Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Zeroes & Venerables - Heroes & Generals Review

   (Note: This review will primarily be over the lower level "action" game. The strategic, "generals" part of the game requires either a higher level or buying a General from the academy, which is expensive.)

   Heroes & Generals is a WWII FPS with a strategy end-game, developed and published by Reto-Moto, and available on Steam. It's a very interesting concept, where Generals command "assault teams" in order to win the overarching war that the Heroes are fighting on the ground. If they win, the general wins.

   Of course, interesting concepts have to be backed up by gameplay. Despite already mentioning this in the above Note, I'm mentioning again that this review is only over the ground game, and not the high level ground game with fighter jets and paratroopers. H&G has incredibly slow progression if you don't pay cash, and I simply didn't have the time or patience to put my site back on hiatus for a few months just so I can experience the entire game. Nope, we're doing this review now. On with it!

   Aesthetics: Old-Timey
   Everything just looks right to my eyes. Not necessarily the graphics quality, but the graphics themselves. Each army has their own pseudo-historically-accurate weapons, vehicles, and uniforms. The menus look bland and faded. The battlefields are a mix of forests and depression. There's a sepia filter over your screen every time you spawn into battle. I jump into a trench with my terrible, inaccurate, semi-automatic rifle, only to be shot in the face the instant I poke my head out. War isn't pretty, and H&G isn't trying to be.

Complete with propaganda urging you to buy warbonds.
   Equipment: Customizable
   Each character has ten equipment points they can use to equip whatever they want, with different items taking up different amounts of space. For example, the basic rifle will use four slots, plus one or two depending on whether you want to bring ammo pouches for it. A grenade will take two slots, a knife will take one, a rocket launcher will take five, etc. All primary weapons can also be customized with various mods that can increase firing speed, damage, range, accuracy, and stability. But not clip size.
   However, taking more equipment will shorten your stamina gauge, which is actually important for once. A bigger stamina bar will allow you to sprint for longer periods without depleting the stamina bar. Which is nice, because having low stamina significantly decreases your accuracy and adds sway when you aim down the sights. This means that if you sprint head first into a building, guns blazing, the guy camping the door will live and you won't. Luckily, gun customization doesn't affect equipment size.

   Repairs: Interesting
   H&G has a repair system, but unlike some games, your equipment only degrades when you actually use them. In other words, you pay by the bullet. Modifying your weapons increases the repair costs, potentially increasing their cost beyond the point where killing someone would earn you more credits than the amount lost by firing the gun. This is offset by the salary to ensure that you always gain more than you lose, as long as you don't get too crazy with the rockets and landmines. I consider this a good thing, since it's the only time I've seen a repair system that didn't aggravate me. I don't like being discouraged from using my resources, but at least it's done in a way that makes some sense.

   Pay-to-Win Status: Positive
   H&G has a thing called Veteran Membership.

Also includes an extra equipment slot that nobody uses!
   Membership includes a second badge slot. Badges give passive buffs to your character, and this will allow you to wear two at a time which will give you an edge. You can use the in-game currency, credits, to buy veteran membership (as seen in the screenshot).
   Aside from that and the aforementioned equipment slot nobody uses, cash can also be used to save time. A lot of time. Normally, to reach General, and to unlock specialized classes, the character has to level up. To unlock equipment, you have to level up their respective "Ribbons" by completing certain objectives in-game, such as doing explosive damage to unlock more explosives, or shooting people with semi-auto rifles to unlock sniper rifles. Using your guns costs credits, which will generally slow down your progression in buying what you want.
   Or you can buy an academy-trained soldier or general from the store, level up your ribbons with gold, and repair them with gold (the cash currency). Depending on how deep your pockets are, you can effectively skip months of gameplay and jump right into the fun parts of the game.

   Tier 1: Bicycles
   The reason I call those the fun parts of the game is because the rest of the game looks like this:

I'll just let this speak for itself.
   There are three game modes: Encounter, Skirmish and Assault. All of them are various sizes of Control Points so as far as I'm concerned, the only difference between them is exactly how far you have to travel in order to die in action. When you start the game, you start in "tier 0", and are matched with other tier 0 players. After a few games, you become "tier 1". You will stay in tier 1 for the next 20 or so hours while you grind up the experience necessary to use vehicles and better weapons.
   You reach tier 2, unlocking Assault mode and the access to the War after reaching level 5. Before that, you are playing against other players that also do not have tons of different weapons or access to tanks. Sprinting is too slow and detrimental to be used all the time, and the old jalopy that spawns on the map is always taken by someone else. This leaves one method of transportation:

That's right, I took two screenshots.
   There's an infinite supply of bicycles, and you will be riding them for a long time. I don't know about you, but I can't think of any less threatening way of entering a firefight than on a bicycle, ringing a bell.

   Credit Costs: High
   Your character has a salary that increases as they level up. Just by being in the game, they will earn a certain amount of credits per hour depending on their level, plus the credits gained from killing people and destroying things. These add up so that you can make tens of thousands credits pretty quickly. Well, as you may expect, everything costs tens of thousands of credits. It doesn't take a long time to get the credits to buy any single item, but the cost of all the things you want to buy add up quickly. A new gun, the mods for your gun, a new vehicle, etc. Most of the things that can be bought with gold, including ribbon levels, academy soldiers, and even veteran membership, can also be bought with an exorbitant amount of credits. No matter how rich you get, there will always be a credit sink. Combined with the high repair costs on certain items, this can discourage you from bringing all the heat you can in-game because you're constantly saving up for things.
   However, keep in mind that as you level up, your salary keeps increasing and people bring more expensive toys to the table, so you will earn much, much more per game after playing for long enough.

   Grind: So Much Grind
   You start with a separate character for each of the three factions. They don't share anything except tier level. This means that the 20 hours you put into leveling and improving one character won't carry over onto your other characters, but those other characters will still have to fight tier 2 opponents as soon as you reach it with your main guy. Imagine riding your crappy bicycle, but instead of getting shot at by inaccurate infantry, you're getting blown up by tanks.

   Final Score: 2.5 out of 5

   I hesitate to even give this game a score, since it has a pretty loyal fanbase. It seems like this game can become very fun if you give it lots and lots of time. If you have a thousand hours to sink into a single game, you may find that Heroes & Generals has the content you're looking for. If you don't, however, then don't. This isn't a casual game. You need to get used to constant war and difficult situations. War and brown.

Brown... brown never changes.
   Extra Things to Know
   - The username you use on sign-up is the name displayed in-game.
   - If you're too close to the wall you're facing, you can't fire. This mostly affects long guns, such as the rifle you start with.
   - You give a custom name to any of your weapons and soldiers for a credit cost. No one else can see any of these names.
   -  Physics are floaty and movement is slidey. Watch your step.
   - If teams are uneven, there will be a deploy queue on the team that has more people.
   -  Weapons you pick up don't need repairing. If you're like me, bring a shovel, smack someone, take their weapon, and fire away.
   - The shovel can kill in one hit to the head.
   - Friendly fire is active for explosives. Be careful about blowing up your own team.
   - There is a First Battle of the Day bonus of 4 Gold!
   - If one your characters becomes a general, they leave the ground game and lose all of their equipment, which is moved to the Equipment Depot to be used by other characters.

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