It’s no secret that we’ve been, on occasion, distracted by a certain action-RPG of late. Heroes Call [Free], the latest from Defiant Development (which brought you Ski Safari [$0.99]) looks to capture some of the magic with an iOS dungeon crawler infused with its own brand of freemium elements. While I didn’t particularly have a problem with its freemium mechanics, Heroes Call does falter somewhat in other areas.

From a glance, Heroes Call plays very much like a standard hack n’ slash action RPG. Players move through the game via levels with simple objectives such as standard collection quest or by simply getting from one point of the map to the other. Along the way, enemies drop gold and a large variety of weapons and armor. After finishing a mission, characters earn experience, and a simple trait system lets you choose new abilities after each level up. Everything is rather typical and it wouldn’t be a stretch to simply classify Heroes Call as a simplistic Diablo clone.

Speaking of Diablo, one area that Heroes Call seems to mimic well is its loot system. Loot is randomly generated and running through a mission usually ends with a decent haul of a variety of items, magical or otherwise. I also appreciated the fact that equipment plays an important role and you’ll find yourself constantly needing to upgrade to handle the increase in enemy difficulty. It all leads to a complete, if standard, experience. At least, until you get to the freemium elements.

Heroes Call incorporates a freemium system that focuses less on paywalls and more on simply waiting. After completing a mission, a timer starts until you can begin the next mission in the story. Later missions begin to take longer and longer until you’re seeing hour plus wait times. As you can imagine, players can easily bypass the wait by spending gems (the premium currency that you can also purchase via IAP).

Another facet of the ‘wait-wall’ is in its identification of magic items. Players can either use an identification scroll (which can be found or bought) to instantly ID an item, or they can take it to an appraiser between missions which IDs an item for free but takes time. As expected, the stronger and more rare the weapon, the longer it’ll take to ID.

While the freemium elements seem to indicate you’ll be waiting a long time between play sessions, I found the system in Heroes Call to be surprisingly fair. The timers never felt overtly long and let me separate my gameplay into chunks. In addition, you are always allowed to play previous missions to collect more gold; the timer only applies to new missions. I was also impressed by the fact that while some of the items found in the in-game shops required gems, the vast majority were gold based. Meanwhile, I found it relatively easy to collect the gems themselves throughout my questing, giving a nice collection to spend on whatever I wanted.

Unfortunately, a surprisingly fair freemium system can’t help the relatively dull gameplay. I’m not sure if it’s because of the touch controls or the limited amount of abilities per character, but actually playing Heroes Call feels like a sluggish affair. Attacks and character movements are slow, there’s very little interaction with the environments (other than the multitude of barrels to destroy and the occasional treasure chest) and the heroes and NPCs just feel devoid of personality. This extends to the story, which is told via cutscenes before each mission and really didn’t do much for me. That’s not to say that the battle system is bad – it’s just not a standout experience.

Regardless, considering the freemium nature of Heroes Call, fans of loot-based dungeon crawlers should at least give it a try. There’s enough content to keep players engaged, and the loot system works well in keeping you coming back to try and find a better piece of equipment. The fact that progress is easily moved between iOS devices also enhances the pick-up-and-play mentality (assuming the times aren't active). While I wasn’t a fan of the actual hack n’ slash bit, fans of loot chasing can probably look past the imperfections and focus on the treasure collecting.

TouchArcade Rating

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  • bigrand1

    Really! Who wants to play games that make you wait for almost an hour between levels or take you hostage and make you pay real money to pass right now? That's called EXTORTION! Never gonna buy into any of that! Whatever.....

  • wim

    Good review but honestly talk about the visuels pleas tell the people that it looks absolutely gorgieus! Or maybe tell the about the second character an the others abilitys!! Orr the fact that 2 other characters ar coming to!! Just download the game and see for yourself. O and people im making a rpg like this for little big planet vita not a single level but entirely game. If any of you people have ideas pass the treu pleas

  • MrSpud

    Rarer, not more rare! I know it sounds wrong but it isn't, sounds even worse if you say far rarer!

  • lolshin

    Okay guys, who dropped the stupigrenade over here? I'm getigng wurid hu wauet o rararararer praysteshun? Huuuiuuuuuuuuuu

    • MrSpud

      Between you and the first comment, I'm not sure what to think anymore! Must. Correct. Grammar. Noooooo!!!

  • lolshin

    Oh yeah, great review. My sentiments exactly.

  • http://twitter.com/Whatmoronsaid A dumbass said

    I was playing this at release but found the difficulty too tedious. I got to a stage where enemies were so strong that as soon as they saw me I was barraged with missiles that killed me before I could really react, my best bet was to run away and very slowly pick them off however even doing this I would run out of space to run before I could kill anything. I figured I was supposed to grind on earlier levels (which I had already been doing a bit of) to buy better gear but I was already wearing gear better than anything in the shop so I felt like it was the game trying to force me to buy gems to by gem only gear. At this point it was impossible to progress so I stopped playing.

    However, in the last update they stated they did some balancing so hopefully this has been changed.

  • Furtin

    Actually its an InApp Purchase ripp-off deluxe! That you guys find the "timer not overtly long" speaks for itself, because you obviously didn't played to level 9 or 10.

    This freemium stuff with huge amounts of real money IAP is ruining the Appstore and therefore needs to be fought! So few seems to even care, but will wonder where the gamingindustry is heading in the next months to come ...

    • phandaal

      I'm level 15 and have no problem with the 10 hour wait timers. There are other things to do in life you know. As always however, the gaming world is full of entitled little kids who just want a free product that they can consume in an afternoon and not pay a cent for.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Paddy-Grant-Sullivan/733511665 Paddy Grant Sullivan

         Frankly you sound just as bad as him. With a million free (and occasionally very good) flash games on the internet, why shouldn't we expect that a free game would actually be free? The simple fact is that freemium games are making a staggering amount of money and it's a total rip-off. You just have to look at games like swordigo or the original solomon's tower to see what games should be like and alot of these new freemium games are of significantly less quality but cost substantially more in the long run. As for entitled little kids, 99% of the games on the market are intended for a casual audience, it's not our fault that we're used to a game you can pick up every hour or whenever we have 10 minutes of spare time. The massive wait times are simply ridiculous and you don't have to look far to find freemium games with just as much content that are far more playable (Zenonia 4 for example).

      • Smigit

        "why shouldn't we expect that a free game would actually be free?" 

        The mistake is thinking these games were free to begin with. Better to go in with the attitude that it isn't a free title, and if you get by without spending anything all the better.

        Anyway, I haven't played this game in particular so I can't comment on it in any great depth. There are however plenty of freemium titles where I feel no compulsion to spend anything nor do I feel the game is overly impacted. It can work and work well.

        I don't know if it would work for this title, but a variation of the model I quite like is one that allows a one of purchase to basically remove restrictions from the game (maybe say $5) while also leaving the option for those that don't want to pay that to put up with ads, timers or lower priced purchases. It allows you to pay once and treat it as any other paid game.

  • http://profiles.google.com/zandmstudios Steven Zang

    Well guys...it's no longer freemium! BOO-YA!

Heroes Call Reviewed by Eric Ford on . Rating: 3