It started innocuously enough. Steam started their most recent sale extravaganza, and with it a game to play to keep customers engaged and paying attention. This one is a click fest that the FAQ states drew inspiration from Playsaurus’ Clicker Heroes among others. Intrigued by the initial game, I decided to check out Clicker Heroes. Big. Freaking. Mistake. One sec…
Click. Click. Click. Clickclickclickcliclicliclicli
So, let me get this out of the way now: Hello, my name is Jason and I am addicted to Clicker Heroes. Much to the annoyance of my ever patient wife, I play. Despite the curious inspections of my cats, I play. My wrist is beginning to hurt, and still I play. They say admitting that you have a problem is the first step to recovery. As I do not want to recover at this point, I don’t know how much good this will do…
I also realize that just admitting that I play this should be a mark of shame in gaming circles. Something so simple and ridiculous does not exactly do much to boost my credibility as a reviewer. Considering the fact that I gave Sakura Spirit a good review and the pure, unmitigated shame that I will be heaping upon myself when my next column goes up, I am okay with that. (A game I snagged during the aforementioned sale that bears a write up will be my next topic. Morbid curiosity struck again, I fear.)
Click. Clickclicliclicliclicliclick *CRACK* “Dang it, Meg, I need another mouse. Open up that ten pack.”
The game itself is a simplistic reduction of stat progression based games, be it action/RPGs, shooters, etc. You start out on level one with a monster. Clicking on the monster does one point of damage. After a few clicks, the monster dies, leaving behind gold to collect. The player collects the gold that can then be spent on upgrading damage per click, or a helper warrior that does a certain amount of damage per second on his or her own. These warriors can be upgraded to produce more damage, and new ones unlock when you have enough money. Each hero also has abilities that become available when they reach a certain level that adds exponentially to their DPS, opens up a quick use power for the player to use, or feeds into the players damage per click. This leads to a satisfying treadmill of upgrades and gathering that has taken me from nothing to a current DPS of about five thousand trillion points. And I have only just started.
The funny thing is that the observant part of me realizes that I could get the same gameplay experience my multiplying two times two on a calculator and keep hitting the equals sign. The irrational part doesn’t care. You see, even when I am signed out of the game, my heroes are earning me gold. Every time I go back, there is plenty of cash to upgrade my team to earn money faster for new heroes and their upgrades. It also helps that the adorable, Dragon Quest-like monster designs writhe in adorable pain when attacked. The bosses, too, are balanced as such that managing to develop a team strong enough to surmount the challenge feels like an accomplishment. At least until the rational part of me again butts in explaining that there was no skill involved.
Beyond the basic game design flaw that I mentioned above that could be a turn off for some, my other main complaint is regarding the microtransaction model set up. It’s not what you think, though. While there are some free to play games I play and refuse to pay for due to their obvious manipulative behavior (see:Jurassic Park Builder), this one has me wanting to kick a few bones to the developer. The bonuses that can be purchased just don’t do it for me. A player can “move time forward” resulting in an instant cash injection. They can also purchase special hero upgrades that probably wouldn’t do much for damage as these are granted randomly after purchase. Finally, a player can purchase hero souls, something whose point I currently do not understand. Based on the game design, it’s possible that I would be hard pressed to buy any of the bonuses, but that makes me sad. May I suggest to the devs to consider selling game re-skins? I could see a Steam exclusive skin where headcrab, heavies, and DOTA 2 champions would do quite well.
Beyond this, I am also left with in a quandary regarding how to score this. On one hand, it has a strong hold on me and I don’t see it letting go. On the other hand, the design is so simple, and not exactly original. (Apparently, Cookie Clicker is a thing. One that I had not heard of before falling into this ditch.) For these reasons, I will say that it is a 4/5 with a big, bold asterisk. The mileage for less addiction prone folks may vary.