Heroes of Mana Review

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Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Brownie Brown

Platform: DS
Reviewed on DS

The world is in peril – one nation seeks to use a dark, magical artifact to conquer the world. Launching its first attack in secret, the Peddan military assaults the Beastmen in their homeland of Ferolia. United, other nations could easily defend against the Peddan attack, but each country refuses to act until it is too late – either fearing for its own safety or refusing to believe the dark turn world events have taken.

It is up to the crew of the airship Nightswan to warn the world and do what they can to combat the Peddan onslaught.

Kyle Ackerman

Intellectually, I knew what was coming. In my gut, I just wasn't ready for a Mana-themed real-time strategy game on the DS, complete with cute, big-headed units bouncing around the map. Heroes of Mana is unquestionably a Mana game, replete with familiar locations, mythology and monsters. But it's an entirely different game from the Mana role-playing games that have borne the Mana name in the past.

Real Time Strategy, Through and Through

Heroes of Mana has players collecting resources, building structures and units, and keeping track of which units trump which other units. The Nightswan serves as floating base, a flying ship that can create structures and units when tethered to the anchors scattered around most maps. Gatherers can be built to run around the map, collecting stone and fruit with which to construct buildings and units, respectively. With the appropriate buildings, you can then create ground units, heavy units (like stronger ground units), missile units and flying units.

To keep the strategy interesting, each of the types of units does double damage against another type of unit, and does only half damage from yet another. So, for example, heavy units can clobber ground units but are vulnerable to flying units. Cute, bouncing gatherers bound across the map to collect resources, and there are special units that perform specific roles like spying.

Since Heroes of Mana is a heavily story-driven RTS, named characters steal the focus as units. Starting with the small core of characters originally present on the Nightswan, the number of available heroes rapidly grows. Each has his own strengths and weaknesses. More importantly, each hero has leadership skills. Battle skills are active on the battlefield, and make the choice of hero an important one. Heroes can improve the critical attacks of nearby units, or perform functions as wide ranging as healing or affecting movement. Fortunately, even heroes that you leave out of the battle have standby skills that improve the overall battle for your forces.


They Always Choose a Bad Path

For the most part, Heroes of Mana works as an RTS. It's easy to group units by touching the lasso icon and drawing a loop around the desired units. Units can be selected by type, and most maps allow you to easily outproduce your enemies. The use of the touchscreen is great, but the pathfinding is dismal. It is exceptionally difficult to get a unit to move from one point to another without wandering somewhere completely different along the way. It's not so bad when you are herding a huge group, as many of them will still make it to their destination. When you need a single unit to hurry (or want to keep a group near a hero to use its battle skill), the pathfinding can be devastating.

As it happens, most of the maps are so small that there's not a lot of grand strategy to execute. Like in other RTS games, the main resource is still your attention – it's just that in Heroes of Mana it's more important to focus on getting your units where they need to be than to rapidly queue the production of military units. In most levels, you can produce an overwhelming force that destroys the enemy, one small group at a time. But the lack of decent Pathfinding becomes teeth-grindingly annoying after a while.

For RTS fans, the simple build tree and horrid pathfinding will ultimately make Heroes of Mana feel repetitive. But for those looking to branch out from console-style role-playing games, particularly fans of the world of Mana, Heroes of Mana is a great opportunity to branch out and try a new style of game. The story should easily pull typical console-RPG fans right through the progression of missions.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on September 28, 2007 8:11 PM.

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