I can't help but feel like all of my recent video game reviews have boiled down to some variant of ‘This is fine and all, but I’ve seen this exact thing done better twenty years ago, why would you play this?’. I honestly do like games and am not just a grumpy old man, I promise I do, but I really am going to have to go there again this time around.
Hero’s Hour is one of a slew of modern homages to the Heroes of Might and Magic games, a series I spent a dangerously large amount of time playing as a child. If you went outside during your childhood at all or weren’t blessed enough to have long afternoons to waste in the late 90’s and early 00’s, you might not really remember the series, but I spent countless long day playing (and inevitably not finishing) Hotseat games of Heroes III,and to a lesser extent Heroes II, so each and every aspect of them are burned for all eternity into neurons that might otherwise be able to be devoted to hand-eye co-ordination or fashion sense. Yes, HoMM has a lot to answer for.
Hero’s Hour has taken the HoMM formula and stuck to the bare bones as closely as what appears to be largely a one-man passion project realistically could. The conceit and mechanics are the same: Build a diverse little gang of generals at your home town, use their daily turn-based movement points to explore the map, gain control of production buildings, fight monsters to purloin treasures, set up supply lines and collect experience to level up their abilities, all while you upgrade your towns to produce more and better soldiers on your way to world domination by squashing all enemies in your path.
The 8-bit sprites aren’t exactly 3DO’s cutting edge 3D graphics of H3, but they’re not all that pale a shadow of H2’s overall world map, though personally I have to say I think the spritework lacks a lot of the warmth and charm of that game’s art, which really was fantastic for a game released some 27 years ago.
But where HoMM was a streamlined product to the point that each game was much the same as another, something that (as I can say with the benefit of hindsight brought by no longer being ten years old) is probably not ideal, Hero’s Hour has invested heavily into an unhealthy level of complexity. There are twelve factions (H3 has 8), each with wildly different play styles and at least eight different units (H3 has 7), each with a host of different abilities and hidden stats and interactions, and the towns are bigger (and more confusing).
.And the combat. HoMM’s turn-base hex-grid combat between stacks of soldiers could be pretty silly at times, especially if you were facing off against another human, but it could also make you feel clever and instill a sense of awe when you finally manage to field your pinnacle unit and make a mess of the enemy’s battlelines. Hero’s Hour’s hundreds of sprites throwing themselves at each other over and over admidst flights of arrows pixellated fireballs and fountains of blood and eventually winking into nonexistence, while admittedly impressive, is just a mess.
So I haven’t played that much of Hero’s Hour. Maybe it’s a diamond in the rough, but it just couldn’t hold my attention long enough to find out. But it did make me re-download my old copy of HoMM 3 (currently $3.75 AUD on gog.com, less than a quarter of a month’s subscription to the Humble Monthly), so I’ve that to thank it for, and if you don’t hear from me for a few months you’ll know why. I wouldn’t recommend that you get this month’s bundle for Hero’s Hour, but if you’ve got it anyway and you’ve been aching for a little turn-based spritey 4X fun, well, it’s still basically Heroes of Might and Magic, and it’s not even made by Ubisoft, so maybe take it for a spin.
Hopefully you feel like less of an old man yelling at a cloud than I do these days.