[gameinfo title="Game Info" game_name="Hero Academy" developers="Robot Entertainment" publishers="Robot Entertainment" platforms="PC (Reviewed), iOS" genres="Turn Based Strategy" release_date="August 2012"]
Hero Academy, a cutesy RTS by Orcs Must Die! creators Robot Entertainment, may just be the most deviously addictive game I’ve ever had the pleasure to play.
Taking influence from classic turn-based strategy games such as Advance Wars and, not so surprisingly when you think about it, Chess, Hero Academy is one of the first games in a long time to completely take over my life. I simply cannot stop playing it.
Let the battle commence!
Hero Academy’s gameplay is easy to learn, but difficult to master. The basic aim of the game is simple. Either destroy the enemie’s crystals, or eradicate all of their units. Each player receives 5 “action points” per turn, and every time you move a unit, attack an enemy unit, place a new unit onto the arena or equip an item, you use up an action point.
At the start of each turn, you are given a mixture of six items and units. After 22 turns, this supply runs out, and when units and items become scarce, the game becomes incredibly tense.
You see, every move counts in Hero Academy because this isn’t a real-time strategy game. It’s a turn-based strategy game.
Those expecting a fast paced battle akin to RTS’s such as Starcraft or Company of Heroes are going to be disappointed, as when a player completes their turn, they’re expected to go do something else for a bit while they wait for their opponent to send their moves back to them.
Although this sounds a little counter-intuitive (and to be honest, when you first play the game it does feel about as well-paced as a game of e-mail chess) it actually creates a game that requires you to put quite a bit of thought into all of your moves in order to gain the upper hand. It’s incredibly easy for the tide of battle to turn at a moments notice due to the powerful effects items such as armour and specialised “spaces” have on your unit’s abilities, making games short despite the fact that you could playing one (albeit it, for short intervals) over a large number of days.
The action point system also allows you to re-do all of your moves (that you’ve performed during that specific turn, at least) an unlimited amount of times, allowing you to try out a number of strategies before you commit to a specific one.
The game also encourages you to have multiple games on the go at once, so while you’re waiting for one opponent to consider his next move, there really is no reason why you can’t be fighting twenty other people at the same time.
It’s a great system, and a refreshing change of pace compared to modern strategy games. I personally found myself running the game constantly in the background of my laptop whilst working, as the game would notify me via my system tray whenever I had a new move to make.
Although this meant that I’ve got nothing substantial done since my review code showed up, it made for a fun distraction from my daily routine without being incredibly invasive. At the end of the day, you play Hero Academy at your own pace, and it’s not uncommon (or frowned upon) for players to only check if it’s their turn to move once a day.
There are 5 different teams in Hero Academy, each with their own specific playing style. Although each team has certain “core” classes (a healer, a warrior, a long range unit etc.) they all work differently, suiting various playing styles and tactics.
However, not all of these teams are available at first, and despite the game’s low price tag (£3.99 at the time of writing) you only get the core human team and the Steam exclusive Team Fortress 2 team when you purchase the game. If you want access to the game’s three other teams, you’re expected to fork out an additional £3.99 for each. Sure, it’s a low price to pay for a game as in-depth and as enjoyable as this, but it’s hard not to feel a little cheated at first.
Still, the game supports asynchronous play over both the PC and iOS versions of the game, and seeing as the iPhone and iPad versions of Hero Academy are completely free (allowing you to play as the human team for a grand total of absolutely nothing) you can buy the PC version purely as an opportunity to play the game on a big screen, as well as receiving the TF2 team to use on all devices.
It’s also worth noting that games started on your PC can be continued on your phone, meaning that you literally cannot escape from Hero Academy’s addictive wrath.
Hero Academy is one of those rare experiences that, despite their initial appearance, manage to be one of the most addictive and in-depth games you’ve ever played. In a manner similar to games such as Plants Vs. Zombies and Advance Wars before it, Hero Academy is a game that will consume your free time without you even noticing.
Its gameplay is superb, its pace is surprisingly refreshing and its ability to continue the same battles on both PC and iOS is an astoundingly simple addition that makes the game truly portable in every sense of the word.
If you’re a fan of turn-based strategy games, whether it be anything from Worms to Chess, you will absolutely adore Hero Academy, and I can therefore give you nothing less than my full and hearty recommendation.