Whether you’re new to the Samsung Gear VR or you’ve been using one for some time, you’re likely familiar with the Herobound series. You’ve probably tried Herobound Gladiators, the third and newest addition to the series. It’s a multiplayer battle arena game that lets you level up your character, chat with your fellow players in real-time, and it’s free. Herobound First Steps is the first in the series, and is also a free title that will give you an idea of the kind of gameplay you should expect from Spirit Champion. First Steps doesn’t offer any storyline and it has limited variety for puzzles and environments, but it’s a great starting point. (Check out our Herobound: First Steps Review)
That leaves us with the second Herobound, Spirit Champion. Unlike the other free titles, Spirit Champion will set you back $9.99 USD. When describing what you should expect from this one, it’s easy to compare it to Zelda games. It’s a hack ‘n’ slash dungeon crawler with some interesting puzzles and enemies along the way.
Let’s quickly start with the storyline, which is told before you begin with any gameplay. Spirit Champion takes place in a world with five spirits. After becoming angry that its realm pales in comparison to the others, the Spirit of Fire becomes the game’s antagonist when it decides to trap the spirits of Earth, Water and Air within their realms. The fifth spirit, the Spirit of Life, is forced to choose a champion to free the others, and that’s where you come in. There isn’t much progression to the storyline once you work your way through the realms and release the trapped spirits, but at least it gives you a sense of purpose as you go.
As you’d expect, Herobound Spirit champion requires a gamepad. The controls are fairly straightforward and work well. The left stick controls your movement, the direction pad flips through your various weapons and abilities (once you unlock them), and the rest of the buttons handle your jumping, attacking, map, etc. Like in the other Herobound games, the bow is aimed by looking at your target and firing.
Once you’ve completed the introduction, you’ll find yourself, a goblin-like creature, in your home. Exit your home and you’ll begin in Tanagra Village, which is basically your home base. You start off with nothing, but a quick exploration will lead you to the blacksmith and your first sword. Near the blacksmith, you’ll find a booth and practice area where you can purchase new attacks once you collect enough gems. Gems will also get you sword upgrades from the blacksmith. Once you have your trusty sword, it’s time to head into unknown territory.
This is when you’ll begin to enter the different realms. They’re strategically designed to only let you access them in the predetermined order. Typically, you’ll be required to use the ability/tool acquired from the previous realm in order to enter the next. The realms consist of a series of rooms. Within the rooms are some enemies and puzzles to move to the next room. Some rooms are as simple as defeating your foes before a door will unlock, while others require you to solve the puzzle. The first realm you’ll enter is the Earth Realm, which only requires the sword. This is where you’ll first come across some challenges. Being the first realm, the enemies are fairly, and the puzzles are fairly simple. However, as you progress through the rooms and, of course, the realms, the difficulty will increase. Enemies will become stronger and more difficult, and the puzzles will require more steps using a variety of different weapons and abilities. At the end of each realm is a unique final enemy. Defeat them and you’ll free the spirit locked in that realm. Once you complete the Earth Realm, you’ll work your way through the Water Realm, then the Air Realm. With those spirits released, you’ll finally be able to enter the Fire Realm.
What types of challenges will you face with the puzzles? They can be as simple as moving a block onto a floor button to open a gate. However, they’ll eventually require you to shoot targets with your bow and arrows, use switches to move objects in the room, and use your latest tools/abilities to get to different platforms. I won’t get into much detail about all of the weapons and abilities, as I don’t want to spoil too much for you, but you’ll collect a variety as you play through the realms.
Some of these tools and abilities will work only as tools, some will work only as abilities, and some will work as both. To give you an example of something that works as both, one of the earliest things you’ll find is the hammer. This is a required tool to destroy large rocks blocking gates and pathways, but it is also used as a weapon to defeat certain enemies. Other finds will let you access places you previously could not or even help you complete puzzles.
You’re probably wondering how difficult the game can be. The game starts off quite easy, but still enjoyable as you learn how things work. The Water Realm was the first time I came across a puzzle that had me… puzzled. I actually had to look online to find out how to get passed one of the rooms. Of course, once you see the key to solving the puzzle, you’ll feel foolish for not figuring it out sooner, but you’ll start to accept it once this happens a few times. Nearing the end of the game, some rooms that require you to defeat all of the enemies become a tougher challenge than some of the puzzles. Perhaps I should have used my gems on sword upgrades rather than purchasing some of the attacks that I rarely used. The puzzles also get much more complicated, but I didn’t feel stumped by the later ones, they just took more time.
Of course, no Gear VR review is complete without at least mentioning the graphics and immersiveness of the game. Your perspective for Herobound Spirit Champion is above the main floor, but within the room. When I say “within the room”, I mean that you can turn around and see the room wall behind you. The 3D is great and the textures and environments are easily some of the best currently on any Gear VR game.
Herobound Spirit Champion only has a few issues. The first issue is moreso my opinion than anything else, but some of the rooms with enemies can feel slightly repetitive. However, it’s not enough to take away from the fun factor overall. Second, this game lacks any sort of hint options for the puzzles. That’s not to say that it’s a required feature, but it would probably be a welcome addition for users when they get stuck and cannot progress without searching online as a final straw. Last, I came across the odd glitch. I never came across anything that affected the overall game, but I had some issues with the blocks. There were times when they felt stuck and unable to move across changing surfaces, like stairs for example. However, there was one room where I managed to… force (?) a block down stairs to complete a puzzle. It seemed as though that should not have happened, as I had to just keep pushing in different spots before I managed to force the block down. After completing the puzzle, I found the actual solution to the puzzle and it did not require any blocks going down any stairs. Again, this doesn’t affect the overall game, but it’s something that could be improved.
Anyone claiming that the Gear VR doesn’t have “real” games should at least consider Herobound Spirit Champion. It’s a fantastic hack ‘n’ slash dungeon crawler that will keep you entertained and challenged. Storyline? Check. Long gameplay duration? This may not be an epic 30 hour journey, but you can expect roughly four or five hours of gameplay. Multiple environments and quality graphics? The four unique realms keep your surroundings looking fresh and inviting. A variety of puzzles? Definitely. Overall, if you’re interested in action, adventure, or RPG games, you need to try Herobound Spirit Champion.