Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes Hints at a Strategic Motherload
First Published: December 13, 2023

Six Degrees of Classic RPG Fun

Eddie Santiago

Since its announcement in 2020 by developer Rabbit and Bear Studios, Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes has been on my watchlist. As a spiritual successor to Suikoden, an RPG series which touted dozens of recruitable characters in each entry, I was curious to see if the classic RPG gameplay translated well in the modern gaming era. I recently got an hour of hands-on time with the game, allowing me to see six of the more-than-100 planned characters, and now I can’t wait to see the rest.

Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes wastes no time getting started, opening with our protagonist saving a small bird from a hawk. This compassionate young man, named Nowa, is then introduced to his squadmates for an upcoming mission. His three companions are the gruff wolf-man Garr, the stoic Mio, and the energetic Lian, who fulfill some of the typical group archetypes. Less is more though, and Lian’s endless positivity quickly led me to view her as an annoying younger sibling instead of the capable warrior she is. By comparison, Garr and Mio shared very little about themselves, leaving me wanting to know more, and looking forward to our interactions. After adding them to the party, Nowa is able to wander the village turned command center, speaking with villagers and even a large rodent named Ganmo. 

The game’s aesthetic stood out, utilizing that HD-2D style that’s gained popularity in recent years — and for good reason. Placing two-dimensional sprites in three-dimensional environments continues to make for a striking, diorama style. This fusion of new and old appeals to my nostalgia while still appearing polished and detailed.

Three’s Company, Six is a Party

Eventually I sent the party to the village chief’s home to receive their orders, which were given by a pair of Imperials, a faction in opposition to Nowa's. Due to the discovery of a magical artifact, Nowa and company must head into the nearby forest to validate claims of its existence and seize control of the object before anyone else has the chance. Although the two Imperials in charge, Seign and Hildi, initially seemed authoritative and distant, in a pleasant surprise they joined the party after relaying the assignment, bringing the group total to six. The two Imperials also defied my expectations in how personable they were in conversation; they didn’t hesitate to learn about and chat with the original four party members, and before long there were definitely friendships forming among the group.

Players can only have six characters in the battle party, divided into two rows of three, but they can eventually add another four characters in more passive roles: a Support and three Attendants, though it’s currently unknown what these positions entail. Additionally, larger characters take up a pair of spots in the battle party, presumably with higher stats to make the trade-off worth it. Though I didn’t encounter any larger characters in my preview, I love the idea of weighing their benefits and considering their synergy with other party members as another layer of strategy to engage with..

On Autopilot

With a full party in tow, we headed out into the world map, a large overworld that hearkens back to RPGs of the 90s. There were a few landmarks to potentially visit but I made a beeline to the forest described in the mission briefing, choosing to focus on the main quest. Along the way, I triggered my first random combat encounter, another hallmark of older RPGs. 

As modern RPGs have generally moved away from random encounters, this trope is the one that gives me the most pause about Eiyuden Chronicle. In a risky situation, such as losing most of your party, the choice to avoid combat feels as much a strategic decision as choosing to grind levels to overpower later enemies. Random encounters feel more disruptive as well, sometimes breaking the pace of exploration into an uneven slog. Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes’ random encounters didn’t wear out their welcome during the preview, but it’s something to consider if you’re not a fan of the mechanic.

With six characters, giving orders and watching the turn-based combat can be a bit cumbersome. However, there is an option to automate combat: allowing you to sit back and watch the party make their own decisions. Their behavior can be influenced through a series of settings in the party menu, but early on the default settings work great. Characters have their own health, mana and skill points and they’ll use them liberally to defeat their opponents, including healing spells, multi-slash combo attacks, and other abilities.

Throughout the course of the preview, each character only had a few options in battle, such as attacking or using the only combat skill they knew. It’s absolutely possible to manually command each character if you prefer, but with such limited choices, I felt like I was getting in my own way by not using auto battle. 

Early battles were easily handled with auto battle, though I was warned that later battles would require much more careful decision making. While these early fights were a bit tedious due to my limited combat options, I think having to engage more with the combat and a growing pool of abilities will make fighting a more entertaining facet of Eiyuden Chronicle later on.

Cutting Through Fog

Once I reached the forest, the party had to make their way across a largely linear environment. Eventually, I came across a mysterious device and a heavily fogged area. This ended up being a maze-like puzzle, where taking the wrong path in the fog reset progress, sending the party back to the mysterious device encountered earlier. Eventually though, I came across an identical device, and when I interacted with it a large forest spider, our first boss, appeared. 

Despite the fanfare accompanying the cool-looking spider boss, it went down easy. The party was able to take it down in auto battle without much input, though I did need to intervene to ensure my party members were kept healthy. For the first boss of an RPG, this is about what I expected considering my party’s limited combat capabilities. Fortunately, with the spider defeated, I was able to use the device, which cleared the fog from the surrounding area. Without any further hindrances, we quickly found a high tech structure, apparently the key to finding the magical artifact known as a Runebarrow.

Just the Two of Us

Heading inside, we found more environmental puzzles and tougher enemies, but once again auto battle was sufficient. After some exploration, however, Nowa and Seign became separated from the rest of the party. Before they can set out to find their other party members, the pair learns a little about each other, starting a friendship that also triggers a key mechanic in Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes.

When characters have a connection with each other, they will often protect each other in combat. In the preview, Nowa took an attack meant for Seign, saving him from death (or at least from the Knocked Out condition). The pair also learned to execute a stylish combo attack, combining their combat skills to defeat multiple tough enemies at once. I’ve played other games that employ similar relationship mechanics, but as a fan of seeing characters grow closer over time, Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes has the potential to deliver the most in-depth and enjoyable iteration I’ve seen yet.

Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes is intended to have 120 recruitable characters, each with relationships, interactions, and combo attacks with other characters. Speaking with the team, I was told these relationships would automatically occur over the course of the story, allowing players to focus more on gameplay and not on fostering relationships between characters. It would be nice to be able to forge connections between any of our favorite characters, but with 120 characters that would be an obscene amount of connections to write and include. While I saw only a small fragment of this massive undertaking, I came away from the preview excited for the adventure coming with the full release.

Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes releases on April 23, 2024 on PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S and Nintendo Switch.