Trying to combine the various elements of a turn-based strategy (TBS) game with that of a role playing game (RPG) with any level of success is a difficult endeavor for a desktop franchise. Trying to do it in a Pocket PC game seems almost impossible, yet that is exactly what Palm Heroes set out to do. On top of that they are doing so without the help of the large game design studios which is quite a feat by itself. The game is available for all types of Pocket PC’s able to meet the following requirements: Windows Mobile 2003 or later, 5 MB free space , 6MB free memory, 240×320 or 640×480 touchscreen. There is a fully functional (but map and save limited) trial available here. Does the game have what it takes to deliver… continue on to find out.
In a word… YES, absolutely yes, but keep reading to find out why it might even make it into my all time top ten list of games on any platform.
Even with the lofty goal of trying to bring two genres, neither of which are well suited to the tiny screen, of games together; Palm Heroes shines like almost no other game I have played on the Pocket PC. The fit and finish of the game is absolutely amazing, the intricacies of the design and the level to which the maps and scenarios are thought out is definitely one of a kind.
I’ll be honest I am somewhat of a junkie for RTS games and TBS games, but I have never really been quite as enthusiastic about RPG games. The whole idea of quests and closed ended storylines was never of much interest to me, so when I started reviewing and playing the game I was not sure how I was going to like it. I had thoughts of the RPG side of the game ruining the fun and spontaneity of the TBS side. Or the TBS side being to cumbersome to control when paired with the RPG. Well I can honestly say that I was floored by the gameplay; the way the game was laid out; and I found myself getting lost in the game. Sometimes playing it at night until the battery went dead.
The game is centered around the hero you start out with,and as you play the game you build up the attributes of your hero, this is the RPG part of the game. In addition you control a kingdom which needs to be built up as well with the normal types of additions you would see in a real-time strategy (RTS) or TBS type game. As you do this you can build an army that travels with your hero to seek out new areas, other kingdoms, and eventually your opponents.
As your kingdom grows you can build additions to your castle for things like upgraded troops, additional resources, and increasing your magical powers. There are also lots of other building types scattered throughout the map for things like increasing your hero’s experience (which in turn increases his powers and attributes), gaining additional resources, and recruiting troops. As you add on to your kingdom you can also recruit additional heroes that can scout for you or guard a mountain pass while your main hero is laying seige to another players castle.
Like other TBS games you have a limited amount of things you can do, or amount of space you can travel on the game board, and in this case I think it adds to the playability of the game. Normally in a TBS game there is so much that needs to be done that a single turn can take several minutes to complete, but with Palm Heroes many of the tedious tasks are handled differently or done automatically making the game much swifter for on-the-go play. Things like collecting resources are done by your hero as he travels the game board so there are no peasants to watch over to make sure they are mining for you, and the recruitment of forces is regulated on a weekly basis so there is no need to keep up with new force production; the game takes care of it. This is a very nice simplification that makes gameplay much quicker than other TBS type games, and in my opinion makes for a much more enjoyable experience.
The AI that the computer players use is also very good. This is one place where I was sure I would be disappointed. I mean it is a Pocket PC game and there are so many variables to consider with this type of game I am truly amazed at how they were able to craft the decision making abilities of the computer players. For the most part they act rationally and in longer games you can sometimes forget that you are playing a computer player because each AI has a definite fingerprint it uses much like playing a friend.
The game also has a huge array of extras that really add to the experience as well. I will cover most of them later in the article but I want to touch on a few here. The thought that went into things like the maps and quests that are included in the game, as well as the some of the ways that you have to modify your gameplay based on the resources that are available to you really bring the game up to the next level. These are things that some desktop RTS and TBS games do not have going for them and Palm Heroes finds a way to squeeze them into a portable game as if they should have been there all along.
I have played the gamut of RTS and TBS games for the Pocket PC over the years and while I do still like a few of them; Palm Heroes simply outshines the competition when it comes to all around game play