Hero Academy

I suspect I probably wasn’t alone when I raised an eyebrow upon upon hearing that Robot Entertainment, developers of the Orcs Must Die! series, were bringing its iOS success Hero Academy to Steam, complete with nifty cross-platform play and an all-new team based on Valve’s own ridiculously-popular Team Fortress 2. But is the promise of mowing down Clerics with The Heavy alone enough to overcome the game’s presumably simple game-play? As it turns out, Hero Academy is pretty much perfect for the PC platform.

Hero Academy is a team-based strategy game, though it could also be compared more directly to classic board games with set layouts. Either by wiping out the enemy resources or destroying their main energy crystals, your objective is to defeat your human opponent in as few rounds as possible, each consisting of five unit actions. Unit types are randomly pulled from a pool of reserves, underlying the conflict with an element of luck but also enforcing strategic-thinking. There are also a bunch of items which can easily upset the balance of a match, like the crit-inducing Jarate, the Runemetal attack-buff and all manner of potions.

Like most mobile games, Hero Academy is incredibly easy to pick-up, but don’t let that fool you into thinking there’s no depth at all. Each unit has a number of situational attributes that change the way they play; for example, the Wizard can zap foes with chain-lightning that targets additional nearby units, while the Soldier and the Knight can knock enemies across board squares. A complete description of each unit in play can be accessed by simply right-clicking on them, so there’s little chance of information overload while assessing move strategies. And if you’re the kind of player who just has to make sure each move is perfect, don’t fret – you can play out as many attack possibilities as you can think of before submitting a move to an opponent.

As such, you’ll probably be ready to face-off against human players as soon as the tutorial is over but if you want some practice there’s also the “Meet the Team” Challenges mode where you’ll be tasked with completing objectives in only a single round. Working through these tasks not only does an excellent job of teaching you the ins-and-outs of each team, but it also forces you to use the abilities of each class efficiently under pressure, as each challenge has (as far as I can tell!) only one solution. Speaking of the teams, this is one area where the game is a little more blatant about its mobile roots; additional teams with all-new abilities can be purchased as DLC for £3.99 a pop, unless you pony up for a discounted complete pack. To be honest, I’ve already had a ton of play-time out of the two groups the game ships with – the well-balanced Council and the charismatic Team Fortress 2 Heroes – so the base value is still there. You can, additionally, purchase avatar packs for more cash, though they’re purely aesthetic and absolutely not necessary.

Hero Academy does a lot well on the gameplay front, but my favourite feature is possibly the background play. Very much evoking the “play-by-e-mail” days of early PC shareware, you can minimise the game client and receive a taskbar notification when it’s your turn in any match running. Heck, you even can quit the game and resume a match later, though this sometimes leads to “Draw Something” syndrome, wherein your opponent will forget about playing for days. Still, this makes Hero Academy absolutely ideal for multi-task play. Expect to leave the game open for hours as you play five concurrent matches while supposedly working on something more important… like writing a review!







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