Lionheart Tactics is a free-to-play, turn-based tactics game by Emerald City Games. It’s your typical traditional Hero-verses-evil-army romp, with tactics obviously being a large part of the game. Sadly, monetization is an even bigger part, and it’s so heavy-handed that it almost ruins the game.
Your Hero is the ruler of the land, and the game gets right into the action as your castle finds itself under attack. You soon pick up other team members, such as an Archer, Thief, Guard and Cleric, and over time you’re able to build a party which can do some serious damage.
Battling is fairly standard for the genre – you move characters around a grid and carry out various actions, before ending your turn and watching your enemy do the same. You’ll make the occasional mistake thanks to the game engine thinking you picked the wrong enemy – or the game bugs out and accidentally ends your turn – but for the most part, the battle mechanics are pretty robust.
The first thing you’ll notice as you start to play isn’t the mechanics though – Lionheart Tactics is a gorgeous game. While it falls down in a few places, visually it’s incredibly appealing: the colors are vibrant, and the artwork is beautiful. The characters are equally well-drawn, and have great personalities – even if these personalities are complete and utter caricatures; your Thief is a typical Londoner (which is bound to make you laugh if you’re from the area); your Archer is an elf who is particularly noble simply because she’s an elf, with diction you would expect from someone in the royal court; and your guard is just a bit thick. Despite the characters being standard stereotypes, they’re still likeable – and the dialogue is both witty and moreish.
Skirmishes are picked from a map and each successful battle rewards loot . Unfortunately, It’s never made clear what benefits your new gear brings; more often than not, you’ll end up equipping new gear just because it’s new.
You’ll also earn Stones, which are used to level up your characters. Unfortunately, you have to redo each skirmish up to three times in order to clear the area, get the loot and experience required to take on the bosses, and then purchase bags of stones if you actually want to promote your characters. Lionheart Tactics is not a game where you can skip battles to see the story – this is a long game which can be quite a slog at times – unless you fork out the cash like a good little soldier.
There are two types of currency in Lionheart Tactics: Coins and Crowns. Coins are used to purchase new characters and train them up, items, and Stones. If you want to upgrade your hero’s special attack, you need to pay a set number of Coins, and wait a set amount of time; unfortunately, these amounts increase with each level – until you’re presented with timers that often run for a day or more. While you’re waiting for your party members to level up, you’re unable to take them into battle – unless you have enough Coins to speed up the process – but it’s unlikely that you will, as the game is incredibly stingy with doling out currency. You can skip this if you want to – but it will cost you Crowns.
You get an average of 2-3 Crowns per battle, along with about 1000 Coins. Crowns are the game’s premium currency, and are spent on skipping these abhorrent wait times. Oh, you don’t want to wait 36 hours to carry on playing? That will be a load of Crowns, please! You’ve just finished a battle and don’t want to wait the five minutes for your characters to heal? Crowns please! Your Thief got knocked out because their defense rating is abysmal, and you don’t want to wait 45 minutes while they stop being useless? Crowns please!
All the while, a series icons take up the left hand side of the map, reminding you that Kongregate has a sale on. Not only is this incredibly obnoxious – the sale buttons are the biggest buttons on the bloody screen – but it’s incredibly heavy-handed. Considering the most expensive microtransaction is $99.99 for a whopping 14,000 Crowns, the cheaper transactions, like a pack of 500 Crowns for $4.99, suddenly feel like a rip-off. In addition, Lionheart Tactics requires a constant internet connection, making playing it on the go something of a pain.
There’s also an Arena mode, which sees you fighting waves of AI-controlled clones of other players’ characters, which wouldn’t be a problem if the AI was up to scratch. On top of this, the game has a habit of pitting you against massively overpowered teams and charging you Coins for refreshing your matchup; all in all, it’s not worth bothering with.
Our first impressions of Lionheart Tactics were pretty good – it looks gorgeous, the music is pleasant enough and the core gameplay is sound. Unfortunately, it’s ruined by obnoxiously long waiting times and microtransactions which turn what could have been an amusing, fun and vibrant game into more of a chore than anything else, and that’s simply inexcusable. If the developer had eased off on the micro-transactions then perhaps it would be worth recommending; as it stands though, Lionheart Tactics simply isn’t worth the time required in order to play it.