Words with Friends rekindled a fascinating game mechanic: asynchronous game play. Back in the early days of the internet, chess players would send their moves to opponents via BBS messages, email, etc. and wait patiently for the next move. Before that, it took even longer to play a game such as chess because partners would send their move through the mail. Thankfully, for our impatient current generation, the “wait and play” mechanic has turned serious games such as Scrabble and chess into more casual-paced experiences that still offer the same intensity as sitting across from your opponent.
Presenting itself with charming characters, Hero Academy is a turn-based game that should make any strategy gamer melt with joy. Two teams take turns battling over the field, either aiming to kill the other teams’ troops or the enemy crystals on the field. A variety of units can be placed during your turn and moved around the board, split into three categories; support, offense and defense. Each turn consists of five actions. Once they’ve been played out, you submit your turn to your opponent.
The balance between the different characters (and teams) and learning how to properly work them is one of the biggest joys of Hero Academy. Each character has a very specific role it plays. At any given time, you have six units or items to place during your move. The developers made the game more unpredictable by keeping your “tray” (like in Scrabble) filled randomly as they are used. It can really mess with your grandiose-plan when you need a healer but don’t have one available at the time. The board is also littered with powerups to take advantage of, and can be real game-changers. Hoarding the attack square with a ranged unit can devastate the other team.
The additional classes spice things up if you opt to buy them. Each caters to a different play style, with my favorite being the Dwarves. The Dwarves have a few characters that dish out powerful splash damage to enemies surrounding your target. The Dark Elves I didn’t do so well with, but they focus on regenerating health over time or as they damage the enemy (I destroyed him with the Dark Elves… that wraith is a beast- editor). The Tribe are a very offensive team, with various strength buffs and a healer that chain-heals teammates.
Being an “at your own pace” game has it’s upsides and downsides. The biggest perk is being able to walk away and do something else while you wait for your opponent to make his or her move. The biggest flaw to this method of play is sitting there tapping your foot while you wait. This game can be highly addicting, you see, so at times I had it open staring at the screen in anticipation. Since there is no full-screen option, it sits in the background and notifies you when it’s your move during any of your games. Yes, like Words with Friends, you can have dozens of games going at once.
If you get bored waiting, Challenges are included to let you get better acquainted with the teams. These are puzzles that make you think carefully about the available moves. Much like chess, there are many options available to you every turn. These Challenges help you by giving you one way to play things out correctly, thus teaching you valuable strategies for when you are playing competitively.
Hero Academy came onto the iOS scene earlier this year, developed by Robot Entertainment (remember our recent-review of Orcs Must Die! 2?), and was built under the same formula as games such as Words with Friends. You can play the game for free, but after every move their were ads. Unlike Words, though, you can buy new teams to play which also removes ads.
Recently releasing on Steam, Hero Academy isn’t free but includes the special Team Fortress 2 team and has zero ads for $4.99. So you get two teams to pick between, and have the option to buy the other three through Steam for $4.99. It’s a little steep when compared to the iOS versions, which run $1.99 each, but the quality of the content is still worth a meager $4.99. The real shame is the increased prices for the other classes, especially considering everything is tired to your log in. That means you can play on the PC while at home, and take the battles with you on your iPhone.
One of the biggest strengths Hero Academy has is the ability to play opponents cross-platform. I was playing colleagues and friends from my PC while they were out playing on their iOS device. The game has a strong install base already, so finding a random opponent never took long at all.
For even the most casual strategy gamer, Hero Academy brings a deep, competitive game to the table that anyone can learn and enjoy. Being able to play your friends on both Steam and iOS is a strong selling point, but the price differences between the two platforms was a little disappointing. That said, this game has constantly been running on my PC as I anxiously wait for the next move.
- Cross-platform, asynchronous game-play
- Team Fortress 2 team is boss
- Lots of achievements to get
- Ignoring the iOS prices, $4.99 gets you a game with unlimited replayablity
- $4.99 per team is a little much, especially compared to the iOS price structure
- A complete distraction from work when you get a lot of games going