With the introduction of cheap, passive mobile games like Draw Something and Words with Friends, the attention span of gamers has been growing shorter every year. The appeal of being able to fit multiplayer entertainment in life’s quick little breaks ensures no one ever has to spend a lot of time or money to keep in touch with friends in a fun way. Unfortunately, games like these often lack depth as a requirement to keep things speedy and inclusive. Indie developer Robot Entertainment, made from some of the guts of the now defunct Ensemble Studios, believes complexity is not a necessary sacrifice for approachability. Releasing simultaneously and functioning seamlessly on both the iPhone and PC, Hero Academy brings a whole new level of intricacy without a higher dedication requirement.
The beginning of every match is greeted with what looks like a chess board. Players engage in a one-on-one, turn-based battle and each use an allotted amount of Heroes to act as pieces on the board. All with unique characteristics and strategy, some Heroes are built as tanks to get up close with powerful melee attacks while others are fragile and meant to strike from behind the front line. Figuring out the best combination and placement of these benefits is the difference between celebration and crying miserably. A limited amount of items are also available at your disposal to heal, reinforce, or strengthen your army as well as crippling your enemy’s. This all might sound good and confusing, but with a well-structured tutorial and a minimal amount of effort, you’ll be devising deadly tactics in no time.
Holding the Line
Taking advantage of a comical fantasy setting, Heroes can cast magic, wake the dead, and reap souls all in an effort to deprive your opponent of a victory screen. However, rather than making all Heroes available in every match, players must choose a team with a predetermined set of units and abilities that complement each other and cater to a specific play style. Some teams specialize in physical prowess while others might use spells and alchemy to obtain the upper hand. Every team is meticulously balanced allowing asymmetrical gameplay on an even playing field.
Not only are teams important to offer variety and customization, they’re also important to how Robot Entertainment monetizes this particular title. Hero Academy will cost you exactly zero dollars to download on iOS (i.e. get it) and only requires 5 dollars to play on a PC running Steam. The real money is made in microtransactions that aren’t essential, but enhance player options by offering extra teams and items in exchange for real life currency (much like Team Fortress 2). Speaking of Valve’s cartoon-style shooter, the Steam version also comes with an extra TF2 faction for free, all with appropriate units and abilities. This exclusive bonus is also available on iOS as long as you sign in with the same account used to purchase the title on the PC.
Team Fortress 2 Army!
Unfortunately, the game only comes with one team option on iOS and two on the PC (including the TF2 bonus). Any subsequent teams require a little extra dough. This is obviously quite a sparse offering but is definitely worth the price of admission/lack thereof. The starting team is just as balanced and enjoyable as all the other teams and is sure to make some players endlessly content. Like other classic tabletop games, the pieces don’t necessarily have to change for it to be fun forever.
The two versions work in concert with each other flawlessly. As stated earlier, matches are played a few minutes at a time as each person sends their moves and waits patiently for the notification that it’s their turn again. On the PC, the game is strictly an in-window experience and works beautifully minimized with sporadic, tantalizing turn reminders as a distraction while browsing the internet or writing a review. If business calls you away from your computer, every game can be continued on your iOS device. Absolutely nothing is sacrificed between the two platforms and ensures that matches live on no matter where you are.
This! Is! Hero Academy!
Whereas this is a godsend for people who can’t afford to devote hours of time to one multiplayer scuffle, more dedicated players might find that the feature takes away more than it adds. Winning can come in a couple different ways and it’s sometimes difficult to remember your strategy across multiple games when every turn is squeezed between a million other activities in your day. Simply having the option for a completely active match requiring both parties’ undivided attention could have added a lot for more serious strategists, but no such mode is present.
There’s no substitute for a game that embodies the timeless fun of chess infused with the spectacle and convenience of the modern age. Every piece of content is small but sound and makes for an experience that won’t soon be pushed aside. “Strategy lovers on the go” is not a term often used in gaming, but Robot Entertainment just invented the need for it. Hero Academy satisfies gamers wherever they need, whenever they need. If you have a PC and an extra 5 bucks, go for it. If you have an iOS device and no extra money, super go for it.
Seamless integration between PC and iOS | Classic tabletop gameplay | Simple rules with complex strategy
Very little starting content | Passive multiplayer only
Little David Galanter grew up in Orange County, CA loving videogames and anything else that repelled girls. After getting his Bachelor's Degree in Theatre Arts, David decided to start contributing his soft silky words to the world via online media. He currently owns a website with a weekly podcast (www.drgman.com) and is a reviewer for Default Prime!
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