Hero Academy is the latest asynchronous online multiplayer effort of Robot Entertainment, creators of the Orcs Must Die series. Asynchronous multiplayer games have become quite popular lately (especially on mobile platforms) due to players being able to make their plays at their own leisure. Instead of playing a dedicated match in real-time, players are able to make a play, perhaps wait a few hours for their challenger to reciprocate, then make another turn of their own whenever they’d like. It’s a highly flexible mode for multiplayer gaming among the more casual audiences, however, as a paid-for PC title, the experience won’t be entirely desirable for everyone.
The game itself plays well and offers a variety of strategy. Though there are a handful of different teams available to play with (and the PC versions come with Team Fortress 2 characters), players are relegated to teams of five classes: fighter, shooter, caster, support and super unit. Fighters are your close-range soldiers; shooters can attack from a distance; casters are another class of ranged attackers, however deal more varied and substantial damage; supports can can offer aid to the team using their character-specific traits (usually healing); and super units inflict large amounts of damage but aren’t as frequent as the other classes. Since Hero Academy is a strategy game, players pit their characters across a board filled with tiles, on which classes can only move within a certain number of tiles surrounding them. The game splits two spawn points for each player on either ends of the board, along with a crystal belonging to each team. There are also assault and power boost tiles that remain neutral, which momentarily increase the respective stats for the character standing on them. Victory is achieved by either defeating the opponent’s team or by destroying the opposing crystals. Hero Academy is complimented by a charming hand-drawn style that does well to depict each class of each team. Every class is distinguishable from its look despite being a different team, which helps when trying out different ones.
The music is also charming and reminiscent of a Halfbrick game. However, the downsides of the PC version come from its inability to remain completely engaging. Unless the player is involved in 10 matches at once, it’s hard to want to boot the game up and find the motivation to really play. In terms of PC gaming, generally the consensus of that audience is to dedicate that time to being engrossed in a more substantial experience. That said, the likes of Facebook could have been a much more suitable platform as this type of game is seemingly more suited towards a casual audience. Hero Academy is also available as a free-to-play title on iOS (both iPhone and iPad), which I found to be the much more enjoyable experience. The interaction is more intuitive and the asynchronous nature fits the platform. Got a couple of minutes to spare? Just make a quick play. However, due to the free-to-play model built around the game, the Team Fortress 2, Dark Elves, Dwarves and The Tribe teams cost $1.99 each, offering players just The Council to play as. It’s one of the ways this mobile version makes its money back, and the developers have promised new teams to purchase in the future. An added Practice Mode to challenge the CPU in dedicated matches or a local multiplayer option would have helped make the PC version be a nice board game alternative.
What we’re left with is a slightly underwhelming experience offered by its $4.99 price point on Steam. For that money, there’s a wealth of other, likely more enjoyable games to choose from. The iOS iteration, on the other hand, makes Hero Academy a great mobile multiplayer game and a neat little time waster. If you have an iPhone or an iPad, be sure to pick this up – but don’t forget to throw some cash towards Robot Entertainment.
Hero Academy was developed and published by Robot Entertainment. A PC copy was provided by the publisher for the purposes of this review.