Have you ever gotten bored of the first person shooter you’re playing, and want to play a real time strategy game instead? Have you ever gotten tired of playing an RTS and want to play a shooter? In Heroes & Generals, you can do just that without ever having to close a program. And it’s free to play, a nice touch if people want to try out the game and experience the war firsthand for a while before investing real money in upgrades and items.
Heroes & Generals is a pretty unique concept – players can begin by participating in large WWII-esque battles as infantry on either the German or Allies side, playing the game like a kind of Medal of Honor styled FPS. After some initial battles, players will even be able to play as a general, which initially evokes the Commander function in Battlefield games but fleshes out to play like a real time strategy game using actual players as your units/troops/toons/whatever-term-you-call-them.
To play as an infantryman in the first person shooter arenas, players must simply click the Heroes tab and then modify their character. To play as a general and call in extremely valuable items for assault teams (the infantrymen previously mentioned), all you must do is click Generals and select an active battlefield to control and aid the other players. Players, when they initially boot up Heroes & Generals, will be prompted to join a specific faction for a war- this choice is locked in for quite some time, so choosing between the Allies or Germany could be very important, especially when large numbers of players pick one side over another. To extrapolate on that previous statement, many players who came into the middle of the war this review was being written in were being warned that Germany had too many soldiers and that matchmaking for Germans may take much longer than for the Allies – trying to convince more players play one faction over the other.
The action side of the game is actually quite robust, as far as progression systems go. While this may be much to the chagrin of new players, developing your character is actually extremely rewarding as players unlock new careers for their soldiers, weapons, items and more. Unlocking new weapons is simple, you win enough matches to get enough funds to purchase a weapon if you’re at the appropriate level to wield it – yes, this means that often stronger weapons are locked away behind progression walls.
If purchasing a new weapon isn’t enough, every so many levels the game offers modifications you can spend funds toward to further aid in pwning the noobs and fragging Nancies, on top of also letting you purchase new items such as different grenades, a map and more. Upgrades, weapons and various bonuses like increased soldier XP gain are purchased using credits, warfunds or gold, the three in-game currencies.
Career paths are quite possibly the most interesting things in the game: As characters win matches, their infantryman can increase in rank and ultimately get the option to become a recon soldier (gaining a much-needed scope for their rifles), paratrooper, tank operator and aircraft pilot. Choosing a career is a pretty stressful thing, both in life and in video games, so thankfully there is the chance to play as your selected career for a few matches before being stuck with it, just to try it on for size. Think the pilot class is a little too big for your britches? Try the shoes of a tank operator on for size and see how you like driving a mile in those. It’s the little things in life, really. With all of that said, the action side of the game is actually quite entertaining if you like objective-based first person shooters. The simplest comparison to this would be the Conquest gametype in the Battlefield series – players run to objectives, clear out the enemies to neutralize them and capture them, and by holding those points you win. Heroes & Generals is a lot about controlling the map – keeping enemy players off of the objectives you need to keep is paramount to victory.
Now, the generals side of the game…that’s where a lot of the meat and potatoes is for veterans, as well as the carrots, bazookas and tanks. Generals are responsible, by spending their own warfunds (an in-game currency collected when you win matches), to provide respawns, tanks and equipment for their respective teams. Generals are extremely important to the other players on their respective team, and oftentimes a skilled general can swing battle in your teams’ favor with solid equipment placements and respawns. Of course, generals can’t control the players in the Heroes side, which is what makes it so dynamic, but if a general runs out of warfunds because the players are being reckless with armored vehicles and aircraft then your team is pretty much on the fast track to losing. Generals support the action players with everything they need, while the Heroes have the responsibility to use everything the general puts at their disposal to win, as the general is basically betting his or her warfunds from their own matches on their team.
Resupplying teammates right when they need it can foster a really great feeling, and when a tank is on a killing spree and would otherwise need to stop, a general can keep the streak going by resupplying the vehicle. Outside of the warm fuzzies, however, there’s really not a lot of reward for playing as a general as all you gain for betting your warfunds is the chance to just earn more warfunds, assuming the units/vehicles you place score lots of points. This doesn’t mean that playing as a general can’t be absolutely riveting to watch the fog of war get peeled back by the tanks you placed and see them racking up huge amounts of kills, by any means.
While Heroes & Generals has a great little dynamic going on between the two game modes doesn’t mean that there aren’t some issues of which new players should be aware. To start, the game is extremely grind-laden: Playing as am infantry soldier is fine in its own right, but it can take newer players quite a while to unlock just about anything, so while players who don’t wish to spend any money may be grinding explosives kills off their hand grenades to get the Advanced Explosives ribbon in order to unlock the bazooka to more easily take down tanks, players who are keen on spending a few bucks can have one unlocked before their very first match, hitting the ground running, so to speak. To make matter worse, to unlock an anti tank mine (they’re extremely effective), players who don’t wish to pay must first grind hand grenade kills to unlock the Panzerschreck anti tank rocket launcher, then use that to grind eliminating tanks in order to unlock anti tank mines and grenades. Alternatively, players could just shell out some money and not have to worry about getting dominated by enemy M26 or Tiger tanks. To play as a general there is a similar wall as it takes a disproportionately long time to grind for the higher tiered assault teams and armor. The solution to the extremely long grind times is pretty simple…pay money.
This doesn’t exactly mean that Heroes & Generals is pay to win: if it were, there would be a significantly large amount of vitriol being directed at the game and its systems. Heroes & Generals, instead, is a game with a significantly higher learning curve than most FPS titles out there, as the initial weapon is actually quite solid once you learn to score headshots with it at range, and there’s always one anti-tank weapon somewhere on the map. The largest and most divisive factor in this game is, however, that it chooses to tell none of that to the player without an extensive amount of Googling and Wiki researching, as without doing any of that it’s pretty easy to write the game off as excessively imbalanced because you’re not told that there’s a panzerschreck somewhere in each map that you can use to stop getting slaughtered by an opposing tank.
Summary: All in all, there’s quite a good game(s) in Heroes & Generals, despite it being quite possibly the grinding-est little FPS hybrid made in recent years. If you can tolerate having to do a little research while buying new items, joining clans to find out where best to place reinforcements and supply drops and just dealing with a huge learning curve, then Heroes & Generals is the game for you. On the other hand, if you think the Battlefield series was hard to get the hang of with its bullet trajectory and drops and armor and pudding pops, then you might want to spend your time elsewhere.
In a sense, Heroes & Generals is the wargame for advanced players, or for those who want to invest a lot of time in becoming a master of the battlefield. If you put a lot into Heroes & Generals, you will get a lot back out of the game. Given that it’s free to try, there is little reason to resist the call of battle.