Available On: PC (Steam, GoG, Epic Games Store)
Played On: PC (Steam)
Like many strategy game fans of the 1990s, I have nothing but fond memories of the Heroes of Might and Magic series, and HoMM 3 remains one of my all time favorite video games. Many developers have been chasing that brass ring for over two decades, for better or worse. Hero’s Hour takes a unique approach as an indie spiritual successor, shamelessly lifting the entire adventure map exploration from the HoMM series, while replacing the turn-based tactical combat with an auto battler of delightful chaos.
Heroes of Might and Auto-Battling
If you’ve never played a HoMM game, Hero’s Hour is a turn-based strategy game where you control a kingdom of fantasy heroes and creatures. Your heroes explore the map, battle neutral enemies guarding treasures, and eventually run into enemy factions and armies that must be wiped out.
Your home base is represented by a castle with upgradable buildings that produce units, bestow buffs, grant spells, and other powerful effects. Hired heroes can field units and explore the map, with a certain amount of movement points each day.
The adventure map does a wonderful, if shameless job of emulating the colorful world of HoMM, with piles of enticing resources, treasure chests, spell shrines, and artifacts dotting the map, guarded by enemy creatures.
It’s not until engaging with an enemy force that Hero’s Hour completely switches gears from its progenitor. Whereas HoMM provided methodical, turn-based, hex-grid battles between armies represented by single unit stacks, Hero’s Hour is more like an auto battler. A stack of 20 goblins explodes into 20 individual goblin units, gleefully marching across the battlefield firing their weapons. The top-down battlefield fills with dozens, if not hundreds of adorably pixelated units at once, all attacking each other with little input from the player.
Initially I was wholly put off by this overly simplified approach to tactical combat. HoMM’s turn-based combat was one of the things I love about it, warts and all.
But after the initial shock I dug deeper into unit synergy, hero skills, and spells to find that much of the strategy was more behind-the-scenes. Which units and upgrades I fielded, which skills I took when leveling up, and when to use my limited pool of mana and spells are critical components in many battles.
Balancing ranged units with melee units, and using powerful spells can be the difference between victory and defeat, though just as in HoMM, a straightforward strategy of overwhelming force can carry me to victory as well. Hats off to Hero’s Hour for providing an AI that’s capable of holding its own, however, an area that HoMM often struggled with.
What’s most impressive is how this little indie game is stuffed full of content, starting with a staggering 11 factions.
From the the demons of Pyre to the aquatic creatures of Tide, each faction has their own unique buildings, units, upgrades, heroes, and skill trees. Tide can summon elementals to the battlefield, Wild can overgrow mines to defend against threats, Pyre can teleport their demons into the enemy with a fiery explosion, and Decay can convert living creatures into undead armies.
Taking a cue from Heroes of Might and Magic 4, each faction has pairs of units at almost every tier, creating interesting choices between unit growth for each week. Unlike HoMM, I’m not locked into my choice, easily swapping back and forth.
At launch the game includes over 40 maps in six different sizes, as well as a map editor and random map generator, creating a staggering amount of replayabliilty. Each match includes advanced difficulty sliders and numerous options to fine tune the experience to your liking. An extra skirmish mode lets you focus solely on battles between certain units, using a point-buy system. The only thing Hero’s Hour lacks is online multiplayer.
Hero’s Hour has not been rated by the ESRB. Although the pixelated graphics are cute and the violence is heavily animated, there’s still a lot of blood that gushes out with each attack.
As an old school HoMM fan, I’m still not completely sold on the change to auto-battling for combat. It’s a shame, as I love every other aspect that Hero’s Hour improves upon. On the flip side, Hero’s Hour plays much quicker and, (on the surface) more intuitively than the classic series it borrows so heavily from, making it a worthy addition to the genre.