Exos Heroes has been out in its native Korea since last year, where it swiftly built up a devoted enough following to merit a global rollout.
It’s not hard to see why. There’s a huge amount of variation among gacha RPGs in terms of quality, but Exos Heroes sits firmly at the upmarket end of the spectrum, with polished graphics, distinctive characters, and an engaging storyline led by a roguish hero.
If you want proof of Exos Heroes’s commitment to storytelling, you’ll find it in the fact that there’s about an hour of prologue before you even get into the game proper.
This hour is filled with introductory cut-scenes and a handful of training battles. The star of the show is Zeon, a treasure hunter and all-round badass who sets off in search of his airship only to be attacked by a succession of pompous locals.
Along the way Zeon finds another airship, recruits a reluctant pilot to fly it for him, and soundly defeats all of the jerks who have been getting in his way. It’s not Shakespeare, but the writing does enough to make the baddies despicable and the goodies sympathetic, enriching the battles and the game’s narrative moments.
Exos Heroes Looks Great
Exos Heroes looks fantastic. Each hero is uniquely animated and imaginatively drawn, and the animations are elaborate and slick throughout. The summoning animations in particular are anime-like in their scale and grandeur, though this inevitably means you’ll end up skipping them because they take ages to play out.
The dialogue during battles and cut-scenes is voice-acted, too, and mostly to an excellent standard. Unfortunately, the game reverts to poorly translated text for in-game conversations.
The overworld is visually interesting, too – it looks a bit like the map in Don’t Starve, with 2D and 3D combined to good effect. You can automatically traverse this overworld by tapping on missions, but it’s worth manually exploring to uncover goodies.
Combat in Exos Heroes is fairly routine, with the usual turn-based combat and unlockable skills, though a “break” system adds a layer of complexity.
Each enemy has one or more Guardian Stones, and you can break these by attacking with a character representing the same color of stone. Once broken, an enemy takes much more damage.
The complicating factor is that to get three stars from a battle you often need to avoid breaking an enemy, meaning you’ll have to take the reins yourself and apply some rudimentary tactics.
Mana, Not Timers
Skills are slightly unusual, too, in that they’re replenished not through a cooldown but by collecting mana, which you can do in a variety of ways depending on the heroes in play. Again, to maximise your effectiveness and bag those stars you’ll need to roll up your sleeves and do your own fighting.
Getting three stars is important, or at least desirable, because it’s the fastest way of acquiring Xes, which is the material you need to recruit more heroes.
Once the game proper begins, the airship serves as your menu page and headquarters, and it’s here that you can summon new heroes, among other things. As ever, there are different types of summon, yielding different heroes.
Premium guarantees you at least one Legendary Hero for every 11 summons, Free Recruit gives you a free summon every eight hours, and so on. You can also get unlimited re-rolls until you get the hero you want.
Heroes, meanwhile, come in Common, Magic, Rare, Legendary, and Fated tiers, with six different elemental affinities, four position types, and ten different roles, including Warrior, Wizard, Assassin, etc. Each tier has its own minimum star grade, and the higher their star grades the greater their max levels.
The Pull Rate is Average
So far, the pull rate seems to favor free-to-play gamers, since laying down real money doesn’t offer a particularly competitive pull rate. These are early days, however, and it’s possible that developer Oozoo will address this in future.
Exos Heroes is packed with features, including Fatecore and two types of crafting: Airship Forge and the Door to Creation. Among the most interesting of these features is exploration, which is effectively an idle mode in which you can collect treasure, XP, and so on by dispatching one of your minions.
Exploration comes in two flavors, with only Smart Exploration allowing you to actually switch off your phone and walk away. Ordinary Explorations requires you to keep the game running, your reward for this act of battery sabotage and phone paralysis being better loot.
There are 200 heroes to collect in Exos Heroes, as well as PvP, guild battles, and more. The combat system is solid, too, but the game’s strong suit is undoubtedly its presentation and the compelling narrative that runs like a spine through the campaign.
In that sense, Exos Heroes would be a good introduction to gacha games. Veterans of the genre may find fault in the niceties of the gacha system, but more casual players will find plenty to enjoy here. You can download Exos Heroes for free right now on Google Play and the App Store.