Test Your Mettle in Hero Academy

I love turn-based strategy, and tactics games are just the thing to scratch my itch for scheming. Even better that rough-housing against the CPU is facing off with a real person. Hero Academy, new to the Mac from iOS, has my back on this one. With lots of maps and character teams to pit against friends and randomly matched players, there’s plenty to love here.

Let’s see whether Hero Academy can pass the test or if it flunks out.

Exam Time

You’ll need to set up an account if you want to match up against other people, but if you’ve already been playing Hero Academy or any other games from the developer, you can use the same login you already have. Hero Academy will notify you whenever anything happens in any of your games, and you can make yourself available for random matches against opponents. The game is playable without an account, but a lot of the fun comes from playing against real people.

Start an online battle against a random opponent.

Start an online battle against a random opponent.

Click the big Play button, start a new game, and wait for Hero Academy to match you up with another player. You can choose the team you play with or let the game set you up with a random team of humans or elves. That’s about all the choice you have going into a new game. The boards are random, and so are the units and buffs at your disposal.

Hero Academy is a two-player, turn-based tactics games. That means you get a turn and then the other person gets to move. All of your characters are spread out on a grid, and you move them around at the start of each turn. You get a total of five moves each turn, and you have to ration those out to move your guys around, attack, and apply buffs. You win when you’ve destroyed the huge crystals the other team is protecting.

There are familiar faces in the puzzle mode.

There are familiar faces in the puzzle mode.

If playing against other people you’ve never met isn’t your thing, you can stick to the challenges. These don’t work like the matches against online players and won’t just be a regular tactics game. Instead, these are short puzzles, with limited resources and moves; you’ll usually only get a single turn to complete the challenge puzzle. Hero Academy gives you a bunch of different puzzles to play, all split up by character theme. There’s even a collection of puzzles that feature the characters from Team Fortress 2; yeah, I could barely handle it, either.

Pencil’s Down

The meat of the game isn’t the puzzles, though. You’re here for the online play. That’s what makes Hero Academy what it is. I originally played Hero Academy on iOS and was sort of addicted. My friends and I were constantly at war, and when I was waiting for them to take their turns, I’d play random strangers. Hero Academy is a lot like a board game; you go around the board, and you each get a turn. There’s no real time limit, though, so you or the other player can take just about as long as you want.

Destroy their stuff to win!

Destroy their stuff to win!

Which is fine when you’re getting notifications on your phone. You can pick up and put down your phone to play whenever you feel like it, and no one really expects you to sit hunched over the tiny screen, playing a turn-based game for hours. A computer is a lot closer to a console, though, and while there is plenty of room for casual games, when you sit down to play a game on your Mac, you’re likely going to want to be there for more than just a couple of minutes and a single turn. Because your opponent is likely to walk away while waiting for you to make your move (and vice versa), it’s hard to pour as much attention into Hero Academy on the Mac as you might like to, addictive though it may be.

Don’t Forget Your Lunch Money

The game is fully playable when you download it, but there are in-app purchases you can buy to make it better. I’d argue the IAP are closer to DLC, the downloadable content you’d find on a console or Steam game and for which you’d be, more or less, happy to pay. Like any game without DLC, you can play and have a lot of fun without the DLC, and the game is completely winnable without any additional purchases.

Cards on the table, the Shaolin series looks boss.

Cards on the table, the Shaolin series looks boss.

What you do get with in-app purchases is pretty nice though. There are more teams to unlock, and they’re arguably better. You can download extra single-player challenges, too. The rest of the in-app purchases are pretty much cosmetic, allowing you to customize your avatar or change your armor colors, but that’s not unheard of in DLC for even AAA console games. If you don’t want to spend any money, though, you can stick to the free game and still have a blast.

School’s Out

Hero Academy is a thoroughly addictive turn-based tactics game, and there just aren’t enough of those around anymore. It’s a lot of fun, and though the in-app purchases can definitely make it a better time, it’s still a great game as a free download.

Unfortunately, I’m not sure how well the turn-based nature works on a computer unless you’re playing with a friend and have an appointment to sit down together. The solo puzzles are great but aren’t the main reason to play. Still, with enough games going in Hero Academy, you might not even notice you’re waiting on a player’s next move, and if you happen to log in at the same time as your opponent, you’ll have a lot of fun passing Hero Academy back and forth.


Incredibly fun tactics-style game. Face off against friends or strangers, and try to work out the single-player strategy puzzles.