Book of Heroes, by Venan. A review, and a FAQ:
Book of Heroes by Venan, in conjunction with Recharge Studios. A game review and a FAQ by Tobias D. Robison.
My review is UPDATED again! January 10, 2012. The game is getting better still. I've made some minor changes, and added a section on game strategy, near teh beginning of the FAQ section below.
Here’s a review, and a FAQ, of Venan’s Book of Heroes, a turn-based, fantasy role-playing game on the iPad (or iPhone, etc). I’m a writer as well as an experienced RPG player, and I have some handy advice for you. Please consider reading my fantasy novel for grownups, which is available as a book, an audio podcast, and in all eText formats. See: www.ravensGift.com . At that website, you will also find my advice on many other iPad games.
Are you spending too much time sitting at your computer?
may be delighted to read my new help-yourself book, Quantum Walking to
available in all eformats at Smashwords.
Are you spending too much time sitting at your computer? You may be delighted to read my new help-yourself book, Quantum Walking to Fitness, available in all eformats at Smashwords.
Book of Heroes will be a terrific value for some of you, because you can download it free. If you can ignore the many temptations for in-game purchases, you can play it free. I think the game compares favorably with other iPad games that cost around $5.
Heroes is basically a single-seat game, but it has a social aspect: you can gain game rewards by interacting with other players over the web, and by persuading others to play the game.
If you decide to try the game, a word of advice: at first the game seems painfully linear, with no opportunities for strategy. But that’s temporary. You will soon be making hard choices about gear and skills, and careful choices about what to do next.
Before I list the Pros and Cons, here’s one aspect of the game that will be a strong Pro for some of you, and a strong Con for others:
There is little “adventuring” in this game. You do not waste time plodding across world-maps to find stuff, and to complete quests. There are a few simple maps, but you spend most of your time in continuous combat inside “dungeons” (game areas). When you complete a quest, your reward is instant, or it may take a few seconds for you to go to the place where you will get your reward.
+ Thoughtful combat
+ An excellent, concise game manual
+ I have experienced only one bug, and I believe it is easy to avoid. (And Venan may have fixed it.)
+ Good screens help you understand your character’s abilities and needs.
+ The game gives you clear indications of how much progress you are making on each task.
+ You are forced to make choices about the abilities that diversify characters. Replaying the game with different choices can be very attractive.
+ The visual simplicity of the game, and its relatively simple combat system, probably mean that it does not require a lot of battery to run. (I have not tested this.)
+ There is one extraordinary aspect to combat that – for me – makes this game special. I will describe it below. This special aspect of combat involves your expenditure of HP (life points) and (EP) “Energy”. It will limit, to some extent, how addicting the game can be, provided that you are careful about your in-game purchases. (So far, I have made only one.)
+ You must be online to play, even though, 99.9% of the time, there seems to be no online interaction.
+ There is no video, just stock pictures and animation.
+ The “Monster” artwork is okay, but not exciting. The artwork is reused for similar monsters.
+ You will often have to kill many monsters using the same, same-o skill-sequence in combat. (But let’s face it, that’s true of most RPG games. Realistic video just makes it harder to notice the repeated battle sequences.)
+ Lots ANDLOTS of quests have been added. This is no longer a CON: There are not enough quests at some of the higher levels (including level 11). (Venan wrote to me that they are working hard to add more quests.)
+ You can only “run” one character at a time. The game does not have multiple “save” files.
You can spend many, many hours of game play to reach the game’s end.
Heroes is a 1X/2X game, not an HD. On the iPad, it looks excellent at 1X. At 2X, the images are still very good. I always play at 2X. I imagine the game is excellent to play on an iPhone.
If I were awarding zero to five stars for a turn-based RPG, I would score it:
**** 4 stars if video is not important
*** 3 stars if video IS important.
The lack of video in the game means that little effort has been wasted in presentation; the programming instead went into the combat features, the special abilities, the gear, and the way that monsters battle you. The monsters have their own special abilities which they use on you, and you have to decide when it’s worth paying to heal yourself in the midst of battle.
When you start the game, you can select from two genders and three professions. Note to all developers: why not have more than two genders, when (as in other games) there are non-human characters? Use your imaginations!
