The iOS platform seems to go through a tri-annual upheaval of game fashion. New ideas, art styles, and ways to exploit the mobile platform, from the likes of Angry Birds to Draw Something, pop up with alarming regularity. This year, Robot Entertainment had the honor of leading that charge with its multiplayer strategy title Hero Academy. Its welcoming art design and accessible-yet-deep asynchronous combat are now available on PC via Steam. What's more, it makes a surprisingly great fit on this platform, but it does so by remembering that it works best as a mobile title.
At its very simple heart, Hero Academy is a fantasy-themed strategy game that requires players to manage their best with an undetermined assortment of tools, thereby blending the best of Patton and MacGuyver. Players choose a race, from humans, to dwarfs, elves, ninjas, orcs, or (thanks to Steam) the Team Fortress characters, and set themselves up on a 9x5 grid to do battle. To achieve victory, players have to either destroy the opposing team's crystal (of course), or outlast and outwit their opponent until all of their respective characters and items have been exhausted.
Each player starts with a random assortment of six characters and power-ups in their action bar, and receives five action points at the start of a turn. By setting avatars on the board, moving, buffing, and attacking, players use up one point equal to each single action. With each decision, players get to see how their action points are being used, and if they don't like how things have played out, they can reset the turn and experiment again.
The ability to play out a turn as many times as desired before moving the game forward isn't just a nice tactical perk, but a way to balance the random allocation of units and resources. There are times when Hero Academy stiffs players on items or units that would be beneficial in a jam (and vice-versa), but the counter to this is that careful players who take time to weigh their options and make the best of what they have will walk the path to victory more often than not. As a result, matches can take quite some time, from hours to days, depending on how seriously one's opponent is taking their turn. It can be kind of annoying to endure that wait, but this too is mitigated by having several games going at once.
Hero Academy's art style is bright, well defined, amusingly animated, and generally terrific. It has no trouble communicating all of the visual information one needs from an engrossing strategy style, and though it plays with very well worn fantasy tropes, there's really no room to criticize its visual design at all. It does what it needs too and looks quite good doing it.
Hero Academy is simply excellent. It's a pitch-perfect port on the PC, yet you couldn't be blamed for wondering why such a perfectly suited title for mobile came to PC at all. Hero Academy acquits itself in this regard by tying all games across both platforms to one player account. This means that when players sign-in to the PC version, all games they started on their iOS device carry over, and vice-versa. This is perfect for games that go on for long periods, in and out of the home; allowing players to go where they please and taking their teams with them. Plus, since the PC version uses push notifications, it's a great game to keep minimized in the corner while performing other tasks. That is, until the time comes to ruminate on your next move.
Hero Academy on PC might not be totally necessary, but it remains a great bit of asynchronous warfare. What it boils down to is the best of strategy gaming- a title that's light and welcoming for players who want a quick tactical fix, and also an involved, sometimes hellishly meticulous war of wits and attrition.