Heaven Burns Red early impressions

Published
2022-02-11
Last modified
2022-02-11

tl;dr HBR is a VN/JRPG written by Key. Also it has gacha I guess.

Heaven Burns Red is a newly released JP gacha game (soshage/mobage) with lots of big names behind it. I played it since release and IMO it's bretty good so I want to share my early impressions.

Setting

Monsters called Cancer (that look like crabs) have invaded and humans invented weapons called Seraph to fight back. The main cast is a bunch of young girls at a military base cum school. There are ostensibly men, but they are kept separated from the girls (or so we are told).

Overall gameplay

The game is about 70% VN/story and 30% dungeons/battles. If you don't care about the story this game is probably not for you.

The VN sections are standard VN fare with 2D art. Exploration is in a pretty 3D world that you navigate as a side scroller. Battles use the same 3D engine and are like a standard JRPG.

Key, WFS, Maeda Jun, Yuugen, Yanagi Nagi

One of the big selling points of HBR is its all star cast.

Key is the company behind Clannad, Air, Kanon, Angel Beats, Little Busters, etc.

I'm not very familiar with Wright Flyer Studios, but they seem to be an established game dev. They developed Another Eden and After Lost.

Maeda Jun is Key's main writer and behind many (all?) of Key's works. I'll get to him more when I talk about the story.

Yuugen is the artist behind many Gust/Atelier games. He drew Plachta in Atelier Sophie, who is a cutie pie, fight me.

Yanagi Nagi is a singer who has done many songs for Key games and anime.

If you haven't heard of these names, you probably aren't into anime/weeb stuff and HBR might not be for you.

Music, art, animation

The music, art, animation are all good, consistent quality. They're not mindblowing. Yanagi Nagi's insert songs are Yanagi Nagi songs. Yuugen's art is Yuugen art.

The 3D models and animations are comparable to Gust's newer games. Speaking of which, the game stylistically feels very similar to Blue Reflection.

Story and characters

Let's talk story, which is 70% of the game.

The story is Key and Maeda Jun. If you've watched or played any two Key works, you know what I'm talking about.

Slice of life, tsukkomi routines, characters with unique/tragic backstory, obligatory band performance, you know the drill. There will probably be a dark twist later on and lots of crying.

The story isn't bad. It's executed very well. But if you don't like Key/Maeda, then you'll skip the story. Like standard VNs, there are skip/autoplay/FF button.

The MC is a boyish girl who used to be a rock star (of course Maeda) who is moderately gay, depending on the dialogue options you pick. Speaking of the dialogue options, I had to laugh out loud at some of the shenanigans you can pick. Again, think Clannad humor.

Battle mechanics

Now let's talk about the remaining 30% of the game, the battle stuff.

The game is a pretty standard JRPG. You have a party of 6 units. Every turn, you pick 3 units to move into the front line and attack. You can freely control turn order. Units have a normal attack and up to three equippable skills. Skills use SP which regenerate every turn.

There is an Overdrive gauge which builds as you attack and when filled you can activate it to give you an SP boost and free turns (i.e., skipping the enemy's turn).

There is a rock-paper-scissors type system.

All of this is pretty standard JRPG except perhaps the freely swapping units part. However, there are two unique core mechanics. The first is DP, deflector points. DP is like a shield and applies to both your units and enemies. Generally speaking, you can only heal DP and only if your DP isn't broken by hitting 0. If any unit loses all HP then it's game over. So DP is kind of like your normal HP and HP is your emergency pool in case you're one turn away from winning.

I like the DP mechanic for your units because it avoids the "oh they're just fainted at 0 HP" or "just chug a potion to regenerate" crap that 99% of games use.

Enemies also have DP, and it serves a couple of functions. First, it prevents you from one-shotting enemies (since you can't overkill DP). Note that this applies to you too, so if you have more than 0 DP you can't be one shot. Although also note that this doesn't work against multi hit attacks. Second, some skills get bonus damage versus DP or HP, so you need to balance your party for both.

The second unique mechanic is "destruction". Enemies have a "destruction" ratio for their HP that affects how much HP damage they take. The ratio increases as you attack them, meaning enemies take more and more damage, but there are skills that specifically increase destruction ratio. This mechanic mostly affects spongey bosses, where you need to build your party with such skills.

There is speed up and auto battle functions. Auto battle is stupider than manual play but good enough if you're overleveled. You can configure which skills the auto battle uses to reduce the stupidity a little, although IMO you're better off playing manually at that point.

