Chess can be a fun game but after a while it becomes a somewhat laborious experience. Sometimes when you reach a stalemate you need a bit of excitement to liven up proceedings. What if you could power up your pieces with potions and weaponry and taunt your opponent as you begin to pick apart their game plan? What if you played with knights and mages instead of rooks and pawns? What if you were playing in a cartoon fantasy-land against a horde of elves instead of in your spare bedroom against your mate Steve?
Hero Academy is the latest multiplayer offering on iOS from Robot Entertainment and it plays exactly as described above. Taking place on a 9×5 checkerboard and set in a non-descript but nicely-designed battlefield, Hero Academy allows players to control the humanoid Council forces or, should you choose to fork out an extra £1.49, the sinister-looking Dark Elves.
The objective is to destroy your opponent’s crystal which is located on their side of the playing field. Each player’s turn grants five moves which they can use to place their characters on the board, equip power-ups and engage in battle with the enemy. Each character and power-up is randomly generated and each player receives a grand total of 28 to utilise, with the readily-available units displayed at the bottom of the screen.
Hero Academy is user-friendly enough for any player to jump in and play instantly but does require a good deal of experience and logic to play effectively. The strategy element lies in pre-empting your opponent’s moves and subsequently preventing them. It is a challenging and rewarding experience, and players will often find themselves in a self-congratulatory mood as they successfully eliminate an enemy unit.
These units include melee-based knights, rangers, mages and ninjas whilst power-ups consist of swords to boost a unit’s attack, shields to boost defence and potions to regain health. There is even a “fire bomb” power-up which can be dropped anywhere on the board and injure any enemies in a wide radius. There are set squares on the board which, if a unit is placed on them, can boost a crystal’s defence or the attack of your forces.
Your five available characters or powerups from your total stockpile of 28 are randomly chosen and this sometimes presents a problem. If your opponent receives three powerful knights and two swords to boost their attack, they could well have a decent force to attack you with almost instantly if you have been given two weak mages and three energy potions, for example. This requires you to have a spot of luck on your side in the hope that you will receive a decent round of upgrades in comparison to your opponent and in a strategy game, luck is not a factor you should have to rely on.
The board and it’s characters certainly look pretty from the bobble-headed knights to the well-textured battlefields. The graphics aren’t exactly revolutionary even by iOS standards but the cartoon-like and understated approach to the stage design emphasises the simplicity and fun that the game provides.
The game is simple enough for new players to enjoy and more experienced players can pick up new tips and tricks as they continue. However it is still possible to have a good strategy lined up and find yourself undone by being assigned five poor powerups or characters by the game. This may encourage more spontaneous strategy on behalf of the player but an element of luck is not something gamers want to see in a strategy game.
Nevertheless, Hero Academy is a fun little game which will keep you entertained for a few hours as you plan strategies and eventually conquer enemies, but there is little available to keep players enticed beyond that. At present the game is somewhat light on features but the gameplay’s emphasis on defensive strategy will keep fans of the turn-based game coming back for more.