Heroes of the Dark first impressions preview - "Yay to the fresh story and characters, nay to the huge paywall"

Heroes of the Dark first impressions preview - "Yay to the fresh story and characters, nay to the huge paywall"

Does getting turned into a bat sound absolutely ghastly to you, or do you actually think it's a pretty carefree life? Birsha Von Meremoth certainly thinks it's not so bad, which is probably why you can spot the main protagonist of Heroes of the Dark trying to bury a downed bat at some point in the main campaign.

Of course, this isn't exactly the focus of the strategy title from Gameloft, but it's the little things like this that endear the game to me.

Heroes of the Dark story

Set in the Victorian Era, Heroes of the Dark takes you through a war-torn world where the moon has been destroyed. Now, the last remnants of humanity must side with vampires and werewolves to take control of the Heart of Tenebris and fight for possession of powerful Moon Crystals.

What I appreciate about the game's narrative is that the characters actually have very distinct personalities, with humorous interactions and entertaining dialogue. Most strategy players may think of a game's storyline as a side note, but as a narrative-driven gamer, I've always had a soft spot for games that take the time to develop characters and weave tales even if it's not the main focus.

Gameplay of Heroes of the Dark

Being a strategy game, you can expect to see genre staples like marches to neighbouring tiles and fortifications to your base of operations. In Heroes of the Dark, your typical "kingdom" has been replaced with a sprawling mansion where you can unlock rooms and upgrade chambers for speedier resource production. Marches outside your mansion will be to collect materials for levelling up your characters, which are separated into distinct classes.

For instance, attacking brawler camps will give you rewards to boost brawler characters. You can also send out your team to collect gold from mines and Moondust from specialised mines. Now, all these take time, so you may want to use speed-up items to facilitate marches or unlock additional marches. Otherwise, patience is key.

Heroes of the Dark combat

As with any strategy game, joining an alliance is an absolute must. You can teleport your Mansion near your alliance cluster, and get useful buffs like assistance in production upgrades or stat boosts for your characters via guild donations. A guild is also useful for participating in adrenaline-pumping alliance wars.

Marches and guild wars aren't the only things your squad is good for. Your characters need to be strong enough to defend your Mansion from incoming attacks, as well as to embark on rogue-lite quests in the Catacombs for tons of cool rewards. The main campaign is my personal fave from all the battle modes, as that's where the game's narrative unfolds.

I also really love the fact that contrary to other strategy titles, you don't recruit random faceless troops to build your army. Instead, you recruit actual heroes with distinct class builds and skills, making each 5v5 squad battle an absolute thrill.

What's the appeal?

Of course, you acquire these heroes from your typical gacha pool, and the summons rate here is simply terrible at the moment. This is where the huge paywall comes in - every summon and every speed-up upgrade seems to be pushing you harder and harder to spend real money in the game. Everything just feels very pay-to-win, and that just ruins everything that I love about the game. I mean, I've been playing for a week now, and I haven't even gotten enough complete shards for a single Epic or Legendary Hero.

Still, I can honestly say that Heroes of the Dark is the first strategy game that actually kept me genuinely interested, mainly because of the storyline and the fact that you recruit unique heroes as opposed to random troops. While I adore Real-Time Strategy games, an RTS isn't the same as a strategy title with economy and resource management on mobile - but despite that, Heroes of the Dark is actually surprisingly enjoyable. I love the setting and the dark, moody visuals too - it's just a shame that it's not exactly F2P-friendly.

Of course, all this may change upon the game's official launch, which will bring other tweaks just in time for Halloween. So overall, Heroes of the Dark is a refreshing take on your average mobile strategy title with its unique narrative and even cooler character designs. Here's hoping the huge paywall won't be too difficult to scale once it's officially released.