Character building

HBR uses a skin system, called styles. Styles come from the gacha. There are 48 characters in the game (8 teams/"factions"/"guilds" with 6 members each), and I doubt the base roster is going to increase any time soon. Each character has multiple styles. You can only equip one style per character and only use one copy of the character in your party.

Each style has unlockable skills, stat modifiers, and passives. Skills and stat modifiers need to be unlocked via farmed mats. Most skills once unlocked can be used regardless of the equipped style (although some skills are locked to the style), and most stat modifiers and passives are locked to the style (although some stat modifiers apply to the character universally).

You can limit break styles using dupe shards, which increases the level limit of the character (NOT the style) and the style's base stat modifiers.

Characters can equip various equipment, which are not from gacha, has no stat RNG and aren't leveled.

Overall, I quite like the character building so far. The only thing you have to grind for are mats to unlock the skills and stats for styles. Sweet and simple.

tl;dr level characters, upgrade styles with mats, and farm/buy equipment for characters.

Repeatable content and dailies

The maximum stamina (called Life) is 5 and you gain 1 stamina per 4 hours.

You can spend 1 stamina to do Prism Arena, which are boss fights that drop skill mats, or you can spend 2 stamina to do a dungeon which contains accessories.

Dungeons are basically dungeons in JRPGs but simpler. You explore the dungeon which is mostly empty hallways with items to pick up at various places (functionally the same as chests), and RANDOM ENCOUNTERS. There is a white/yellow/red indicator that shows your chance of an encounter as you explore. There are also boss enemies that appear on the map.

Normally random encounters are kind of iffy in JRPGs IMO but the entire point of dungeons in HBR is fighting encounters. You have a limited amount of energy per dungeon run which depletes as you fight encounters. Once you run out of energy you start losing HP per turn in battle, so you're pretty much forced to retreat.

You also have do dungeons to unlock more bosses for Prism Arena.

tl;dr, spend 1 stamina to fight a boss, spend 2 stamina to fight ~10 mix of mob/boss encounters.

The daily mission is to spend 3 stamina, and that's it. You only get 6 stamina every day if you haven't done the math in your head yet.

IMO, the daily grind is probably the lowest among gacha games.

Now, there's one final thing called arena. It costs no stamina to do and gives a tiny amount of XP, gold, and basic mats.

You can autoplay arena offline. First, you have to beat an arena stage normally (you can use auto battle), and then the game records how much time you took to clear it and uses that to calculate how many runs you do.

Example: You clear the stage in 1 minute and leave it to autoplay for an hour. The game gives you the rewards for 60 runs. (It actually adds extra seconds to your first clear time, but this is just an example.)

The cap for autoplay starts at 8 hours and increases by 20 minutes per player rank.

If you want to min-max, then you're going to have to check in every X hours to set the autoplay (which will probably still take less time than many gacha games honestly), but IMO it's not necessary. The XP/gold/mats is very valuable in the first few days of play but the value diminishes as you progress. If you do (ab)use autoplay, you will be overleveled for the main story content.

In terms of end game content, there is no end game content. Of course, that's true of most games, especially gacha games. You will login to burn stamina on prism arena for a few minutes. Wait for the next content release.

Gacha

Oh right, HBR is a gacha game. Let's talk about gacha.

The gacha is only for styles (no weapon banners here). You unlock characters by pulling any style for that character. Style rarities are A, S, SS. The rate for SS is 3%. Pity is 200 pulls and doesn't carry across banners. I think the pity is for the banner rate up, but we haven't had any rate up banners yet.

Pulling dupes gets you pieces to limit break styles, but if you have already maxed that style, you get universal pieces that can limit break any of that character's styles. So a F2P could reasonably max out any SS styles they pull given a long time.

There is no PVP. So far, there is no content that needs top meta styles to clear. In the early game, you probably want to pull to unlock all the characters so you can see their friendship events, rather than pulling for meta SS styles.

One pull is 300 quartz. You get 110 quartz from daily missions (which if you remember is just spending 3 stamina), and 20 from the login bonus (100 on the 7th day). Yes, you get quartz from every day of the login bonus.

Adding that up, you get 990 quartz guaranteed every week, which is kind of generous now that I've done the math. YMMV.

No idea about events yet.

Overall, I would say HBR's gacha is average and the game is average to above average for F2P friendliness.

Rerolling

Rerolling is fast. You can clear your player data from the login screen and skip the tutorial. You still need to skip through a few dialogue scenes however. You get one guaranteed SS, 1 ten roll ticket, and enough quartz for another 10 roll.

Account binding is via ID/password, so you can easily save multiple reroll accounts if you want to chase that ULTIMATE REROLL F2P BTW.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Karen is best girl and I would totally let her murder me.