Antihero is a turn based strategy game based in the victorian times where gangs of thieves and street urchin’s could rule the streets and has a cute storyline to go along with the art style as well as a fairly easy to pickup play system that makes the game fun and enduring.
The main campaign as it stands seems to act more as a tutorialisation for the game where you would spend the majority of your time in the online multiplayer having honed your skills on the streets against the AI and mastered the basics of the skill tree and play styles, while the campaign does a good job of introducing new elements and varying up the missions with some alternate victory conditions in locations where for example you have to infiltrate your enemies base with 12 urchins, or when there are map specific victory points such as infiltrating ships to steal their cargo and holding them through the enemies turn.
For the most part the gameplay is fairly standardised, where you have a base level master thief and your skill tree has three options the first being to be able to recruit urchins and infiltrate the location always opposite your guild that gives you more lanterns per turn to use on the skill tree and this is usually the correct first option, on some missions it might be ideal to get an early gang and take out an npc so you can get ahead of the curve with the individual gang upgrades where every kill they obtain allows them to level up either the money they earn on a kill, the damage they can do or the number of urchins they can evict from a building, and obviously this is where the strategy element comes in and how you wish to take down your opponent, what you choose ultimately effects what you can also unlock next turn.
The skill tree alone isn’t the only strategy you have to take into consideration, and also if you lack any smart move or need a little urgent cash you can choose some charity instead of an upgrade to get an extra couple of lanterns for future upgrades or emergency gold to get that unit you desperately need right away. All units tend to have a single move of their own, with urchins infiltrating buildings, gangs evicting and beating down opponents and npcs, and thugs either guarding the map blocking progress or joining gangs to level up their hp. Through all of this and scouting with your master thief the aim is to control as much of the map as possible and take as many specialist buildings as possible to maximise your chances of victory.
Victory points ultimately come in three forms, firstly through blackmailing the church this will always be three urchins in specific buildings, the second is to bribe officials with lanterns and the third is through assassination contracts that spawn on the map and move around, bribes and contracts become harder as you go along in significant ways which mean getting in their first is usually ideal as victory points will become harder and harder to get. Some maps have special victory points which add variety to the game, such as taking and holding guard towers to enable the crown jewels to be stolen for victory points, stealing masks from around the map to enable infiltration to a large party in order to steal their valuables, and also infiltration of a boat in order to steal the goods and hold the boat during your opponents turn while you offload the goods.
Ultimately the main story is a little short, I only had to replay one of the later missions once, and as a result it took me around 3.5 hours to complete the entire campaign on normal difficulty. There was a little cliffhanger that suggests the main story would be continued and I assumed this would be through the book club dlc however this seems to be purely cosmetic online avatars, however don’t rule out that they could make an expansion with some map specific goals and perhaps two levels per character, for example sherlock holmes could theoretically be attempting to solve a murder and you would have to gather the clues from houses and locations before he does and submit the evidence to the police headquarters for victory points, all while avoiding jack the ripper (or moriarty) assassinating randomly at intervals some character on the board which could include your urchins, gangs or thugs, or even incapacitating your master thief for a turn. Alice could be in a hurry to attend the mad hatters tea party, and the table sits a number of guests each victory point, increasing in guest size per party where one random lucky guest wins a victory point and on her secondary mission you must team up with the queen of hearts to take her head and provide thugs and gang members to the queens army to help capture her (and take her head), scrooge and tiny tim might play on the same map and where scrooge would have unlimited gold and no urchins tiny tim would be poor but have unlimited street control, where victory would be a challenge to take them both down together, before they team up on a secondary map where scrooge has given all his wealth away but ultimately still holds all points on the map to begin with where you have to take the city back and I’m sure they could add enough references to the ghosts of christmas past, present, future and bill murray.
Obviously these are just a few suggestions they could implement to include these characters, the last getting pretty obsurd but it would be nice to have an expansion to the main storyline, and it does seem like they left it on a cliffhanger where they intend to continue the story, but for the most part this game will ultimately live or die by it’s online games and obviously as a new release it’s hard to judge by the online at present as depending on how well the game is taken up and how well it sells will determine how successful the title is, the game is robust and fun, not too challenging to pick up so it’s fairly easy to get into and have fun with and the skill tree is pretty well thought out, it’s not over saturated and when you ultimately need something it’s always fairly easy to work towards and get hold of especially the special characters which can turn the tides of the match like the sisters and the truant officer. Getting them free with an upgrade definitely strategises when to purchase and the threat of the saboteur is fairly real as not only can he take all of your master thiefs actions away he can also keep those expensive units on the field to be taken out without ever getting to be used.
All in all the game is very well designed it plays well and there aren’t too many things to worry about as it could be very easy to oversaturate the game with complex mechanics, they keep it fairly simple with the power of threes, there are three victory points (with bonus map specific ones) each that get harder as the game progresses, units purchased on that turn become more expensive to strategise when to purchase, and there are three skill tree’s to progress through and it’s rare you ever complete a skill tree fully in fact I never have. Furthermore there are three basic characters all with a single action, the urchin to infiltrate buildings to gain resources and victory points, thugs to hold board control and bolster gangs, and gangs to evict urchins and defeat enemies. There are then three support roles which have a single use, the truant officer who can fully evict a building of all urchins immediately, the sabateur who can trap a building for two turns stunning whoever triggers the trap leaving them on the field, or taking all the master thiefs actions for the turn, and the sisters who can deal 6 points of damage immediately.
There are a few minor gripes that you will have to put up with, firstly when you’ve got your actions down and you know exactly what you’re going to do you may feel the animations are holding you back from playing as quickly as you would be able to if they didn’t happen but you have to accept that this is important because in online play you will need to see the animations to see what your opponent is doing on their turn so disabling such animations would make online play essentially impossible and not strategic, the second is sometimes it isn’t so clear you have to double click your upgrade option in the skill tree especially when you know exactly what you’re getting and what you want it might be nice to be able to just have the one click purchase as it seems a little odd to confirm throughout the entire game when you’ve got a handle on what all the upgrades do and you’re upgrading the skill tree fairly automated and perhaps miss that you should’ve confirmed after selecting, but it’s only a minor gripe.
I like the game and I hope they add an expansion to the single player story soon, and I will continue to look at the online multiplayer and probably bring you some combat video’s soon, ultimately they have added a casual online multiplayer option but in strategy games like this I personally don’t enjoy playing out waiting days for an opponent to take their turn as you’re out of the moment and out of the match and ultimately won’t play and enjoy the title as much and can make some fairly glaring mistakes you might not have made whilst in the heat of the moment, I can’t say whether this will hurt or help the online mode as on one hand some people may just opt for casual matches if they can’t find online matches, and on the other if there wasn’t a casual mode people could abandon the online play altogether if they can’t find a match.
Ultimately I will say if you’re buying this you’re probably buying it to play online as at present the main campaign is very short, but the game is good and definitely makes a good online turn based strategy game which is different to anything on offer presently, and games do feel just about the right length of time so you’re not tied in for hours in a single match the balance is just right and keeps it fun.
Check out antihero for yourself on steam, it’s a fun strategy game and worth a play http://store.steampowered.com/app/505640/Antihero/