Hero Academy: A Gamer’s Game
It’s rare these days to come across a game like Hero Academy. Forget the fantastic artwork and animations, the deep-rooted strategy, and the disgusting amount of polish and detail put in by the developers. Hero Academy stands out because it avoids the typical freemium artificial game progression roadblocks, formulaic addictive hooks, and excessive social spam, and retains gamers simply by giving them a fantastic way to spend their precious time. Sure, I’ve come across some amazing iOS games in the past, games that have been on my phone for over a year now, but nothing quite like this. Nothing that legitimately competes for my time when it comes to PC/Console gaming, nothing that makes me want to play every day simply because I flat out enjoy it, and nothing that makes me eager to spend money in the app for the sheer hope that my minimal cash contributions will fuel more updates, races, and features.
Naturally, when Hero Academy was first put in front of my face, I was a tad skeptical. Freemium plus hard-core multiplayer-only strategy game seemed iffy to say the least. My initial thought being that those willing to shell out cash will have an obvious advantage over those who don’t. Paying for power has been a hot topic in the gaming world since the takeover of the freemium model. Nothing can get the super-vocal gaming minority going more than knowing that the hard working freeloader is being taken advantage of by their lazy paying for power opponent. Now don’t get me wrong, I have no issues paying for applications, but I typically have issues with games artificially forcing me to make purchases to either compete or advance in my game.
That being said, Hero Academy stays as far away from this approach as possible. The game is free, and currently, there are four playable races. As a free player, you are given access to the Council to test the waters. You can continue to play as the Council as much as you want, for as long as you want, without ever having to drop a penny into the game (you will see ads every turn similar to Words with Friends Free), but I would highly recommend dropping some cash on the additional races.
Hero Academy is basically a Chess/Heroes of Might and Magic hybrid in which you asynchronously play against your opponent to either annihilate their army or their power crystal. The game starts with a randomly chosen map (Currently, there are 4 maps available) and a 5×9 grid game board with one or two power crystals placed for each team. You have an “inventory” of 28 playing pieces which can be used throughout the game. The inventory consists of your heroes (wizards, ninjas, bazooka-wielding-epicly-bearded dwarves, demon priests, shamans, and bloodthirsty Orc chieftains), weapon and armor upgrades (sword, shield, helmet), and one time use power-ups and spells (scrolls, potions, fireballs, hunks of meat). You are given five action points per turn in which you can place heroes on the board, move your heroes, cast a spell, equip them with items, and of course destroy your foes.
Each race has different hero units with unique abilities, stats, and utility. For instance, the Council’s melee fighter, the Knight, has incredibly high magic and physical defence with average mobility and attack power. He does have a knockback ability that pushes your foe back a square, which adds to his utility. The Dark Elves melee fighter, on the other hand, has far less health and defence, but makes up for this with high mobility, a life-stealing attack, and the ability to hit multiple targets in a single strike.
It’s quite impressive how Hero Academy offers such unique playstyle differences amongst the various races, yet still manages to retain exceptional balance amongst each race (Last I heard, no race has higher than a 51% win ratio). Impressive, but I guess I forgot to mention that Robot Entertainment did extensive work on one of my alltime favorite franchises Age of Empires so razor sharp game balance is all in a day’s work for these guys.
So why does this game impress me so much? It’s because, as a gamer, I see freemium games pushed out on a daily basis with many of the same tried and true formulas that really bring nothing to the table for the core gaming sector. Hero Academy offers me ridiculously exciting and competitive game play, an experience I have yet to fully receive on mobile so far, and consistently brings me new content that I want to spend my hard earned cash money on. Hero Academy is the real deal, it’s Holy Grail of freemium core gaming for me, and hopefully after reading this, you download the game and hop onboard. Feel free to challenge me anytime, my username is Zeldar, and I take no survivors.