepakwik. The tribe and many of the specific beliefs ascribed to them seem to be fictional, but stereotypical. I openly acknowledge that I’m not an expert or an authority on this matter, but the way they are portrayed seems to be pretty heavily steeped in Spaghetti Western tropes that feel outdated.
Exploring the Old West
So far I’ve visited farms, towns, forests, and a Native American village in my journey through Boot Hill Heroes’ Bronco County. The environments are all beautifully drawn and filled with delightful throwback character sprites. There are friendly NPCs with snappy dialog and enemies that wander the screen waiting to attack you. It all feels like a classic JRPG. This is a very different portrayal of the West than any other cowboy game I've played. I think that the charm of the writing, visuals, and excellent music (courtesy of Jake ‘virt’ Kaufman, who also worked on Shantae and Shovel Knight) has me more hooked into this game's vibe than all the immersive details of Red Dead Redemption 2 ever did.
Combat in Boot Hill Heroes works on an Active Time Battle system by default. Each character can equip four different abilities to choose from, including a variety of attacks, status effects, and defenses. You can always see how far out an enemy’s attack is on their ATB, which gives a nice bit of strategy to choosing an ability based on whether you want to go before, at the same time, or right after them. You can pause the ATBs at any time to strategize, or even flip a switch in the menu so that the game is paused by default until you input commands.
I’m only a few hours into this adventure, but so far I’m really enjoying it. Compared to everything else I’m playing right now – Immortals: Fenyx Rising, Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity, and Hades – this game is quiet, laid-back, and relaxing. Even saving your game is great in this game. You check in with your trusty beagle, Rusty, who inexplicably shows up to help you out everywhere you go! Making my way through the story in bits and pieces over coffee each morning and before bed each night has become something I look forward to every day.
The game is only 10 bucks regularly, but it’s on a launch sale for $6.49 until January 5th. If you’re looking for a fun, light-hearted RPG, Boot Hill Heroes is a great, low-cost game to pick up.
I’ll keep working my way through it, so be sure to check back here soon for a full review when I’ve finished it.
If you want to hear TroytlePower's first impressions as they happened, check out his audio-only let's play of the first hour of the game on his podcast, TroytlePower Presents: The Power Play-Throughs Podcast, with TroytlePower.