Heroes of Annihilated Empires claims to be a RTS/RPG hybrid, and it can be played either way, which at first glance holds a lot of promise. In a skirmish game, players begin with a single hero unit, playable as a typical action RPG. Players can wander around the board, defeating neutral critters, collecting potions, artifacts, and weapons, and generally gaining in strength and experience. Heroes wield weapons, sling spells, and generally behave just as a typical fantasy hero should. These hero units can level up as they score kills, gaining skill bonuses with each increase. The entire map can be played this way, and the heroes are generally able to hold their own against the entirety of the opposing armies. However, should a player wish to change the type of game they’re playing, the hero can play a special spell which causes them to spawn several builder units, beginning RTS play. This builder spawn causes the Hero to turn into a statue for 30 minutes, taking them out of play for a while.
The RTS portion of the game is just generic fantasy RTS. Builders collect resources, build buildings, and those buildings generate units and technology upgrades. Heroes makes the mistake of using too many resource types, making things a bit more complicated than is necessary. The units themselves are more generic fare: elves, dwarves, undead , and mystical beasts. Some of them have special powers, but most just charge into combat and attack their enemy. In addition, it’s very difficult to tell the units apart during the heat of battle, which makes micromanaging a combat tricky. To make matters worse, the units themselves (and everything else, for that matter) is under control of a very poor AI. Play continues as an RTS until the Hero wakes up, then it’s a combo game for the rest of the skirmish.
Control is decent, but not great. My units had a bit of lag between command and reaction, which was often annoying. The game looks decent, with bright colors and interesting background. I’d appreciate it more if the units were more easily distinguished, though. Sound was quite good, and much to my surprise, the voice acting was very strong. The single-player cutscenes weren’t up to par with the rest of the game, being nothing more than simple hand-drawn pictures and voice-overs.
The single-player campaign follows the exploits of an elven ranger as he tries to save his people from undead hordes. Although there’s a mix of RTS and RPG elements here, as the campaign progresses our Hero soon becomes so incredibly strong that he barely even needs his armies as backup. And given the shoddy AI, many battles can be won simply by hit-and-run tactics. I found myself able to whittle down entire armies by letting fly a few arrows, running back until the enemy decides to stop chasing me, and repeating. Once the single player campaign is over, there are only a few skirmish maps to play with, so there’s just not that much longevity. In addition, there’s no good way to find opponents, as there is no matchmaking service in place.
Overall, I just find myself disappointed with Heroes of Annihilated Empires. There was a lot of promise in the RTS/RPG hybrid, but nothing really seemed to fall into place. The story wasn’t gripping, the units aren’t at all exciting, and there’s just nothing new or exciting. I suggest just giving this one a pass.