Strategy in this game begins early. You earn coins from killing monsters and completing quests, and you can use your coin to buy better weapons and gear. In some RPG games, it rarely pays to buy gear, because what monsters drop is better (and free). In Heroes, I believe the correct strategy is to upgrade your gear with purchases, frequently. You have to strike a balance between better offense and better defense. If your character has too much of one and not enough of the other, combat will be more costly.
There’s another tricky aspect to managing the coins you use to buy most of your gear; you use the same coin to buy healing potions. If you want to play fifteen, thirty or sixty minutes at a time, you will need healing potions. If you buy too many, you’ll have a hard time buying better gear. If you buy too few potions, you may have to leave a dungeon unfinished. You also have a great incentive to fight effectively, to minimize your need to heal.
As you gain promotions, you get ability points that you can invest in various skills. Here’s how the game forces you to diversify your characters: You get one point per level to invest in skills. (The game forces you to spend your first four points on the first “tier” of four skills.) You can invest up to three points in each skill. After you level up for a while, a second “tier” of four abilities becomes available to you, and there is a third tier later on. You would need sixty points to “train” all the skills to their strongest, but in an actual game you will have twenty skill points or less.
You can focus on learning a few skills in depth, or you can build a character with many relatively weak skills. I tried an in-between course, learning a number of skills while developing a few in depth.
Sometimes you will have five or more open quests to perform. The game advises you how challenging they are, but I think that in this case, the game’s advice is not very accurate. You have to make your own decisions about what to do first. Sometimes there is synergy in quests. For example, if one of your quests is to kill twenty goblins, this is a good time to perform another quest that requires you to enter a goblin camp to steal something.
For most of the game, the play mechanism is very straightforward. You enter an “area” (dungeon). You “work your way” through this area by facing one, two or three monsters at a time. You and the monsters take turns choosing to use an ability or strike a blow, and the speed (of creatures and gear) governs the order of the actions. After a while, you kill the monster(s), get a rewarding drop of some sort, decide whether to continue in this area, and if you do, you fight again.
The only real “adventuring” consists in finding areas within regions, that you ought to explore. (The game helps you to find relevant areas, also.) Sometimes you are given a vague quest, such as: Kill a dozen Rath’een. Then you have to remember which area is teeming with Rath’een, or you have to hunt around the maps to find such a place.
When you fight monsters, they chip away at your HP (your life points). To keep from dying, you have to drink healing potions. You’ll learn from experience, and you’ll make sure you have an adequate supply of healing potions when you enter an ‘expensive’ dungeon.
You spend EP to enter game areas, and sometimes you spend more EP to keep exploring an area. You can run out of EP. The developers are tempting you to keep buying EP, but you don’t have to. You can just wait, as I’ll explain.
You will recover an EP (up to your permitted maximum of perhaps 12), every four minutes or so.
You will also recover a nice chunk of your HP, every five minutes or so.
Here’s a description of combat to give you a feel for how HP and Healing are used: to enter some swamp, you paid 7 of your 12 EP. You have 900 HP. You meet a monster two levels above you. By the time you kill it, you have only 600 HP left. Next, you face three monsters at once. By the time you kill one of the three, they have saddled you with double “weakness” and “sundered armor”. You clear these three debilities with a cost of three energy potions. As you fight the monsters, your HP drops below 400. You drink a potion to get 500 HP back. You may have to fight twenty more monsters in this area, to achieve some goal. Might you run out of potions?
These observations bring me to the bizarre and special aspect of Heroes: in the midst of combat, you can just close your iPad, or turn to some other application. In about an hour, your game will be exactly where you left it, except that you will have your maximum HP and EP back. If you are less patient, you can go away for ten minutes. When you return, you will have a little more EP and HP, enabling you to fight some more, before you have to pause again.
This is kind of fun. In fact, Heroes encourages you to play ten or thirty minutes at a time, in between all the other aspects of your real life. Heroes fills in the cracks, pleasantly.
One more note about combat. There are differences in how the monsters respond to you, based on their own skills. I hope you will pay careful attention to them in combat, and you will learn to make subtle adjustments in your own abilities to fight effectively. Here’s one example: some monsters are good at dodging my attacks. They are likely to dodge my first blow, and then not dodge for a while. When I fight these monsters, my first attack is a small one. I hope to get their dodge move out of the way, and then hit them with my most powerful attack.
