Almost every game – even sandbox and sports games – has a beginning and an end. There may be many ways to get to the ending; there may even be a multitude of endings, and there may even be the opportunity to go back into the game and get that ever-elusive 100% completion after the end arrives, but virtually every game has an ending. Role-playing games (RPGs), perhaps more than other titles, have definite endings; after all, RPGs have you take on a character (or characters) and venture on a journey with them. Eventually, that journey will end (at least until the sequel).
Of course, despite the fact that a game has an end, we don't necessarily want to feel forced into it. Part of what makes a game enjoyable is feeling as though we can roam around in a make-believe world and play a vital role in the story. One of the most annoying things any game can do is ask you a question — for example, should I head to location A or B? — and upon receiving your answer reply "Ah, ha, ha, ha, we're know you're kidding. You really want to go to the other place," and then force you to do just that. There are games that operate "on-rails," but those tend to not give you a choice and then disregard your answer. An RPG that operates on those same rails, no matter how fun the other aspects of it are, has to be in some way disappointing. And that is the basic problem with Glory of Heracles.
An extremely traditional RPG available exclusively on the Nintendo DS, Glory of Heracles finds you controlling a number of different characters who have either chosen to hide their pasts or conveniently have amnesia. The game starts with you as the legendary Heracles – or at least you think you're Heracles – except you don't quite remember what's happened to you. You head off on a journey through the Greek Isles with a new friend and are ever-so-slowly on your way.
Running around Ancient Greece on land and sea (okay, you have a boat at sea), the game herds you from town to dungeon to town to dungeon, forcing you to perform certain tasks in a certain order along the way. None of the dungeons are terribly different from one another, and nor are the towns. While other RPGs might make some of these tasks – rescue the little girl from the abandoned mine – side quests, in Glory of Heracles you can't move forward until she's rescued. Worse than that, you can't even try to progress to the next town or dungeon until you complete whatever the current assigned task is (and there is usually only one quest at a time that can be done). If you do, you'll find that the road is blocked, the boat not ready to leave, or some other type of obstacle.
Though the setting of Ancient Greece may be one we don't often see used in this sort of game, there is little else to truly differentiate the title. Towns allow you to buy and sell food, drink, items, weapons, and armor. Incidentally, blacksmiths can polish and upgrade any new weapons and armor that you find, or craft new ones for you.
One can overlook all the game's issues were its story well-paced. Unfortunately, it isn't. For example, one of the most interesting aspects of how magic can be used – or actually not used as it deals with limitations on magic – isn't discussed until approximately five hours into the game. Furthermore, after so much irrelevant dialogue has come and gone, it's all too easy for one to completely miss the discussion, making the next battle that much more difficult.
As for the battles themselves, Glory of Heracles runs a turn-based system with back and front rows for each side. The vast majority of battles are exceptionally easy, and while things do become somewhat more difficult later in the game, except for the occasional boss battle there is little to an encounter that might potentially stop you from winning every one on either the first or at worst, second, try.
If all of this sounds overly harsh it isn't actually meant to be. The game is a mostly stress-free trip to Ancient Greece and one which incorporates numerable characters from Greek mythology in new and sometimes interesting ways. The graphics are fun, there are lots of mini-games which can be used as power boosts for certain attacks, and stylus use is both well-integrated and wholly possible to ignore (save for the mini-games) if you don't particularly enjoy it.
In the end, to some extent, you will get out of Glory of Heracles what you put into it. The story may operate all-too-linearly, but there are decent amounts of customization available for weapons and armor, and consequently a myriad of ways to outfit your party and outwit your enemy. If you're looking for massive open-ended play Glory of Heracles won't fit the bill, but it has a certain charm that makes it enjoyable despite any other shortcomings.
Glory of Heracles is rated E10+ (Everyone 10 and older) by the ESRB for Alcohol Reference, Animated Blood, Fantasy Violence, Mild Language, and Mild Suggestive Themes