Hero Defense is an interesting game. It’s also pretty serviceable. Don’t get me wrong, there’s elements in here that have already been done a gazillion times before elsewhere, but for the most part, Hero Defense does exactly what it says on the tin, warts and all. The game mashes RTS, tower defense, and RPG concepts together to create a seemingly compelling foundation. Fans of either genre may well appreciate what’s on offer, if indeed there’s a slight lack of depth across the board. However, even with that in mind, Hero Defense gets more right than it gets wrong, just about.
The game’s plot is relatively simple to soak up. Players are tasked with venturing a team of varying heroes through a quest that’s chock-full of danger, with the ultimate objective of taking out the world’s most powerful vampire, Count Necrosis. The game does a good job at feeding you into the basics of play via its (albeit, initial) fluid learning and difficulty curve, but soon after, there’s no holding that back. This, however, is where my first gripe with Hero Defense comes into view. I just didn’t give a shit about my team. Many of them are nothing more than generic run-of-the-mill characters.
Had the game tried harder to make me invest some form of emotion or attachment to its cast, I dare say I would have been more on edge, though as it stands, the end result was quite the opposite. The gameplay loop sees you tactically moving your heroes on the map, oftentimes in the hopes of defending an objective from incoming monsters and beasts. The enemy variation is spot-on, all of them coming with their own behaviors and patterns. This is where the aforementioned strategy is thrown into the mix, because your heroes too, have their own pros and cons to be mindful of.
Shifting your heroes around depending on the enemy pool that you’re facing does indeed feel quite empowering when a plan comes together well and you stand victorious. The game doesn’t feel too taxing to start out, keeping a neat pace and affording you the time to bond with its mechanics. Though, once the game feels as though you’ve put enough time in, it starts to shake things up. When this happens, you’ll be faced with several variations of enemies at the same time, forcing you to carefully consider exactly where you should move specific heroes to at any given time.
Each battle relays all the information that you need to understand how it’s going to unfold. Though, even with as much insight as the game gives you, you never truly know how each fray will pan out due to the game’s impressive combat diversity. Do you chain characters together to enjoy combined output? Do you take a chance and move in a character against all odds? Hero Defense knows how to put you in a tight spot, but never quite forcibly backs you into a corner that you cant get out of. On this front, this is where the game shines at its absolute brightest, and then some.
Additional extras can also turn the tides of a battle at the drop of a hat. Players can utilize build-up abilities from orbs that are collected from downed foes, which can often be the difference between failure and success. There’s also shrines to be mindful of. Shrines will up pretty much every important battle factor at will; attack damage, range, speed and so forth. Shrines are placed on set maps and will vary from one another, depending on who they back. Sadly, this is where problem #2 comes swiftly into view. There’s just not enough innovation to uphold this interesting aspect.
The overarching upgrade system is just too bare. I fully appreciate that the developer has clearly tried to make this accessible and easy to understand, but that’s, unfortunately, come at the expense of the game’s depth. Your characters’ skill trees are lackluster, to say the least, providing very little outside of basic, trope-like, upgrade systems that we’ve seen in other bog-standard RPGs over the decades. The same can be said about upping your weapon upgrades, as well as the rune system to give you that extra edge. It’s all too basic for its own good, which in the face of the decent combat system, is a letdown.
The end result here makes for an experience that feels like several isolated elements, rather then several elements running in unity. Don’t get me wrong, the systems are serviceable, but that’s all they are. They’re just present to serve a singular, linear purpose. It would have been nice to see more choice across the board, which is something that many RPGs offer by standard. Rebuilding a town to unlock new buildings and abilities sounds great on paper, but in practice, not so much. It’s not a bad game by any means, but it does fall short of greatness due to, in part, this lack of connection.
There’s a good deal of content to work through here, but not so much that it justifies its steep price-tag (it’s on offer during launch week). I dare say eyebrows will be raised at its $29.99 cost. In regards to the game’s visuals and sound, Hero Defense holds up quite well. I enjoyed the variety to the game’s environments, the game’s enemies and the game’s audio. There’s nothing groundbreaking within, but the designs that Happy Tuesday has ran with suits the theme of the game quite well, relaying a fairly detailed and well presented trek from the get-go.
Hero Defense’s gameplay systems are serviceable, at best. Credit needs to be given to the game’s decent combat mechanics, which is arguably the game’s strongest aspect. It’s a shame, then, that much of everything else within is either half baked, too basic or fails to fluidly connect to the game’s core foundation. Hero Defense is definitely a lot of fun, but it’s hardly an ambitious, nor deep, adventure.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.