Clickers as RPGs are slowly becoming a thing. The grind of your average JRPG can be easily boiled down to a single repetitive action where power-leveling is concerned and it’s this ‘see the numbers go up’ approach that leaves a sense of satisfaction when playing your average title in this relatively new genre.
There’s still a long way to go in squeezing the sense of progression and satisfaction into the life of a fairly minimal and (by design) endless gameplay loop however. Bee Square Games are the latest in a growing line of mobile developers to try and boil down satisfying RPG combat into a more casual friendly experience.
Graphically the game uses a vibrant and fluid 2D western animated style that gives the whole game a feel akin to that of a Saturday morning cartoon or perhaps an the ‘Asterix’ comics. There’s a typical fantasy setting and the usual caves, fields, volcanic environments that make up the background locations, and characters start with peasant-like visuals. Upgrading characters changes their graphics each time however, and that dwarf holding a bar-room table like a shield soon transforms into a fully clad knight with an impenetrable guard. Monsters also animate nicely, though the variety wears thing by level 100 or so. Menus, skill trees and animations for special attacks all use the same animated style and look great, making the game a real visual treat.
Sound is sadly a weak spot for this title, with the music being well looped but lacking in variety and the sound effects slowly turning into a drone rather than helping to accent play. Each of the nine characters on offer have several voice samples recorded for them however and these add a great deal of charm to them as individuals. It feels like a more complete sound package could have covered for the lack of narrative in a game of this kind, but ultimately this falls well short of being an engaging soundtrack.
Sadly there’s little in terms of plot given in the game itself. Each character has clearly given motivation and a reason to be out questing, but this is given in the form of flavour text and not through a consistent narrative. It’s forgivable for a game in the clicker genre, but ultimately it does let the RPG side of the experience down when you can’t get as involved as you might want, especially given the huge amount of time the game demands from a player to see it completed.
Gameplay sees the traditional ‘tapper’ or ‘clicker’ mechanics alive and well, with the player faced with an unlimited amount of enemies who assail him/her in waves of ten followed by a more challenging boss-like encounter before grinding on. Initially you can only tap, which causes an elemental attack based on one of 3 special rings you have equipped to trigger. These are themed around thunder, fire and ice and each control slightly differently, making use of a shared bar along the bottom of the screen that charges as you tap. The thunder ring triggers a massive lightning strike when its full before resetting it immediately, fire is stronger in general but overheats if the counter fills and will need a cool-down period, whilst ice acts a little like Mega Man’s attacks, charging when held to unleash a flurry of powerful attacks in a storm-like fashion. You will start the game with only the thunder ring available and unlock others for subsequent playthroughs as you progress. Killing enemies racks up coins that you can use to buy heroes, with the game featuring nine but only allowing you to field five at a time. These are very different to each other and each have skill trees to unlock using more currency that power them up greatly. Equipping three items to a hero (pulled at random from chests) allows you to level them up a class, and this plays into the games replay mechanics. Character levels and progress can be reset to gain shards that can be used to craft stones that give persistent static boosts, but their class and items remain as well, giving a good feeling of power gain over successive playthroughs. Early levels will be a slow grind, later you’ll see them fly past at speed. A shop also opens for each play through to sell time altering and auto-clicking items that speed this up as well. The monetisation of the game comes through in that chests are slow to appear, with one every 3-5 hours a day and items pulled being random. You can of course pay to draw these faster and get better items from higher cost chests. Alongside the main game and its rewards for meeting landmarks (the game clearly shows you how many quests you’ve completed and how many are left to go in total) there’s a timed series of trials that also unlock new characters and other achievements. As with most casual games of this type, the characters continue to work and progress while your away, giving large pay-outs when you finally do return. Sadly there are other issues that can reduce enjoyment, and despite several updates since launch the game isn’t massively stable when returning after a long period, potentially losing you an amassed amount of gold simply because the game quits before it can pay out and starts a new offline period.
Overall, Almost a Hero is one of those titles that will appeal to players for a limited period, wearing thin sooner for some than others. Those that stick with it past the first hundred levels will probably be those who want to unlock all the games items and see everything it has to offer, but many will give up before that point. The visible end-goal however does give players something to aim for that is clearly missing from other clickers. As a free game we’d recommend downloading and giving it a try, but perhaps hold off of spending any money on micro-transactions until you know you’re in it for the long-haul.