If you have ever heard me speak about mobile gaming, you probably understand that I am fairly sceptical about any original IP’s which have come out for the platform. So much shovelware has just inundated gaming due to the casual nature of the games. They are bite-and-spit games with little or no replayability or thought put in to keeping a user hooked. The better games generally tend to be ports from other platforms, which doesn’t necessarily denote that a game is mobile at all. Final Fantasy 5 will always be a SNES game, no matter how many times it has been ported. Mobile games just feel simplistic, shallow, rushed, and cheaply made.
Book of Heroes changed my mind about the kind of potential mobile games have.
I started playing this game with just as much scepticism as I began playing any other pseudo-MMO or badly-made flick-control game, but I quickly realized that Venan had done something new and creative with the game I was holding in my hands. Book of Heroes is fun, social, and completely free. At about 6 months since starting my first character, I am still pouring time into this little gem.
When I say the game is completely free, I mean to say that a user can conceivably go from level 1 through 30 (the current level cap) without spending any money at all. There is a purchasable in-game currency, but the top-tier equipment is absolutely not available using this real-money equivalent. This means that while people spending cash on the game can accelerate the process of achieving higher might, (one of the game’s metrics of overall character power is called might,) you cannot simply buy the end-game items and equip them without really earning them.
The gameplay is simple when compared to other MMORPGs, though a little more complex than the average mobile game junkie might be used to. The combat in this game is a turn-based system in which you select one of the abilities you have trained from a drop-down menu and executing it. It is really no more than double clicking through a rotation of attacks like any other MMORPG. You earn one ability point per level and then allocate them into your class’ ability tree. There are currently only three classes to choose from and they are just a little unbalanced with the Warmage being the most powerful. The balance issues don’t generally come into play as there is no PvP mechanic in the game. Venan has officially stated their plans to add PvP once the classes are all balanced against each other, though as of yet it is still just talk.
Quests are all over the place in this world. You get several patrons who will feed you as many hunt and find quests as you could possibly want. The story attached to the quests are generally uninteresting, so I always find myself skipping the story to get back to grinding. Aside from quests, there are guilds to join and raids to endeavour on. Raids make up most of the core gameplay as users are rewarded with one of several kinds of currency (called valor) after successful completion. This valor is an exclusive reward or raids and cannot be bought with real money.
One complaint I have is how the game is energy-based. Each attack will use up a certain amount of energy and once you are out of energy you cannot play the game anymore until either recharge or spend money to buy more. There are ways to increase your energy bar, but you are afforded very little at the beginning of the game.
The enemies are visualized as two-dimensional cards, giving the game a unique look, and have various abilities themselves. There are also large unique boss cards at the end of raids and dungeons which tend to be more difficult to take down than their smaller counterparts.
The way most of the game is set up around guilds, raiding, and the acquisition of valor makes this game an interesting social experience. I find myself in the middle of a raid and then getting caught up in guild chatter, only to realize later that what I should be doing, rather than yammering, is hitting the monsters to progress the raid.
I recommend this game not as a spectacular example of an MMORPG, but as the single-best example (which I’ve personally played) of the genre on a mobile platform.