Robot Entertainment has a gift when it comes to creating video games. They don’t just make games; they create fun works of art that capture everything great about being a gamer. Their iOS game, Hero Academy, remains one of my favorite iOS games of all time, thanks to its art style, level of depth, and overall fun factor. When they announced that Hero Academy was coming to Steam with cross compatibility with the iOS version, I pitched a few tents in anticipation.
What is Hero Academy, you ask? You must be new around here. If a Tactics game and Chess got funky under the pale blue moonlight, their baby would likely come out looking a lot like Hero Academy. Hero Academy is a two-player, turn-based game with the goal of defeating your opponents by destroying all their characters or crystals. It sounds simple on paper, but the depth of strategy that can go into each move is almost overwhelming. You’re only given five moves per turn, so you better make them count.
The art style is very cutesy and somewhat reminiscent of Team Fortress 2, which may be why the recent addition of a Team Fortress 2 team fits in so well. The game is played in a window with no full screen mode available. Well, there is a full screen mode… but it’s not exactly what you’d expect. The game window is considerably small and surrounded by the user interface, with the match selection on the right. It makes sense given the game’s nature of ending a match and quickly going on to the next, but I would still prefer the entire map to fill my screen.
Think you’re the best player at Hero Academy? Ha! Think again! You can put your skills to the test in the challenge mode, where the most skillful players attempt to defeat opponents in a specific, predetermined way in a single five-move turn. Some challenges are easy while some will have you banging your head against your desk. This will keep you occupied when you don’t feel like playing with humans, but the fun will run out fast since there are only seven challenges per Hero Academy team.
The Team Fortress team is exclusive to the Steam version, but once you buy the game the Team Fortress team is instantly available on your iOS device as well. Even if you don’t plan on playing the Steam version more than the iOS version, I think it’s worth the $5.00 just for the team. The Team Fortress team is really fun and the units play off one another as they do in their actual game. The Medic can Über and heal units, the Pyro can do an area of effect attack, and the Spy is a sneaky bastard that can quickly take down an enemy unit with a backstab or two.
Don’t have all the teams? Then you aren’t getting the full experience. Each additional team, with the exception of the Council and Team Fortress 2 (which are included), cost $5.00 a piece. If you already bought some teams on the iOS version of Hero Academy, you’re in luck! Teams purchased on iOS are unlocked on the Steam version and vice versa. You don’t have to buy the same team twice.
There are several tutorials in Hero Academy. One is a proper tutorial that teaches you each aspect of the game through gameplay interaction. In addition to that, there are three other options that aren’t quite as useful. Upon clicking the tips video button, you are redirected to the video on Youtube. I found this to be lazy, considering that the tips video in the iOS version is embedded within the app itself. Speaking of lazy, the game guide is in plain text. It’s not really a problem; I’m just being nitpicky since the game itself is so wonderful. It’s just a shame that the extra bells and whistles don’t share the same type of commitment.
To be fair, the game itself does have an amount of unfortunate issues. There is a bug where units are unselectable on the toolbar, preventing players from selecting units to place on the battlefield. This bug makes playing the bugged out match impossible. The game is also plagued with frequent crashes and lag. Hero Academy completely crashed on me, to the point where it wouldn’t allow me play, a total of five times within my first twenty minutes of playing it. This was prior to launch and the number of bugs, lag, and crashes has been drastically reduced since then, but the same issues and nuisances will still pop up from time to time.
I was called a hacker for being in possession of invincible units. At first I thought it was a kid upset that I handed his ass to him in the most violent manner, but I ended up receiving a couple more “hacker” messages from other players as well. I finally decided to ask a player about what he’s experiencing and he told me that some of my units aren’t selectable and some don’t take damage, even if he empties all his unit points into attacking the weakest of foes. These bugs are a major issue for a game that is based around skill and unit control. Luckily, the frequency has been reduced to the point where the game is playable.
Despite a number of bugs and cosmetic issues, Hero Academy is a game worth checking into. Hero Academy brings a unique take to turn-based games and it will leave you addicted and waiting impatiently for your opponent’s next move.