I’m a busy guy. Holding down a full-time job and helping to raise four kids doesn’t leave me with as much time for gaming as I used to have. I manage to squeeze it in, often at the expense of sleep, but working off-shifts and weekends means that multiplayer is often difficult for me to schedule, and that makes me sad because multiplayer is where games live forever, and I really feel like I’m getting a good return on my investment.
Hero Academy is a port of an iOS game, but unlike Death Rally, it only shows in good ways: the interface is clean since we’re inheriting a game designed for a device with no real buttons, and there’s already a good-sized player base since the iOS version is free to download and supported through the purchase of additional faction choices. The PC model is slightly different in that the base game costs $5, but while the iOS version comes with only one faction (humans), the Steam version comes with two (humans and a Steam-exclusive Team Fortress 2 team).
There is no single-player campaign, but there are training scenarios centered on each of the factions. This not only teaches you some great tactics to use against your friends, but it allows you to check out teams that you don’t own yet; even though you only get humans and TF2 by default, you can try out the dwarves, orcs and dark elves for free.
Hero Academy is played asynchronously, which means that I can play multiplayer with my best friend in California with an iPhone, my stable of Steam friends from who-knows-where and random set-ups. I’ve got six or seven games going right now, and while any one turn only takes a few minutes, I can sit down in the morning, load up the client and play Hero Academy for 30 minutes before work, even though no other sane people are up at 4:45 a.m. It’s great that I’m facing off against real people, even though my schedule isn’t always conducive to multiplayer.
A typical Hero Academy game for me looks like this: I tend to use the TF2 squad, because I already have a good idea of what everybody does from playing a lot of Team Fortress 2. My opponent has an archer out, two wizards and a knight with a shield bonus.I move my sniper onto an attack bonus tile, then shoot at the archer and take down about a third of her health. I shoot her twice more and down her with my third and fourth moves, then move a scout that is already out to stomp on the archer and remove it from the board. Then I reset my turns, and try three or four other scenarios until I like the results. I love that I can reset my turn before submitting and try out new strategies. It really makes the experience feel tactical, and it’s great to feel like nothing can get away from me while I’m considering my next move.
The turns can take as short or as long as you want, the tactical feel is great and the price for the base game is low enough that taking a gamble isn’t a huge issue. Robot has been eating up my gaming time lately between Orcs Must Die! 2 and now Hero Academy. And if you happen to have an iOS device, your account is shared between the two, so if you want to play with the TF2 guys on the go then you can do that. (If you want to use your laptop with your existing Hero Academy account then you can do that, too.) I wasn’t expecting a ton from a game designed to be played for five minutes at a time, but I’m hooked.
Pros: Asynchronous multiplayer means that everybody can be in on the fun, try out new factions before purchase, ability to reset moves before submission is fantastic
Cons: New factions cost on Steam more than twice what they do on iOS