Book of Heroes is an iOS game from Venan Entertainment. It’s been available for a while now, but has recently had a prominent marketing push, largely via regular ads in the Facebook mobile app. It’s a free-to-play game that carries additional in-app purchases of hard currency, available now from the App Store as a Universal app.
Book of Heroes began its life as a free-to-play role-playing game with some rudimentary social features such as leaderboards and the ability to invite friends. Over time, it has expanded considerably into a massively-multiplayer experience in which players can chat with one another in real time, form and join guilds, and engage in cooperative “raids” in an attempt to prove their guild’s supremacy.
Basic gameplay in Book of Heroes is kept deliberately simple for quick and easy, mobile-friendly play. The player’s view of the game world is via an overhead map of either the whole world or the specific “zone” they are in, each of which is divided into a number of specific locations. The “town” location allows players to purchase new equipment for their hero, train their abilities after leveling up, and pick up quests. Once quests have been accepted, the player must go out into the larger world and visit the appropriate areas — which are clearly marked with an exclamation point if they are relevant to a quest — before engaging in combat with the monstrous forces threatening the land.
Combat in Book of Heroes has a considerable amount more depth than many other similar-appearing text-based role-playing games on mobile. Rather than battles simply unfolding automatically according to the respective combatants’ attack and defense statistics, players must choose which of their abilities to trigger and when. Each ability has a “charge” time in seconds, and while the selected skill is charging, the enemy monsters are also charging up their own skills. Combat becomes a matter of weighing up whether it is more beneficial to get in a quick hit before the monsters can strike, or take some damage and unleash a more powerful attack.
As the player progresses through the experience levels, they have a lot of choice over how to develop their character. Skill points are awarded at leveling up, and these may be spent on various abilities, each of which can have up to three points funneled into them. There are four “tiers” of skills, each of which has four abilities, and a prerequisite number of skill points must be spent before the next tier unlocks. This means that players gain new abilities at a good pace rather than suddenly becoming overpowered — though it’s worth noting that the speed of leveling up in Book of Heroes is considerably slower than in many other similar mobile games, which may prove offputting to players seeking more instant gratification. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, however, as most community members have thus far proven themselves to be helpful and keen to enjoy the game with others rather than simply powering through the content as quickly as possible.
Book of Heroes monetizes through its hard currency of gold shields. These may be spent on a variety of things, including special equipment and the restoration of energy, which is required to explore quest areas. The game is quite stingy with the amount of energy it provides to players, though the maximum limit may be increased either through the expenditure of hard currency or, in smaller amounts, with soft currency. This means that players willing to grind a little and perhaps forgo some useful equipment for a while will be able to improve their experience over time — it would still be nice to see a little more generosity on the energy front, however, particularly when quests start costing a considerable proportion of the 12 initially-available energy points to start.
Social features for the game include the ability to chat in real time with other players, to compare performance against friends and the global game community, and the ability to form and join guilds to take on the cooperative “raid” challenges. The chat, for the most part, appears to be largely populated with mature, sensible players, and chat moderators, whose names appear in green rather than the usual white, are always both prominently visible and willing to engage in conversation — many of them are volunteer players rather than Venan staff members.
Book of Heroes is an excellent example of how to do a mobile massively-multiplayer online role-playing game. It isn’t trying to shoehorn in complicated concepts from platforms with more flexible control schemes than a touchscreen, instead focusing on quick-hit, mobile-friendly gameplay that anyone can dip into and have a good experience. By far the best thing is the fact it doesn’t wrestle control away from the player at any time — the player always feels like they are in control of their character’s development and how they act in battle, rather than adopting the completely hands-off approaches seen in other games. The energy system is, as previously stated, rather stingy, but this has the side-effect of encouraging players to snack on the game rather than binge for hours at a time — those who want to play for longer do have the option of investing real money (or hefty sums of soft currency) into extending their experience.
On the whole, then, Book of Heroes is a very good game that other mobile MMO developers would do well to learn from. Its apparent simplicity belies a considerable amount of depth and interactivity, and the massively-multiplayer features are helping to build up a good community of helpful, friendly players keen to help each other succeed and enjoy the game’s content together — and meanwhile, the game appears to be very well supported by Venan too. The future looks bright for this game, so long as both the players and developers continue to support it.
A great example of how to do a mobile MMO right.