Welcome to Hero’s Hour, the perfect opportunity for you to fulfil imperial dreams in a safe environment. Invade cities, commandeer resources and build up terrifying armies to amass power in a world that’s only purpose is to serve as an ever-changing battleground
Hero’s Hour is a strategy RPG that allows you to test your empire building skills in a vast array of different factions, scenarios, and maps. There are so many options available you’d find yourself struggling to see and do everything the game could offer. You take control of a faction, either by choice or the luck of the draw. It drops you in the world where you then build up your base, which can increase income, train elite troops (using money and resources), and provide spells to give your armies an edge.
One base is not an empire, though. Your goal is to grab up all surrounding structures and settlements in order to take control of a region. It’s not always a matter of planting your flag and calling it a day. There is often a range of enemies blocking your ambitions. At times you’ll be facing creatures guarding buildings like sawmills or ore refineries necessary for producing vital resources. Other times you’ll be going up against members of rival factions in order to stem the tide of invasion or do a little invading yourself.
Spoiled For Choice
Start a new game, and Hero’s Hour greets you with a list of options for your new attempt at consolidating power. There are maps of varying sizes, where neighbouring domains and their leaders can be a stone’s throw away, or across oceans. Along with these maps are even more scenarios, such as a two-kingdom tug of war. As well as a battle royale between four neighbours, not only fighting each other for dominance, but also contesting a central area belonging to none of them.
On top of the array of conquest scenarios, you also choose between factions. These differ in the kinds of soldiers they produce, innate abilities, and design (obviously). Between the maps, the number of enemies, difficulty, and factions, the amount of possibilities is insane. You could spend countless hours playing, and still have a bunch of variations to try. There are simply a lot of options for what will inevitably be a lot of different runs.
Choose a Side
When I had a look at the lexicon, which gives you some useful lore on the 11 factions, their culture, troops, and strengths, I saw just how much variety there was on offer. Every faction has three specialities. Such as the Dwarves of the Earthen being able to use gold to endlessly create soldiers, so long as they have the coin. Or the Lizardfolk of the Enclave that produces a free resource every day.
Through hours of experimentation, you can find the factions that work in accordance with how you like to play, You might want to be able to restore mana every turn, or be able to trade resources for specialized troops.
When you start a campaign you are given control of one of 22 heroes. These heroes can have a variety of skills made available as they level up depending on their class. For example, I landed a demon-worshipping Pyre who could use a teleportation spell for free every day, which caused a huge explosion around their destination point.
The Armchair General
Combat is very straightforward. Almost to a fault. Choose your troops if you’ve got more than can fit onto the battlefield. Hit start, and then watch legions crash into one another like a pair of waves. You can attack, defend, or flee when things start to go sour. Occasionally you may want to scale a wall if you’re attacking a neighbour’s stronghold. Although the more exciting elements in skirmishes often come from spellcasting.
Every run you will find yourself with a different set of spells, except for Hero-specific magic. There are comets that can rain down on you and your enemy alike. Explosions that can blow combatants to smithereens, tossing some right into the middle of your army. Spells that can summon elementals and Lovecraftian beings. There are also a couple of spells to transform opposing fighters into weaker units or just plain old frogs. Mana is limited though, so you can’t just spam spells willy-nilly.
These spells were my favourite bit of battles though, and I think a large part of that is thanks to how simplistic battles can be. Amass your army till they can steamroll your enemies then watch them absolutely demolish anyone in their way. Spellcasting helps bring some more interaction into things and gives you a bit more of a say during combat. It’s repetitive to a degree, but somehow still quite satisfying to witness. Especially in the tail end of a run, when you’ve amassed a gallery of eldritch horrors, dragons, and demons.
However, some of the complaints of overly simple wars can be alleviated by simply upping the difficulty. This forces you to put more thought into which resources you search for first, and which buildings should be prioritised. Not only this, but also what kinds of troops to stockpile, and what spells to use for invasions. Like blinding enemies so flying troops can scale walls and attack. After the cooldown, you might just follow up with a bloodlust spell and take out the poor disoriented souls.
Building For Dummies
Besides warmongering and conquest, building up your own base is also very important. It’s not like many Strategy games where you build scores of structures with specific jobs and go from a hamlet to a city. In Hero’s Hour there are preordained slots for everything you might build. You simply gather the money and resources necessary and choose which building you want first. This can be a bit of a turnoff if you’re looking for more of a hands-on experience in building and management. But if you’re just here to grow an unrivalled army, you’ll be fine.
One vital building is the tavern, which gives you the chance to recruit new Heroes. These individuals may technically be optional, but they’re actually essential for any run. These Heroes come with a couple of troops, which you can take for yourself. They can also act as stewards for your base, should a rival decide to try their luck while you’re out exploring and expanding your borders. Although most of the time I used these heroes as supply lines. Let them train and deliver fresh soldiers from bases to me, saving me limited moves provided each day. They can also be a force to reckon with on their own. If managed right you could send them out to take over one region while you’re in another.
The 8-bit style art direction of the title was a great choice in two regards. The first is that the 8-bit art style is always a pleasure to look at for me. It simply enables creative design without having to worry about graphics too much. Environments aren’t especially unique. The faction troops and strongholds are where it shines a bit more in their wonderfully distinct designs. With the number of different types of soldiers you can train, I was happy to see a good amount of design variation between them.
This leads me to the second aspect of the design that worked. The large-scale battles. There are a lot of fighters on-screen during a battle. Both in terms of number and types. the 8-bit style makes it so that you get as much action as possible on-screen without melting your hardware. Thanks to this art style we get to have our cake and eat it too.
Gameplay is fairly easy to wrap your head around, however, there is a lot of content. Troop types, factions, hero classes, abilities, and skill trees, as well as the items and treasures you find on your journey. This makes things a bit harder to perfect and master than it is to get into initially. Especially, on higher difficulties and larger maps. This is hardly a bad thing though, it just means there’s a lot more depth than meets the eye. And a lot more hours of fun than I anticipated.
If you’re into Strategy games this can be a fun take on things. Plus I’d wager it’s also a great entry point into the genre. Its learning curve isn’t steep enough to scare off newbies, and it’s got more than enough content to keep you going for a long time.