So begins Hero World, the newest Facebook game from Rockyou, the publisher also responsible for dark horse hit Zoo World.
At its core, the game resembles nothing so much as a superhero-themed version of Mafia Wars, where you click buttons to perform missions, draining your energy to earn money and power points. These can, in turn, be exchanged for new equipment to make your hero more powerful (and better looking), new hideouts (to generate yet more money), new vehicles (to access new areas and missions), more powerful abilities and attacks, and more.
The early missions task your hero with some decidedly un-super heroics like "teach kids how to use a computer" and "help old lady across the street," but as you level up, you'll move on to slightly more appropriate tasks like taking out drug dealers and tracking down car thieves.
You also get to feel more heroic in battles with low-level Necroverse goons. These battles play out like a traditional turn-based role-playing game, complete with quick animations to show attacks landing on your opponents, and vice versa. There's a bit of Pokemon-style elemental strategy to these battles, too -- if your opponent is aligned with fire, for instance, you can use a water attack for extra damage and extra protection for yourself. My one gripe is that way too many attacks -- easily a third -- end up being total misses, slowing down the battles and messing up the pacing. Aside from the constant stream of goons, you can also occasionally take on larger bosses for better loot, or take your hero into the Arena to battle real people for prestige on the leaderboards.
Where Hero World sets itself apart from Mafia Wars and its clones is in the Adventures and Epic Battles. In the former, you work your way through a slowly unfolding map, performing a rapid-fire series of missions and battles as you hunt for treasures and try to track down the big boss at the end. Unlike the rest of the game, your health and energy don't refill automatically over time during these adventures, adding some important strategic decisions to each step (do I have enough health to take on that next goon, or should I try to go the long way around him?). Random ailments and hidden treasures keep things slightly random and make the adventures much more engaging than the rest of the game.
Then there are the Epic Battles -- timed conflicts where you and your friends can join together to attack an incredibly powerful enemy. Coordination with others is key to succeeding here, as it's tough (but not impossible) to win with just your own attacks. Even though you and your friends are often attacking at separate times, with minimal communication between you, these epic battles still make the game feel more, well, epic -- like you're working towards something bigger than just your own selfish goals. There's a bit of friendly competition here, too, as the friend that does the most damage in these Epic Battles gets a better chance at receiving the best loot.
The best thing about Hero World is the sheer variety of things to do. Out of energy from doing too many missions? Risk your health in a few battles while it refills. When you get bored with that, go on an adventure or dive in to help your friends with Epic Battles. Or go shop around for new gear and abilities. The game does a good job of presenting a series of new goals and achievements that seem just out of reach, until, before you know it, you've stair-stepped your way to a pretty kick-ass hero for yourself.
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