Antihero: review

  • Format: PC
  • Unleashed: Out Now
  • Publisher: Versus Evil
  • Developer: Tim Conkling
  • Players: 1-2
  • Site: http://antihero-game.com/
  • Game code provided by PR

So we previewed Antihero a while back, and it’s as good now as it was back then. Since the preview build it’s added a more stable live multiplayer element (not that we had any issues with the preview code) and a Campaign with a smattering of levels. It doesn’t seem to have been rebalanced and, considering it seemed fairly well tuned in that regard, we’re not too surprised.

If you’ve forgotten what Antihero is about (surely you read the preview, non?) then it’s basically Robbers and Robbers, with nary a Cop in sight. Set in Victorian London, you – a thief – lead a gang of urchins, thugs, and the like across the streets of the city of filth as you try to get the upper hand over rival gangs. You’ll burgle, maim, and put children to work, all in the name of being the best gang.

It’s fun; whether you’re going through the fairly short but well tutorialised (that’s totally a word) campaign or even if you’re slumming it online against friends or strangers. That is of course if you’re doing well, or at the very least okay in any particular scenario. Everything is fairly well balanced… until it isn’t. Maps are sort of asymmetrical but aren’t always, so certain buildings can sway the outcome of a game purely through its placement in the map. If one player starts next to gold-generating buildings on one of the larger maps while the other has the opportunity to pay less for units they can’t afford anyway, then advantages start to rack up on one side over the other.

That’s only on the larger maps though, and it’s not that there’s no winning for the disadvantaged player; but it does show the flaws that can arise occasionally. And that’s okay. The Fog of War is what really makes this an issue, but as a counter to that flaw, the Fog of War is what makes everything about the game so interesting.

Fog of War covers almost every tile in the map, so other than the layout of the streets, positions of enemies, and knowing that a few special buildings exist somewhere in a cluster of houses, you really don’t know all that much to begin with. You can only reveal up to three adjacent tiles at a time but if you burgle any building within a block of houses, it reveals them all. It creates a lot of tactical thinking, in that you have to plan for all eventualities, like having a single square unrevealed could lead to an assassination target being harder to follow; or would you prefer to know where a particular building is a turn earlier rather than being able to see along a street adjacent to it?

Since the best way to earn money is to burgle buildings, what order you do every action in your turn can have serious repercussions. If you burgle first, you might get lanterns (the upgrade currency) rather than gold, which isn’t always ideal. But it gives you the choice of more expensive – or just more – upgrades in a single turn rather than doing something that feels more immediately productive. Anything you buy in a turn increases the cost of the same unit or additional upgrade by one. So it makes you keep an eye on your resources just that little bit more.

Resource management is a huge part of the game, but it won’t win you anything if you don’t take each map’s nuanced objectives into account too. While there will always be blackmail to buy and evil doers to assassinate for victory points, most maps also have their own special victory points that can be had. One has you stealing masks for a masquerade ball that your urchins and thugs can infiltrate, while another will see you trying to take hold of a ship on the docks for a turn. It makes each map feel unique, but unique is a quality that’s easy to emulate when there’s only four maps.

It’s a game that we can share much enthusiasm over. It’s fast and fun, it doesn’t feel too bad to lose at it, and should you want to play it in the “play by email” casual mode you can. Submit a turn and go do something else; check back later and you can pick up where you left off. It means that it’s perfect for picking up and playing, the lack of time constraints means you can mull things over for a good while and if you’re waiting on someone else you can start up a few other games and wait for people to be matched against your first turns. The only issue with this is you might get inundated with email notifications telling you that your turn is ready.

It’s a great game and, for some, it’ll have everything you need for hours of fun. Other than the occasionally imbalanced map, the only thing you might take umbrage with is the lack of map templates. There are only four to choose from (for the moment) and some of the campaign missions would make interesting levels purely because they aren’t asymmetrical like the others. But if you can deal with that, then you’ll find a lot to love here – especially the voice acting for your gang members.

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Written by Sean P

I enjoy playing games and I enjoy writing things, so I decided to combine the two. I do bits here and there and have a twitter that mainly just announces things I've done as my life revolves around very little that is truly interesting.

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