One of the biggest strengths of mobile RPG Heroes of the Dark is how well it ties together and balances its many different ideas. On the surface, Gameloft's new horror-themed game appears to be juggling far too much at once, its base-building mechanic at odds with the hero collecting, its multiple currencies, and resources clashing with the simplicity of sending your heroes into battle. This is not the case, however, as not only does each mechanic work well together, each element of the game offers something that keeps you entertained. The game also runs very well on Android devices, its stability and smoothness remarkable considering its size.
Heroes of the Dark is set in the fictional land of Tenebris, one that has been taken over by the ominous-sounding High Council. The player is tasked with taking it back using your horror-themed heroes, and there are many different parts of the game contributing to this goal. Improving your mansion is one of the main tasks, the spooky building representing your base and the site where you farm for resources.
The mansion's layout is similar to Fallout Shelter's, where each room is used for a specific purpose. How you use the available space is up to you, with the player able to select from a range of rooms, with the ability to unlock more through leveling up the main throne room. The resources in question are varied, with some used to level up your heroes, while others are used as currency to level up each room.
Stamina, Gold, Moondust, and Lunar Gems are the main four currencies here, with Stamina and Gold working in the same way as many other mobile games. Moondust allows you to create crystals, another component used for leveling your heroes, while Lunar Gems skip time creating said crystals or when building rooms. The time limits are not as punishing as some games, and the Lunar Gems are plentiful enough that you can skip time quite often, keeping the game flowing. Microtransactions are also present if you wish to top up certain currencies, though this is unnecessary for progression.
Another main component of the game is battling, utilizing the abilities and classes of heroes collected throughout. Players can unlock a total of 29 characters from werewolves to vampires, using them in battles either in the campaign or through attacking camps or other players in pursuit of resources.
Battles themselves are played out automatically, with the player able to control who is sent out to fight and in what form. The addition of buffs affected by the position of certain characters on the field adds a strategy element, and the overall power level of your squad versus that of the enemy force gives a clear picture of how the fight may finish. Getting to the required power level of a campaign mission through leveling up feels satisfying. While the success of combat is somewhat tied to a grind, experimentation of your lineup and their unique abilities adds depth.
The characters are very well animated in battle and have unique offensive, defensive, and energy-related stats. In addition, characters can equip gear to improve their stats. Improvements can also be made through raising a character's level, which increases its power and rank, and enhances all stats and the level ceiling. Character classes include: tank, ranger, and support — these further the strategic element of battle and the buffs.
Interaction with others in PVP elements are present, as players can attack other mansions, and successful attacks are well rewarded. Every player can set up a garrison of heroes to defend themselves, with the ability to protect your mansion with multiple waves of characters unlocking in later levels. Players can also occupy gold mines and other resource hotspots dotted about the map, as those looking to increase their resources battle it out for control.
Guilds are also an essential and optional part of player interaction, with players able to create or join a team that comes with perks and a sense of camaraderie. Mansions can be moved to a location that suits them, with the game encouraging you to move it to wherever the other members of your guild are located. Guildmembers can also chat with one another, and there is a global chat that is constantly updated. If you don't want to talk, though, the chat isn't too intrusive, taking up only a tiny section of the screen unless fully open.
Some minor distractions
Heroes of the Dark also has many smaller features dotted throughout that keep your attention between the mansion improvements and the hero battles. In addition to the campaign, missions give you four specific tasks to complete at a time, with the reward of hero fragments, or occasionally a full hero, awarded when you successfully finish these tasks. Ten fragments make a complete hero, with 20 more used to rank up your unlocked character. You can also obtain these fragments through the summoning portal, where players can spend resources to roll for a certain number of fragments.
Events are another feature, a large, timed mission that grants you points for completing objectives. After accumulating enough to cross a threshold, these points give prizes, with many higher-value prizes. It's addictive and represents one way in which the game carefully grants small payoffs throughout the experience and breaks up the grind with frequent rewards. Finally, dungeons are a series of battles against AI forces, increasing in difficulty with little opportunity to heal your characters. They can be challenging, but the rewards here are often worth it.
Considering its scope and number of features, I had expected some drops in performance and stability occasionally, but experienced no problems with the game's running. It performed exceptionally consistently on high settings on my Sony Xperia 1, and there are four in-game graphics settings to cater to different devices. A power-saving setting is also available, and while it does result in a framerate drop, the option to slow down my battery drain was welcome. With it toggled, I was able to get multiple hours of play time without the need for a charger.
Gameloft clearly wants you to be playing Heroes of the Dark for an extended period, and there is a lot to keep you occupied. The arduous task of taking back the land from the High Council is a loose one, and there are many tasks to accomplish in the meantime. Luckily, the grind isn't boring, and there are many small victories and payoffs along the way to keep you entertained and keep the game moving forward at a decent pace.
While the many features and currencies may appear overwhelming, they work well together, and though you've likely seen many versions of them before, they are well-polished examples. The tutorial helps piece together the different components, and after you figure out how the features work together, it becomes a fun experience. Heroes of the Dark is out now on Android devices.
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