Glu Mobile Upgrades the Social RPG Genre for iOS with Hero Project

Role-playing games on social platforms are in a constant state of evolution. Now Glu Mobile is seeking to upgrade the genre once again for the iOS with its newest release, Hero Project. Available free on both the iPhone and iPad, Hero Project attempts to merge the social and classic RPG genres.

That’s a tall order for sure, but Glu does a decent job at pulling it off. Somewhat repetitive and slow to start, Hero Project still somehow, magically, consumed well over an hour on the first play through, without us even realizing it.

Players have joined the “Parliament of Heroes”, and they are as green as they come. An isometric-perspective game, players move about their hero headquarters in search of missions to complete. Based on one’s level, a set number will be available, consisting of everything from training, to quirky, nonsensical jobs, to actual story elements.

As one might expect, these missions are the primary source of experience and income, so it’s in the player’s best interest to do some. Players can run as many missions as they have energy for, with each taking a set amount of time to complete; the longer it takes, the greater the reward. The only obnoxious element about this, is that the game doesn’t really alert the player when they are done.

Interestingly, some of the missions have a semblance of story associated with them, that goes into an actual plot as the user levels up. This progression is created through the descriptions of each task, which appear to be written from the perspective of the player. To further enhance this story, dialogue between mentor, non-player characters, as well as the occasional enemy (more on that in a minute) is also presented.

It is also worth mentioning that Glu worked closely with Phil Campbell (Tomb Raider, The Godfather, and Heavy Rain) on the storyline. That in mind, while the story is slow to start in the early levels, it is likely to pick up drastically later on.

Getting back to the enemies, combat is also part of the mission system. Rather than starting and waiting a set amount of time, players are whisked away to a sort of Final Fantasy-like battle arena in which they take on various villains. In order to fight, the player’s special abilities will fill up over time. Once full, the ability can be tapped and a directed at an enemy. Furthermore, each battle is an Action Time Battle (ATB), meaning that enemies will not wait for users to attack before doing so. It is not turn-based in any way.

As players complete missions and battles, and earn enough coin, they will be able to add to their super-power arsenal with new, and more powerful, special abilities. From ice shards to lightning bolts, players will be able to unleash these slower charging attacks in battle — for a cost. These consume “Stamina” (essentially mana) which can only be recharged, at a reasonable speed, by using purchasable, consumable, potions. In fact, the same goes for health.

To further augment battles, players can customize their avatar’s stats of health, stamina, melee damage (for basic, non-stamina attacks), power (for abilities that cost stamina), speed (for recharging attacks), and luck (for increased critical strike and dodge chance). Curiously, equipment appears to have nothing to do with character improvement, and is merely present as an aesthetic reward.

There is a tremendous variety of outfits one can make for their hero, so that alone is a nice addition, but the real showcase is the “REC-CON” section of the game. Using Apple’s Game Center, players can see all of their friends’ avatars in one place. Unfortunately, while this sounds nice, it turns out to be a bit underwhelming, as no real interaction could be found in game. It’s a bit ironic that Glu has incorporated many of the single-player aspects of social RPGs, but not so much the truly social ones. That said, it’s a brand new game, so updates in this department are likely in the works.

Hero Project even has a bit of farming in it. Players can actually purchase special harvest tubes and grow crystals in them. These crystals start as “seeds” that can be either bought or found during missions, and grown into full crystals over time; earning supplemental income.

Our only other complaint is the visuals. Initially, yes, Hero Project looks good, but other than the different avatar outfits, the game consists of only a handful of screens — three in the headquarters, and a few battle screens) At least in the more traditional Facebook RPGs, there is plenty of artwork ranging from environments and items, to boss characters and NPCs. Additionally, many of the animations are stiff and choppy, and detract from the overall aesthetic quality.

But Hero Project still feels like a promising game. It’s certainly a step above the rest in terms of quality, and its issues don’t hinder the title very much at all. Fact of the matter is that we still ended up playing the game for extended periods of time (which was actually lost), and it’s hard to say anything bad about that.