Review: Heroes of Flatlandia14 Mar 2019 1
Review: Heroes of Flatlandia
Released 11 Dec 2019
Flatlandia is a miniaturized Heroes of Might & Magic, and that may be the first and only thing you need to know about it. What, still here? Fiiinnneeee: The Heroes formula of fantasy strategy combines a fixed, board-game-like strategic layer in which the player builds and customizes armies, and a tactical layer with powerful heroes that's heavy on magic and special abilities. It's a design that for some reason hasn't really been duplicated, although the original series has spawned seven sequels.
Heroes of Flatlandia is a great homage to (or clone of, depending on your point of view) those games, simplified for mobile, for better or worse.
One way Flatlandia distinguishes itself is through its goofy chibi-by-way-of-Warcraft artistic style that is colorful and communicative. It's a great game to look at, and the only thing I would change is to add the option to overlay a visible hex grid for those times when you need to be a little more precise.
There's a fair variety of units, but more importantly, all units are quite distinct. Each one has its own special ability or two that make it a unique threat on the battlefield, all the way down to your basic starter units. The Elf faction's cheap wolves are great blitz attackers to pick off weaker units since they always attack first and get bonus movement for the first two turns. The Undead's basic gargoyles are great at blocking units in, since they turn to stone and get extra armor during the opponent's turn. On top of the units you have two distinct heroes for each faction to choose, and they gain special abilities as they level up. You also gain spells that let you attack or buff/debuff.
The most important tactic is taken directly from Heroes of Might & Magic: stacking units. Your armies are limited to six distinct units, but you can stack up as many identical units as you like, making units that move as one but hit harder and last longer. An army with a lot of stacked units has a big advantage, and may be better avoided.
The number of tactical-level maps is quite limited, and furthermore the terrain doesn't really affect tactics. Unit positioning doesn't have a strong impact, except when assaulting walled cities. There are no zones of control around units, so you are free to waltz in between the front lines and take out less well-armored magic users. Cover is similarly of little effect since it is easy to walk around.
The AI is quite good, and puts up a significant challenge, especially on the tactical battlefield. It will zero in on your weakest units and exploit holes in your defenses ruthlessly. You will have to play carefully if you're pitting two evenly-matched armies against one another and can expect heavy casualties. The AI is also quite efficient strategically: on three-player maps I found one of the AI players quickly eliminated the other and was often still strong enough to take me on. Unfortunately there is no online play, which is a big hole in a turn-based strategy game. There is however pass-and-play local multiplayer available as some consolation.
The biggest disappointment at the strategic level is how long it takes to contact the enemy. I think this is a consequence of the oversized maps, which give each player enough room to grow to full strength before they necessarily encounter each other, even on "small" maps. There are also only a couple three-player maps. This sort of slow-paced strategy game would be far more entertaining with three or even more players bumping into one another, racing to snag resources, and forming ad hoc alliances before stabbing each other in the back.
Instead, at the strategic level, you only have a few key decisions to make: the first is which resource to pursue next, based on the strength of the neutral units protecting it. Then you have to decide how to spend those resources to upgrade your army as fast as possible. Should you buy all the available units from your city? Or ignore them in favor of upgrading the city to produce stronger units? Essentially, the game is a race to see who can build a strong army the fastest, and then send it rampaging through their opponent's territory. That said, the AI is good at doing this, which means the game is still quite a challenge, even if you spend most of it fighting neutral units.
Controls generally work well, although since everything is controlled with single taps you can sometimes send an army marching to join another army when all you meant to do was select the other army. A quick undo button on the main map and tactical screen would be a big help here.
In the end, Flatlandia is a limited, mobile-focused clone of Heroes of Might & Magic. It doesn't have PC-level depth, but what is there is worth playing, especially with the challenging AI. The developer is active, and I would expect more maps, heroes and factions in the future, so this may be one to watch if 'mobile HoMM' isn't an insta-buy.