Finally, here is the bug I mentioned above: When you are in a dungeon, if you use your iPad for other apps, you may fall out of the dungeon and have to pay to get back in again. The worst case would be where you pay 10 EP to enter a dungeon and then fall out. Venan says they are aware of this bug and hope to fix it soon. They say they have a fix for the 10 EP case, in the current update. I think I have a workaround for the general bug: When you wish to leave the game, click on the gear icon in the upper right of the screen. Then choose ‘Options’. Leave the game on the options page, and you will be able to resume in the dungeon when you return to the app. (This always works for me with the recent game upgrades.)
END OF REVIEW. BEGINNING OF THE FAQ:
Please consider reading my fantasy novel for grownups, which is available as a book, an audio podcast, and in all eText formats. See: www.ravensGift.com .
Are you spending too much time sitting at your computer?
may be delighted to read my new help-yourself book, Quantum Walking to
available in all eformats at Smashwords.
Here is some advice about playing the game.
There's a lot of detail about the game below, but first, the fun part: a way to plan your game. If some of the game terms I use are unfamiliar to you, they will be explained below.
shields that you slowly gather in the game are valuable. The game
“trains” you to spend them by making you use them in two important
quests, early in the game. You can use shields in many ways, but after
those first two shield quests, I suggest that you hoard them for a long
time. The most valuable way to spend them is to buy “Ancestral” gear in
Majerio’s shop, after you reach level 11.
There’s a ‘gear’ icon at the top right of the screen. Tapping it leads you to a screen with three choices. Tap “Options” and then “Help”. Safari will open a manual on how to play the game. Read it! It is brief and very well done. I will repeat very little of what’s in the manual.
When your character dies, you are inconvenienced (unless you spend five shields at once, which is probably a poor use of shields); you are transported out of the current dungeon, and you must heal. You cannot “save” the game before attempting something difficult. (The death penalty is just bad enough that you will try hard to avoid it.)
You may think it is bad for a game to give you no opportunity to “save”. When you get used to the play of Heroes, you will see that “saving the game” would not be much help. The game works very smoothly without requiring you to remember when it’s a good time to save.
You begin the game in a simple map of the main village. You click on locations you wish to enter. Generally, there will be an exclamation mark on a location of interest to you. When you exit this map, you will see a map of all the major regions in the game. Again, you click to enter a region. Each region has a bunch of locations (I call them areas or dungeons) where combat will start if you enter them. The “Help” manual explains about some important variations in these locations.
Sometimes you will hunt through these maps to find a location, but mostly, you will waste no time clicking through them. Many locations are off limits until you reach a proper level.
Occasionally you are given vague instructions to do some killing, and it’s up to you to find where the appropriate monsters are. I suggest that as you enter each new area, you make a note about what creature type is in it.
At higher levels in the game, you may need to “level up” due to a lack of quests. You will probably want to kill monsters that are not too weak, in order to get decent XP. Again, you might make notes about dungeons, to simplify your search for sparring monsters.
That’s it; that’s the adventuring. If you hate what many games make you do – travel back and forth on maps for minutes at a time – you will love Heroes’ maps.
Tracking Numeric Totals:
The game keeps track of six totals for you:
XP: This is standard. You collect experience points by killing monsters and completing quests. When you have enough XP, you gain a promotion to the next game level, and you then need more XP. Promotions apparently improve your fighting skills, and also give you more maximum HP. Promotions also unlock new dungeons to explore, and allow you to get more quests.
EP: (The game calls this: Energy.) You can only have a small number of EP. You recover them over time, or you can buy them with real money. Some exploring requires you to spend EP.
Hero points: you get get hero points for killing monsters and completing quests, and acquiring titles (that is, performing “feats”). You use Hero points to boast about your success to other players online. Your Hero score is essentially your game score. To see your Hero score, go to the Mucky Duck Inn and look at the “Leaderboard.” (My first character reached level 14 with a Hero score of 6341.)
Coins: You use coins to buy weapons and gear. You can buy coins with real money.
Shields: You get shields from some promotions, from acquiring titles, and rarely from completing quests. You can buy shields with real money. You use shields to recover from death without being removed from your current quest. You also use shields to buy weapons and gear. To some extent, the shield-bought items are similar to what you can buy with coins, but many shield purchases are special “Ancient Gear”. Ancient Gear IMPROVES in stats as you gain experience levels.
