Hero Conquest is a new Facebook title from Broken Bulb Studios, creators of the popular Pokémon-esque Miscrits series. The game is a turn-based strategy title that targets a “mid-core” market somewhere between casual fans of titles like FarmVille and those looking for something a little deeper.
In fact, Hero Conquest errs much more towards the “hardcore” end of the spectrum, with gameplay mechanics that wouldn’t be out of place in a standalone strategic title — albeit one for newbies to the genre. Through a simple turn-based interface, players must take back a city using their growing army of superheroes and complete a variety of quests while spreading their influence as wide as possible.
The player alternates turns with computer-controlled opponents on a large, two-dimensional, top-down map. On any given turn, the player may move one of their units or attack an enemy, but not both. The enemy then gets to do the same thing, and the cycle repeats.
When attacking, any additional friendly units that are standing next to the target add their attack power together, meaning that players can gain a significant advantage over strong enemies by surrounding them. All units also have an associated “superpower” which generally attacks several enemies at once, allowing the player to get themselves out of sticky situations, but this costs Power, which must be acquired from fallen enemies.
As the players move around the map, they “conquer” each square, lighting it up and opening it up either for building or for deploying new heroes. Some squares are damaged, meaning they must be repaired before building on them. Buildings are used to produce new heroes or fill a “health pool”, which can subsequently used to heal injured heroes in the field. As the game progresses, players gain access to additional facilities which allow for more varied types of hero to be produced, opening up a wider array of tactical options.
Social features include the ability to visit friends’ maps, where players may view the territory they have conquered, heal injured heroes and even call in aerial bombardments of enemy targets to make their friend’s life a little easier. Players are rewarded for visiting their friends, so there is a strong incentive to do so — the game also regularly nags players to invite people, occasionally offering a full energy refill if they do so.
These latter aspects present something of a dilemma, and give the game a bit of an identity crisis. The gameplay is solid, fun and, for once in a Facebook “strategy game,” genuinely strategic, meaning that in theory, the game should appeal to “core” players who might not traditionally play Facebook games. But then the presence of an (admittedly relatively generous) energy system and regular nag screens to invite friends or share achievements may put these same players off, since these are often the reasons why core gamers shy away from Facebook titles in the first place.
It would be a shame if this issue caused Hero Conquest to underperform, because it’s a very good game, and one with its heart in the right place. It looks good, sounds good and plays well — in short, it’s almost a perfect example of how to produce a genuinely strategic game on Facebook that will appeal to core players. It’s just not quite there. In order to attract and retain traditionally “core” gamers, developers need to figure out a monetization and social strategy that does not rely so heavily on social game conventions such as energy systems and nag screens.
As a new title, Hero Conquest is not yet listed on our traffic tracking service AppData. Check back shortly to follow its progress by MAU, DAU and user retention figures.
So close to being an ideal Facebook strategy game for “core” gamers, but just not quite there.