What happens when someone combines the turn-based strategy of Civilization with the fast-paced action of an auto battler? You get Hero's Hour, a newly-released game that is a serious threat to your free time.
Hero's Hour is a turn-based strategy game with an auto battler combat system. It's been in public Early Access development on Itch.io for over a year, but it's only recently picked up a greater amount of attention with a Steam and GOG release. What I found is a game that, despite its looks, offers up surprisingly deep combat and tactics.
More Civilization Than Age of Empires
Hero's Hour is a little difficult to categorize at first glance. Is it a real-time strategy game? A turn-based game? The answer, in a sense, is that it's both.
While you can send out armies on the map without them, heroes bring powerful abilities to bear.
You'll start out your adventure with a hero, a handful of units, a town, and some resources. You'll have to manage three separate aspects of the game: Town development, resource income, and your hero's progress.
Your town is the center of your civilization. First and foremost, this is where you produce units, additional heroes, and unlock special abilities specific to each faction. You'll also need resources to fuel construction and unit creation; you can get these resources by defeating neutral Regiments and capturing Mines.
The heroes, however, are the centerpiece of the game. While you can send out armies on the map without them, heroes bring powerful abilities to bear. You'll need them -- combat is a complex affair, and intelligent use of a hero can turn the tide of battle.
Awesome Auto Battles
Hero's Hour handles combat with an auto battler system, but any fan of the genre can tell you that there are very few pure auto battlers. Players are often able to exercise some level of control in combat. This game certainly does not disappoint on that front.
Yes, you can totally let your army and the opposing army beat the snot out of each other with no intervention on your part. That would be a tremendous waste, though -- clever movement and positioning of your units can help them better survive a battle.
Your hero, however, is the real cornerstone of your army. There are dozens of passive skills that can power up your troops behind the scenes. There are also dozens of spells that can be actively used in combat; these spells can buff allies, debuff enemies, cause damage, and everything in between.
An Amazing Variety of Choices
Your tactics in battle are just one part of the equation -- there are a lot of decisions to make throughout the course of the game, starting with which faction you're going to play. Hero's Hour offers 11 factions in total for its Steam Early Access launch and there is very little crossover between units.
Each and every faction has its own unique strengths and weakness. Want to command a handful of super-powerful creatures? There's a faction for that. Want to flood the field with cheap units? There's a faction for that, too. There are, in fact, several factions for both of those opposing strategies. Regardless of what you plan, your choice of hero skills and the "adventure buildings" you find on a map can open up even more opportunities for novel strategies.
It took me a fair amount of time to find a faction, hero, and overall strategy that fit my play style. I still haven't quite settled on a favorite despite 28 hours in the game, and I suspect that it would take most people at least as long to explore the factions and get comfortable with this game.
Hero's Hour Still Has Room to Grow
The grand Steam and GOG debut of Hero's Hour will likely impress fans of strategy games, but that's not to say it doesn't have room to grow. It certainly has its rough edges.
While there is a tutorial, there is a complete and total lack of any campaigns. It seems like they're in the cards -- one of the custom map names suggests as much -- but the only available experience for the Steam and GOG launch are skirmishes on maps. Thankfully, there are a fair number of maps available to tickle your fancy, supplemented by the ability to create your own custom maps if you feel so inclined.
Hero's Hour offers you a lot of information about nearly every aspect of the game, but it doesn't do a good job of explaining the strengths and weaknesses of each of the 11 factions.
There is also no true online multiplayer. Hero's Hour does offer hotseat multiplayer and Steam Remote Play functionality, but that's a band-aid for the lack of true online multiplayer. The real-time nature of battles means that a poor connection between you and your opponents might not have the most ideal experience.
Finally, there's the learning curve. Hero's Hour offers you a lot of information about nearly every aspect of the game, but it doesn't do a good job of explaining the strengths and weaknesses of each of the 11 factions. You're going to have to do a lot of studying to figure this game out, though I suspect that that won't be a downside for strategy game fans who put hundreds or thousands of hours in games like Heroes of Might and Magic.
While these issues can be annoying, Hero's Hour has a lot of potential. Its developer Benjamin "ThingOnItsOwn" Hauer already has a solid yearlong record of consistent updates on Itch.io. If he keeps up the momentum and polishes things up a bit, I can see Hero's Hour becoming a mainstay for strategy game fans.
TechRaptor previewed Hero's Hour on Steam Early Access with a key provided by the publisher.