Published on May 7th, 2016 | by Justin Giza0
Confession time: I’ve spent an embarrassing amount of time since PAX East with a freemium game that I have grown to love.
Shop Heroes is a lot of things rolled into one, and it’s chock full of things that push just the right buttons. It’s part “clicker.” It’s part shop simulator. It’s part Sim City. It’s part RPG. All of these things round together in just a handful of screens where you get to watch numbers increase with delightful little chimes and relaxing music.
The scariest and perhaps most addictive part about it all is the lack of the “Energy” meter that has become a staple of so many freemium games. Would you like to play for eight hours straight? Shop Heroes will let you play for eight hours straight, at no cost to you.
You begin the game with a very basic shop with a handful of recipes. You need to hire some workers, give them some workstations, and you’ll start building equipment and discovering new recipes. Materials for equipment is sourced over time by simply keeping resource boxes around your shop, where you’ll get regular deliveries from your town’s buildings. You’ll also get some materials from the Heroes you hire at the local Inn, who you can send on quests for sweet loot.
Not getting resources fast enough? Hop over to the town screen and start investing in some buildings. You’ll get a little resource boost for yourself (and the whole town), and you’ll start to unlock – you guessed it – more goodies for your shop.
I hopped into the game with a little bit of caution. There are a lot of free-to-play games that simply feel half-baked, and I was pleasantly surprised to find this game had a lot of great mechanics and addictive gameplay built in. Before long, my village (which I had lovingly named Sandwiches) went from a small little nothing to a booming town.
The entire game is a magnificent cycle of numbers and selling and buying and questing. What began as a simple venture to check out the game has rapidly spiraled into a full-on investment into this adorable little world. Resource and space management is mostly what you’ll end up struggling with. If your shop is only big enough to fit four workers, but you need five – how are you going to juggle your priorities?
For a long time, Final Fantasy Record Keeper was my go-to for freemium shenanigans, but the fluid and relaxing gameplay of Shop Heroes just feels nicer on my commutes. Because there’s no energy bar, I don’t feel pressured to get the most out of my turns every 8 hours, because there are no actual turns to take. You play at your own leisure, and to be treated like a person and not n Oh-My-God-Please-Let-Me-Just-Play-The-Game-Here-Is-My-Money Timebomb is a really nice thing.
So, what keeps the game afloat in terms of revenue? Users can pay a fee and unlock unique workers and blueprints for cool gear for your heroes, or just speed along production. You can also unlock additional timed slots for building more gear at the same time, or just buy a pile of the in-game currency to rapid-fire finish some quest or build timers. While it could be argued that this sort of behavior makes it a “pay-to-win” model, there is a big difference between paying because you love the game and paying because you want to win the game. The major incentive here is not to necessarily overpower everyone else, and a lot of the fun is yielded just from working toward unlocking things. Paying helps speed that along and honestly makes for a pretty pleasant experience.
This does, however, raise a curious question about the upcoming PvP that will be added in a May/June update. I’m very much looking forward to this new feature, but I’ve got my fingers crossed that it will safely tie into the economy of the game and not favor those who spend hundreds of dollars on sweet gear. One nice thing that has been promised is that in order to stay at the top, you must continue to fight players. You can’t hit a rank and then sit – you’ve got to be active if you want to stay on top.
For folks who like a different kind of competition, there are ladder rankings for most discovering, most shop appeal and a few other stats as well. The world chat has been pretty inviting for the most-part, and seems to have a pretty friendly community surrounding it. If you want, you can just invite your friends to hang out in your town and work together toward building something awesome. You can opt to chat only with them – also nice for people who prefer small crowds.
It’s honest to god one of the most oddly fun (and time-killing) games you can pick up for free on iOS, Android or just to leave in the background on Facebook. The game even supports cross-play as long as it’s linked to Facebook, so you can enjoy your game anywhere you go.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go kick out my hardworking blacksmith so I can hire someone who can enchant things so I can watch more numbers increase.