Hero tokens: These NO LONGER look a lot like shields. You get them for performing special tasks that must be completed on the day they are assigned. You can see your total, and spend them, in Daedelus’s Hero Store at the training inn.
Buying and Selling at Majerio’s:
At Majerio’s store, you buy everything with coins or shields. You can also sell gear you no longer need, and sell gear that monsters dropped. The store’s stock often changes. I believe it is worth saving up a lot of coin to buy expensive items.
At Majerio’s shop, you can always compare an item of interest to what you are wearing. Comparisons can be difficult! Would you rather have an amulet that gives you +30 defense, +40 haste, +17 Melee, or +25 Crit? You’ll have to work this out for yourself. Hint: If you can’t decide which of two similar items is better, consider the “level” of the item. A level 8 shield is probably better than any level 6 shield.
Here’s a hint about buying the Ancestral Gear, the gear that improves as you level up: Some of these items scale up from levels 1 to 10. The other ancestral items scale up from levels 11 to 20. Think twice about buying the 1-10 items if you are, say, at level 8, 9 or 10. You might do better to wait, and buy the appropriate Ancient Gear at level 11.
Buying from the Temple:
You buy potions at the temple.
The temple can sell you special blessings for a few shields. I believe this is not the best way to spend shields, unless you desperately need an edge to perform a quest. The temple can heal you (500 HP) for 100 coin. This is a great deal, because they sell the 500 HP healing potion for 200 coin. They sell other potions as well.
When you buy potions at the temple, its display will not tell you how many potions you have. Check your inventory screen first, before you buy in quantity.
Buying from Daedelus’s Hero Store:
If you perform the regular daily quests, you can build up a large collection of Hero Tokens. Check out this store, but take your time deciding what to buy. The higher-priced items are probably more useful.
Most daily quests require you to kill a certain type of creature. If the quest tells you where to look for that creature, bear in mind that there might be more of these creatures elsewhere. It’s a good idea to try to remember where you’ve encountered different kinds of monsters. You can get a reminder by offering to enter various areas, and seeing (before you enter) how their contents are described.
The Character Sub-displays:
During the game you will often tap on the character icon in the upper left corner to view six sub-displays that tell you almost everything you need to know about your current situation:
Equipment: on this screen, you review your gear and can change to other gear you are carrying, if you are not in combat. (Hint: you are not in combat when the game asks you whether you want to continue or leave a dungeon; make a quick change before you “continue” and face the next monster.)
Stats: Shows your current XP and what you need for your next promotion. The screen also shows you the value of the plusses you have acquired in your gear selection: How your ‘Melee’ value affects damage, what your ‘Crit’ score is and what it means, etc.
Abilities: Lists the abilities you have chosen and shows their value, according to how well you have trained them.
Quest Log: Lists your quests, their difficulty, and your progress in completing them.
Feats: This is a most interesting screen, and at first, it is a little hard to understand. In essence, each feat is a quest you have been given at the beginning of the game. When you complete it, you will receive the number of shields and Hero Points shown. For example, after you kill 50 bandits, you will be a “Bandit Cutthroat” (a title), and you will receive 150 Hero points, and one shield. On this screen, gold progress bars will show you your progress toward all these feats. You may feel that there’s no point tracking your feat progress, but suppose there’s an item your really want to purchase for more shields than you have? You can find a dungeon where your killings will help you to complete a specific feat that yields you more shields.
Inventory: A full list of everything you are carrying. Click ‘details’ for detail, and to compare each item to what you are wearing. Hint: To see a full list of everything you are carrying but NOT wearing, go to Majerio’s shop and offer to SELL.
Pay Attention during combat!!
The good news about combat is that it is more complex and sophisticated than it looks. Over time, you will pick up the subtleties and hoard your hitpoints better, allowing you to play more before reaching for that next potion.
Monsters can saddle you with weaknesses, and you must decide when to clear them. Personally, I could not see any differences among the many weaknesses, except for combustion (really, really dangerous, I think). But the NUMBER of weaknesses you have is significant. My practice is to carry a number of energy potions, but I rarely use them. I just fight on, with whatever weaknesses I must bear.
