Game: HRO: Adventures of a Humanoid Resources Officer
Genre: Visual Novel, Adventure
System: Steam (Windows & Linux)
Developer|Publisher: Worthing & Moncrieff
Controller Support: No
Price: UK £ 12.99 | US $ 14.99 | € 14,99
Release Date: May 21st, 2023
Review code provided with many thanks to Worthing & Moncrieff.
To Boldly Go
When it comes to sci-fi, I’m a big fan, but I’m not a well-versed Trekkie. I have been on quite the Sci-Fi kick recently, enjoying shows like Farscape for the first time and suffering the first two seasons of Star Trek Picard only to finally reach the fantastic third season. The point is, I was keen to dive into more, certainly in the video game realm. Along comes HRO: Adventures of a Humanoid Resources Officer. A puzzle-driven visual novel with multiple paths through its narrative. If you love your Sci-Fi and don’t mind a lot of reading, then this might be your next gaming engagement.
More Than an Office Job
HRO: Adventures of a Humanoid Resources Officer is set on the spaceship Endeavor. You play the humble unappreciated, yet multi-talented Humanoid Resources Officer who needs to click their way out of various messes the ship finds itself in. The game’s story is presented in multiple episodes, each with a central theme, like an episode of a TV show. One episode has you escaping a sticky situation with an alien who considers you are flying into their territory as an act of war.
At the same time, in another, you deal with a deadly virus outbreak on your ship. These are not exactly issues you expect an HRO to solve, but here we are. The game clearly wears its Star Trek inspirations on its pixel sleeves, with the crew acting very similar to that popular series. The game does manage to differentiate itself, though, by including its own originally created alien races and complexities to ship tech. Each episode opens with short brief cutscenes, which are fully voice-acted. The actors do an okay job, but performances often come across as a bit bland, lacking significant emotions when something pretty serious is happening.
The game’s score also doesn’t help with this, either. There’s a decent intro theme to each episode, but after that, it feels quite hollow, acting more as dull background noise than recreating the wonders of space travel. I found it hard to get invested in the story, finding the plot just a bit boring, much like trying to return to the first season of Star Trek: TNG. It’s quite a slow burn. Each episode’s opening sets the scene for the main objective that needs tackling. However, the bulk of the plot is learned through the gameplay and text reading. Remember that this title will require a lot of reading to get the most out of the experience.
Your goal as the HRO is to tackle each episode’s problems with multiple ways to solve them. Once you take control, you are presented with a control panel with multiple buttons. You can call fellow crew members or people/aliens of interest to discuss the current dilemma. Each of these discussions presents three dialogue choices to help you learn more about what’s going on and unlock an option on the control panel to potentially solve the problem. The more you dig into conversations and files, the more you will unlock.
Initially, I found the experience quite overwhelming and soon lost my investment in the story due to the walls of text I had to scroll through. I mostly clicked around. Furthermore, I encountered an instance where an alien gave me a code in a riddle to disable the enemy spaceships. I knew the darn code, but the option didn’t present itself when clicking on the button to solve the problem. This led me to believe it was somewhere else hidden on my control deck, but since I lacked the patience to keep digging, I just went for a different option.
The best part of this game is the multiple ways through each problem. Some will end in failure and a game over, but you are simply placed back at the previous checkpoint to try again. Though it would be handy if the game lets you skip cutscenes you have already seen not to have to sit through the same scenes again.
The graphics are a little plain and simple. Characters look like cardboard cutouts, with simple sprite designs and dangling lifeless arms inhabiting a very plain-looking ship. There is notable attention to characters’ facial expressions, and you will encounter a diverse range of alien characters. You can learn about the aliens, planets and individual crew members in the game’s extensive codex.
The developers have done a fantastic job with their world-building. It just doesn’t feel like the best presentation for such attention to detail. I do respect that this may be due to a lack of budget from the developers. It’s an artistic tone that feels reminiscent of modern art. I think most players will be fine with it being sucked more into the story and gameplay. Others may be put off from a first impression perspective.
Conclusion: File Under Liked
Overall, I’m lukewarm on HRO: Adventures of a Humanoid Resources Officer. I liked the Sci-Fi premise and world-building, but all these elements didn’t combine to make the most interesting story. Who knows, maybe I just made the wrong choices, or I’ve watched too many Sci-Fi TV shows recently, which grabbed my attention. Still, HRO has a lot going for it, with multiple solutions to problems leading to different outcomes; if the experience hooks you in, you will want to replay it multiple times. If you fancy a good read and are tired of action games, get your best brew ready and settle in for a more relaxed game night.
Final Verdict: I Like it
Check out the free demo on Steam to see if this office space adventure is for you.