One of the most interesting things about the App Store is how it's bringing developers from quite literally everywhere in the world to a platform that's also accessible to everyone… while building games that target the specific interests of their local gamer culture. The Legend Of Heroes XIII [Free], released by Hong Kong-based publisher Ever App, is a perfect example of this. It's ripping up the charts in Asian markets, and they've apparently got millions of people playing it.
On the surface, The Legend Of Heroes XIII looks like your typical free to play card game. There's cards to collect, cards to upgrade, cards to battle, and IAP fueling it all with one significant distinct difference- Players can trade cards with other players. If you've spent any time playing Hearthstone [Free (HD)] or other similar digital collectable card games, you know how much the limitation of not being able to trade with other players sucks. I've got all sorts of Hearthstone cards that don't really fit in with the decks I like to play that I'd love to be able to trade to friends. Instead, all I can do is lose significant value blowing them up to craft other cards.
What's weird about The Legend Of Heroes XIII though is that it doesn't play like you'd expect a card game to play. Again, looking at Hearthstone, there's loads of interactivity between players at basically every turn. Heroes XIII is totally different, in that the gameplay orbits around how you arrange your cards before sending them off in to battle. Different cards have different strengths and weaknesses, and the strategy of the game is wholly surrounded by which cards you beef up and where you put them. Aside from that, the game basically plays itself during battles.
Initially when this was demonstrated to me at E3 it made no sense. Why would you want to play a game that consists of you basically watching particle effects spew across the screen between your cards and enemy cards for a couple minutes before figuring out whether or not you won or lost? The thing is, I'm not sure I'm the gamer that this game was made for.
As explained by the guys at Ever App, the Asian gamer market is apparently hungry for games they can play at work or while doing other things. You always want to be gaming, but, unfortunately, other activities require your attention. That's where The Legend Of Heroes XIII. The whole auto-battle thing is totally intentional. One of the scenarios thrown out there was if you're working in an office somewhere, you can't be on your phone all the time, but you can look down every couple minutes, re-organize your cards, send them out to battle, and continually be progressing through the game.
It's totally not my style, as if I'm playing a game, I want to be playing a game. But, it's hard to argue with the success The Legend Of Heroes XIII is seeing in Asia. They're taking it seriously too, as the game has a whole eSports component built in to it. So much so that they're planning on flying their top players out to the massive anime and gaming convention, Ani-Com, in Hong Kong this summer. They're going to be live streaming the whole thing, and the winner is going to get a Mini Cooper.
This sort of thing is beyond fascinating to me, as if I didn't run in to the Ever Play people at E3 to hear the story of this game, I might not've even given The Legend Of Heroes XIII a second look. The game hasn't had much traction in our forums and topped out at #56 top free in the US before trailing off. …But it's huge in Hong Kong. It makes you wonder what other weird games we've never heard of in the west that are insanely popular in other pockets of the world.
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