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Developer: Venan Entertainment
Price: Free
Version: 1.0
App Reviewed on: iPhone 3GS

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★½☆
Playtime Rating: ★★★★½
Replay Value Rating: ★★★★½

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

Free-to-play, online-required role-playing games. They’re everywhere. Especially on the App Store. And especially especially if we’re counting less RPG-eque titles that involve empire-building in lieu of character-building. Yet even with this glut of offerings, very few of them are legitimately interesting. It’s kind of sad, really.

Book of Heroes dares to try and set itself apart from most of the rest by, dare I say it, letting players actually play it. That’s right, even though many of the freemium staples of real-time actions and limited energy are present, this is an actual game. Not a menu-clicking simulator. After crafting their character and completing a brief tutorial involving a slight spin on the “go to cellar, kill rats” RPG mainstay (they’re rat-people this time), players are free to roam around the countryside completing quests and gathering loot. Granted, much of this is done in a manner that’s basically glorified menu-clicking, but it’s much more involving (read: interesting) than the typical fare many of us have gotten used to.

I find it surprisingly nifty how some of the free-to-play elements have been incorporated into the classic RPG formula. Exploring treacherous areas/dungeons will use energy, and some abilities such as healing and removing debuffs do as well, but health and energy recharge in real-time (a few minutes per increment) so a few hours spent away from the game after a lengthy session will get a character back into fighting shape in no time. I also rather like the way attacks take actual seconds (or increments of seconds) to complete, allowing players to plan a strategy around slow, strong attacks or quick, weak ones depending on the opponent.

One freemium staple I’m not too keen on seeing (but understand its inclusion) is the “special currency.” In this case, it’s gold shields. There’s always sliver coins for the more frugal adventurer, but anything bought with silver will cost a lot (proportionally) and won’t be quite as good as its more opulent cousins. It’s also somewhat disappointing to end up running out of energy before completing a quest, but one could argue that a game that forces players to take a break every now and then isn’t really a bad thing.

Overall, I’ve been having a good time with Book of Heroes. It’s somewhat par for the course as far as general RPG experiences go, but it offers plenty of quests, loot and abilities for freemium fanatics. Provided they have some form of persistent online connection, 3G or otherwise, I think role-playing fans should definitely check this out.

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