Hero Academy: Early impressions from the Academy

Asynchronous competitive multiplayer games are something I’m very interested in as they are potentially a very good fit for both my gaming tastes and lifestyle. That’s why I picked out a couple at the start of last year as titles I was keeping an eye on. Skulls of the Shogun has recently been released, but I haven’t yet tried it out, but for Hero Academy, the time is now, as you can see from my raptr stats I’ve played it quite a bit over the last couple of months.

Council vs Team Fortress 2
Council vs Team Fortress 2

I’m still a beginner at it though, and it seems very interesting to me at this point in my learning curve, but I already have serious doubts about it’s long-term appeal.

  • It desperately needs an Android version (for me anyway!) or at least some kind of Steam notification app for Android, or even some basic email notifications, as async MP doesn’t work very well when you can’t play easily “on the move” and have to remember to launch it on Steam every day or so to even see if you have any turns to take. I believe this is currently it’s anti-killer-feature as it seems to have been what has killed many of my friend’s interest in it! It’s frustrating, as it seems like it would be incredibly simple to add some much better notification options to the Steam version.
  • The developers’ lack of interest in supporting competitive play, and their and so-called “care bear” mentality towards their community is another huge problem for me. Whilst there’s a fan run league for competitive play & ranking, this isn’t nearly as attractive as having something built into it & comes with all the problems associated with purely fan-run competitions. The excellent in-built matchmaking and ranking systems for online Yomi, for example, make an absolute mockery of HA in terms of competitive gaming design. I believe it’s incredibly backwards to think that ‘casual’ players will enjoy a competitive game more, just because it doesn’t have any competitive community features. It’s fine to avoid showing ranking, win/loss stats etc for those that don’t want it, and allow unranked play too, give only positive feedback to new players –  but to not even have any meaningful matchmaking or leaderboard in a game like this where it would be relatively very simple to do it, just makes me think they must be clueless. The devs’ ridiculous attitude reminds of Age of Booty – an XBLA game that was actually a pretty simple but potentially highly competitive RTS, which was instead smothered by useless care-bear attempts at ‘marketing to the casuals’.
  • Because of the developers have already engendered this lack of trust in me, the ‘pay for more factions’ model of sale worries me. I can easily see them not caring about future balance issues given their approach to other aspects of the game. Right now it seems ok, but if this game lasts a few years or something I can see them expanding it without so much thought to balance and screwing it over, either true “pay to win” style, or in a Magic DotP style – where the metagame of which teams are actually viable is constantly unbalanced by additional factions being released.
  • One thing it shares with it’s contempory iOS game Outwitters, from what I’ve read about that, is first turn advantage. In competitive play this has been mitigated, it seems, by limiting first turn action points. But it could be another balance issue I’m not realising the full effect of yet.
  • I’m not sure how much luck influences the results. First turn draw seems to be a pretty big thing to me, but I’ve not really got a handle on it as to how much it affects it.
I kinda hate Team Fortress 2 as well, so aesthetically this team really doesn't appeal to me!
I kinda hate Team Fortress 2 as well for various reasons, so aesthetically 50% of the teams I own really don’t appeal to me! (Tactically speaking, they do seem to be interesting to play however)

All these negatives aside, it still seems like it could be pretty interesting – it feels to me at the moment like there’s a load of good stuff beneath the surface here that it’s a shame the devs haven’t done nearly enough with it (yet). There’s also not much else in the async MP market for me that can compete with it (yet!).

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