That brings up another thing to watch in combat: little clocks show you how soon the various weaknesses, plus the abilities you have cast, will go away. If you have the “vanish” ability, for example, you will want to recast it as soon as it disappears; if you remember to notice. The clocks relate to the most complex aspect of combat: the amounts of time required for each action. By considering how fast your actions and your enemies are, you can fight most efficiently. Efficient fighting is important, because it helps you to minimize your use of healing and energy potions.
It can be hard to decide what to do with some of your abilities. I chose to learn “Snare”, and then many hours of game play later, I was embarrassed to realize three different things it was good for. (I’ll let you figure that out for yourself.)
You will probably have a number of abilities to attack your enemies with, and you will have to watch combat carefully to decide what to use when, and what is the best order to use them in.
Watch your HP! You do not want to heal too often, so you will prefer to wait until you are 500 or more below your max. But you risk dying if you let your HP get too low. You need to get a feel for how much HP you can lose in a round of combat, to know when you are at risk of dying. The game will warn you when your HP is low, but after a while, it usually will NOT warn you in time. You’ve got to keep an eye on your HP.
Look carefully at what monsters drop when you kill them. Otherwise you may have to look through your entire inventory to find the last thing dropped, to see whether you want to wear it. More generally, be careful to pick up the droppings after combat. It’s easy to click ‘continue’ and lose the chance to pick up a reward.
Here’s another example of
thoughtful combat: suppose you are facing three monsters at the same
level. You can initially attack them with a “collective”
attack that injures them all. “Life” bands atop each
monster will show you what percentage of their life you have taken
away. Suppose that one monster seems less injured than the others.
That probably means he has more life points. If you have a way to
disable him, you should do that, while you try to kill the others.
Suppose that one monster seems to have less life than the others. It
probably has fewer life points, so you should consider killing it
To summarize: During combat, I watch my HP; the list of current weaknesses and abilities on the screen; the health of the monsters; the state of those little ability clocks; and I watch the the abilities that monsters have cast on themselves. If I begin to smite without continually watching all these, I’m going to die, or else I will have to heal too often.
When you choose abilities, one hard choice is whether to learn ‘collective” weapons (that can attack two or three opponents at once), and whether to learn them in depth so that such skills will have solid value. I use collective weapons, but I put most of my ability points into weapons that I can use in every combat.
There is an elegant use of collective weapons. Suppose you are fighting two monsters. That means that in each combat round, you hit one of them, and they all hit you (subject to how the little clocks affect their speed). Suppose further that the monster you are attacking is almost dead. The right way to kill it, if you can, is with a collective weapon that will at least do some damage to monster #2 while killing #1.
There is one monster ability that scares me, and I “clear” it very fast: combustion. I’m not sure, but I think that a monster with combustion can take 250 HP from you in a single round of combat, even at monster level 10.
The Cost to Enter Dungeons:
You pay EP to play most dungeons. You may have to pay several EP up front, and in some cases, you have to pay one EP preceding each additional combat. Remember that you have an infinite supply of EP! You just have to wait sometimes, to acquire more of it.
Several dungeons require 10 EP to enter. The 10 EP dungeons are less expensive than they look, because you never have to pay to go to the next combat. There are ten combats in each of the 10 EP locations, so you are simply paying 1 EP per combat, in advance. (Be careful, don’t get killed there; you’ll have to pay again to re-enter.) The tenth combat in a 10 EP dungeon may cost you several potions.
The 10 EP dungeons have a treasure chest on them in the map. By trying to enter them (without paying), you can gauge what’s in them, and whether they are too hard for you. The treasure at the end of these dungeons is a piece of valuable gear, but if you wait to enter a 10 EP dungeon until it is easy for you, the treasure at the end will no longer be of value to you. (I believe that some or all of the 10 EP dungeons drop a variable final treasure. You can get a ‘feat’ title, and a shield, for fighting through some of them five times, and you will get different rewards each time.)
Well, that’s it for now. Enjoy the game, and please consider reading my fantasy novel for grownups, which is available as a book, an audio podcast, and in eText form. See: www.ravensGift.com .
Please send comments, questions and corrections to: tobyr21 at gmail.com .
Get my new book, Quantum Walking to Fitness at Smashwords