Monday, August 20, 2012

Hero Academy PC Review

This turn based strategy game by Robot Entertainment came to PC, exclusively on Steam, earlier this month and it nearly deserves the same treatment as the original version of the game which was on iOS (iPhone and iPad). They are both the same great strategy game that rewards players for knowing their team, knowing what upgrades do and how to best use them, and most importantly knowing how to best manage their action points each turn. Hero Academy pits two players against each other in fierce combat with five different teams that each have their own strengths and weaknesses. The PC version is mostly just a port with few changes, but it does have some improvements. I highly recommended the iOS version when I reviewed it back in January and there is a lot to like about this version as well, but let us look at in depth to see what is good about the PC version of Hero Academy.

First and foremost we must compare the two versions, especially since there are a few problems here. The iOS& versionof Hero Academy is free, comes with one team only and has ads. The rest of the teams can be purchased for $1.99 and there also options to purchase some cosmetics,likeavatars and colors. The PC version has a base price of $5 and comes with two teams, one of which is the TF2 team and it is exclusively only available on the PC version. The $5 base price of Hero Academy is justified by giving you two teams, a higher resolution than the iOS version and it is ad-free, which is a pretty good deal, but problems arise when it comes to the pricing for each team.

You can still purchase the same additional teams on the PC version, which consists of the Dwarves, the Tribe and the Dark Elves, but at a much higher cost. On the iOS version you have the option to just buy cosmetics or just buy a team, but on the PC version it is all lumped together and the only option you have for buying a new team is buying it all for $5. You can buy all of the teams and colors for $15, but in comparison to the iOS prices it is ludicrous. The $5 is justified by giving you everything, colors, avatars and the team, plus you get one unique hat for TF2, but for those who just want to the team and only care about gameplay, not cosmetics, you have no choice but to pay $5 or download the iOS version and buy the teams there for much cheaper. This pricing has upset many prospective buyers, but don't overlook a great turn based strategy game just because of it. Take a look at the game in action before I go into some gameplay details.

The new Team Fortress 2 is not as balanced as the base team for all versions of the game, the Council, but it is versatile and gives you a lot of options as a player. For instance, the medic can heal and revive, like any other healing class, but he can also super charge a friendly unit and he does some decent melee damage. There is the heavy, who wields a minigun and starts off very weak, but the more and more you use him on one turn the more damage he does, while the engineer can run around upgrading everyone weapons and doing some decent ranged damage with his shotgun. The spy and and sniper round out the team as the weaker classes who inertly do less damage than the rest and are only useful for particular situations. The rest of the teams remain unchanged from the original game and they must be since you can now play the game on your iOS or on the PC and you may play anyone on playing on either version, it is now cross platform. Furthermore, you can use the same account for each, so if you owned the game on iOS and had a couple of optional teams then all of that comes over to the PC version.

Each game in Hero Academy has you picking a team, getting a hand and setting out units. Each unit can only start from specified areas and each team starts on even ground, however each map is balanced differently and some of them have aggressive designs that put the teams within clear sight of the enemies crystals, which can be destroyed to win the match. You can also win by lasting out the other players deck and eliminating all of their units, but most matches end with the destruction of the crystals. The game seems quite simple at first, but there is a great deal of depth once you consider the various upgrades, unit types, damage types, armor types and the way each map is laid out. While every team may be not be perfectly balanced, a difficult task for any developer, they are diverse and each one has a unique feeling to it. You are also not overly punished for making the wrong moves. Hero Academy has a rewind option that lets you start the turn back over, so you may try out as many different options as you would like.

You don't have to jump into multiplayer right away with Hero Academy. There isn't any singleplayer A.I. matches, but there are challenges for each team that let you learn each units abilities and many of the teams upgrades. The challenges are basically puzzles that require you to do a specific task in one turn with a set group of units and items. They are mildly entertaining, but mainly they are just there to get you familiar with a team and they do a pretty decent job of that. The rest must be learned by playing and they make it very easy to play. You can jump in and challenge anyone on your Steams friend list who has the game, or anyone you played on the iOS version, or you may easily just have the game start a game with a random person and it is very easy to have five, ten or twenty games going at once. They make it easy to play and easy to keep track of all of your games, plus you can click on any old match and see the replay of the last turn.

Last Comments
If you are coming from the iOS version of Hero Academy it may be a little hard to justify spending $5 for one new team and some TF2 hats, especially if you don't play TF2, but it does give you one more outlet to take your turns from and the game is at a much higher resolution than the iOS version. Other than that the two versions are nearly identical and both contain the same core gameplay, which is still a blast. The PC version is easy to recommend, but when it comes to purchasing additional teams I can only recommend doing so from the iOS version of the game. It is too much of a price difference and if you only care about the teams, not cosmetics, then it is a obvious choice. Robot Entertainment didn't add a whole lot new to this version and it is mostly just a port with very few options that PC gamers would be used to, like graphical options, but if you are a fan of strategy games give Hero Academy a shot for the great gameplay that always makes you want to do one more turn.

 Violent Score: 4 (out of 5)

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-Written by Sean Cargle


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