Heroes of the Realm Review: For Victory and Glory!
By John Shadle (Sephorus), OnRPG Journalist
Heroes of the Realm is a completely free-to-play browser-based RPG in development by OGPlanet. The title aims to “[blend] key elements from simulation, card battle/collection, and strategic RPG genres into one hella addictive game unlike any other”. I got to take a peek during their recent open beta to see just how much trouble, fun, and excitement I could stir up.
Heroes of the Realm starts out simply enough – you're the lord (or lady!) of a province for one of three kingdoms who's been tasked with building a settlement and bringing peace and prosperity to its people. You'll select which kingdom to be a part of – each with its own bonuses – and then create an avatar for yourself before going through a brief tutorial segment. Within minutes, I'd gone from a mostly-empty plot of land to a small, bustling province, drafted an array of soldiers, and routed a local goblin menace. It was an enjoyable, if mildly rushed, introduction to the three styles of gameplay that intersect here.
Building up your kingdom is a fairly simple affair, and anyone with even a mild amount of exposure to RTS titles should be right at home here. Your Town Center lets you build various structures, each with their own function – resource generation, trade, army recruitment and management, etc. Each building can be upgraded to allow for a boost in its efficiency, provided you've met certain prerequisites, have enough cash on hand, and wait out the build timer. Simulation-genre fans might be a bit disappointed with the rate at which new buildings become available and the fact that many of the early structures aren't the most earth-shattering in utility. The game does, however, do a fairly decent job introducing and explaining each structure as it becomes available, which gives newcomers an easy-to-manage learning pace.
The card system plays a huge part in the strategy and tactics of HotR's combat, and there's enough information here to make this a theorycrafter's playground. Rather than actually hire soldiers to do your bidding, you obtain cards from the Oracle; these cards contain the souls of various heroes of old, which you're then able to send into battle on your behalf. Each card has more information to take in than initially expected, and it's fairly easy to see just how much time could be lost just in deckbuilding alone. There's a basic set of stats (two for damage, two for defense, and one for critical hits), one of five class types, and space for equipment. Beyond that, each card has a zodiac sign, which affects how well certain cards work when played together, and an elemental type, which didn't come into play early on, but seems to affect how well they utilize certain types of elemental equipment. Each card also has its own experience bar and can be leveled up the more they're used, which unlocks additional skills and lets you spend stat points to customize how they perform. Unrelated to how well each card performs is the appearance – someone (perhaps multiple someones) had a great deal of fun making some of the artwork for these cards, and it shows.
The strategic RPG aspect of Heroes of the Realm, however, turned up my only bit of disappointment, if only mildly. One of the structures you can build for your province is a Portal, which allows you to go out into the world and rid various locales of the evil that lurks there. In each area, there's a path of battles to fight through, which pits your army against some predetermined set of baddies, depending on the location you're fighting in. Each unit, player and enemy, is one of five differing types, which does passably well against its own type, amazingly well against two of the types, and is weak against the remaining two - very rock-paper-scissors in that regard. Battles were also automated, meaning that, aside from your army's formation and composition you set up pre-battle, your interaction during a skirmish was limited to the speed at which units would take turns. This wouldn't be a bad thing in some circumstances, but there were several times where units would automatically use skills on less-than-optimal targets or use a multi-target attack to take out one foe when the opportunity for more was easily present. There is an AI option menu that opens up later on for your army, so I'm hoping that issues like this can be alleviated down the road. Another mild letdown was the art and sound direction for combat. Unit types in the field have predefined looks, depending on their class, which was a bit disappointing when the art for each card would be far more varied; I'd have liked to see the personalities be reflected a bit more here, personally. Finally, and perhaps amusingly, hit sounds were also a bit generic, with a male or female grunt being the only reaction to being attacked. This might not sound strange at first, but it was a bit odd to have a swordsman go after a goblin warrior, a kobold archer, and a green slime and have all three emit the same pained, “WUGH”.
With that said, if you can forgive the art and sound issues, along with the hands-off strategy gameplay, there's a great deal of fun to be found in watching your army crush the competition – or a deep amount of strategy possible when you come up against something tougher and need to rethink your army composition. Battles are repeatable on a timer and are scalable to three different difficulties, allowing you to ratchet up the intensity on-demand and provide ample opportunity to level up some underused cards.
Heroes of the Realm isn't a perfect title by any stretch of the imagination, but given the depth that's present in the card battling system, there's ample opportunity to spend plenty of time and find plenty of enjoyment here. It's simple enough to dive into on a lunch break and feel accomplished, but complex enough, as I've learned the hard way, to completely lose track of time in a flurry of card shuffling, province upgrading, and army skirmishes. I'd like to think that proves just how “hella addicting” Heroes of the Realm can be.