Blackheart Preview - An indie action RPG with a magical prince in a dysfunctional family and a dying kingdom
There were quite a few New Zealand-based devs present at PAX Aus this year, and one of the RPGs I got to play at the event was Blackheart by Hyporeal.
Blackheart is a top-down action RPG, which the game’s developer Josiah Hunt said was inspired by Children of Morta, Hyper Light Drifter, and Hades. Unlike two of those three games, however, Blackheart does not have any rogue-like elements. Instead, it is a story-focused action RPG with checkpoints.
You play as the youngest prince, Azriel, who is a member of a very influential but dysfunctional royal family. This family is home to a particular type of magic that is strictly forbidden use by your father, so, of course, you start using it.
The demo starts early on in the game where Azriel only has access to one attack, which was a set of three fireball shots before a cooldown. You gain new abilities shortly afterward, though, and up to four total abilities can be equipped at a time. One of the other abilities I had a chance to test was a close-range attack that shot in a straight line, which I found useful against the first enemy type I encountered. From the early parts of the game, there was a nice range of enemy types frequently mixed in together.
I struggled a bit with the game's combat at first, but once I was reminded I could dash in combat encounters, I had a better time. I still didn’t overcome the demo's boss in part because of being loaded with abilities I hadn’t tried before (and wanting to let others play the game). But it was nice to see telegraphed mechanics like AOE markers and having to dash into the boss's circle to not get afflicted.
From time to time, you’ll return to the castle to progress the story, which is where stronger relationships can be formed in the full game. I really liked the character portraits (especially the women), whereas the overall visual style was inoffensive. The boss stuck out a bit being more obviously 3D in an otherwise 2D game but, it was also an otherworldly creature.
The game is actually a retelling/alternate reality of Hunt’s novel, Azriel Blackheart. I’d almost want to compare but perhaps it’s best to avoid one or the other to avoid spoilers. While most of the characters aren’t particularly nice, I was interested to get to know some of them better.
Currently, Blackheart is being developed by a three-person team, so it might not reach quite the level of polish of some of its inspirations, but I am looking forward to besting that boss and more when it’s planned to release in Q3 of 2024.