Ascots and crossbows: Hands-on with Renaissance Heroes

Renaissance Heroes
A few months ago, when New Year's resolutions came around, I decided to take broad, sweeping strides outside of my comfort zone -- I decided to play more FPS games. Long have I lingered in the comforting bosom of tab targeting, cast bars, and kill-10-boars. So when Renaissance Heroes, a newly released free-to-play FPS, came to my attention, I thought I might have finally found an FPS game that's more my style, that style being "shoot people in the face with crossbows."

I was not disappointed.

The art direction in Renaissance Heroes hooked my interest before I set even one period-garbed foot into the game. In an FPS landscape where the advertising norm is Chiseled Man Looks Grim in Uniform (sometimes Space Uniform), I was quickly intrigued by Chiseled Man Looks Sassy in Ascot.

When I loaded up Renaissance Heroes for the first time, instead of jumping right into a match and selecting which loadout or class I wanted play for that round, I was presented with a character select screen.

You can unlock extra character slots eventually, but you're supposed to stick with your first choice for a while. Each character comes with different perks, like easier headshots, but overall your choice won't make or break your game experience. I personally went with the well-dressed Medici.

I entered my first match as a bright-eyed and frequently-bullet-riddled FPS novice. A look of pleasant surprise crossed my face when I wasn't immediately crushed by a gigantic cash shop trebuchet. Did I do well? Absolutely not. However, I felt as if my perpetual respawn state was genuinely caused by my skill level, not because my opponents were sporting insta-kill weapons. I checked out the cash shop, and while I could pick up new weapons (as well as taunts and outfits), they weren't dramatically overpowered. I even purchased one of the crossbows. It did have different stats than what I started with, but nothing ridiculous. There was also an option to upgrade my weapons, but again, nothing absurd.

Gameplay is fast, smooth, and simple to grasp. There are potions and power-ups, but the game never turned into one player dominating the entire match because he found the best shiny thing on the ground. You have a melee weapon, a crossbow, and a gun. Your crossbow is best for long range, the gun is for mid range, and once you can reach out and touch someone, it's best to do that touching with a hammer. There are also small bombs to fulfill the traditional FPS grenade roll. I personally appreciated the weapon simplicity.

However, there was one design choice I didn't particularly enjoy: You can sprint only if you have a melee weapon equipped. This means you can either calmly walk across the battlefield with your crossbow out or haul 16th century patooty and be prepared to switch weapons very quickly. I adjusted eventually, but for a while I would sprint, see the opposing team, and proceed to brutally attack the air in front of my character.

Overall, I liked Renaissance Heroes. I might not possess mad FPS skills, but I had fun in each match I played. Unfortunately, I've recently had a hard time finding those matches. At one point, I logged in to grab some gameplay footage for this article, and six hours later, I still hadn't been able to join a normal versus match. I found a few 1v1 duel rooms, one versus room that was entirely melee (which I enjoyed more than I expected), and one 6v6 room that ended up just being me and one another player. I made my own room and waited around for a while, hoping there might be players who were just logging off because there weren't any rooms to join. I checked back roughly twice an hour before giving up around midnight.

There might not be an over abundance of gamers who fall into the Venn diagram of "Renaissance enthusiast" and "avid FPS player," but Renaissance Heroes still managed to grab me by the silken ascot. I enjoyed myself, and I can only hope that in time it'll become easier to find those 11 other people for 6v6.

Want to feast your eyes on some gameplay footage? Check out the recording of my livestream in which Renaissance Heroes producer Matthew Lenehan joined me live for an hour of crossbow shooting.

If you want to get your mitts on the game yourself, you can download it from the official site. Gamefuse has kindly ensured that if you download from precisely that link, your account will be granted an in-game weapon -- the Shillelagh pictured below, just the thing for smashing faces.

Massively's not big on scored reviews -- what use are those to ever-changing MMOs? That's why we bring you first impressions, previews, hands-on experiences, and even follow-up impressions for nearly every game we stumble across. First impressions count for a lot, but games evolve, so why shouldn't our opinions?
This article was originally published on Massively.