Developed by Netgame and published by Mgame USA Inc, Hero Online released in 2006 as a free to play (F2P) MMO that revolves heavily around martial arts and an intricate story line written by three generations of martial arts novelists. A very quick glance at this game may show little more then a constant grind for levels - but if you take the time to delve a little further in you may be surprised at what you find.
Performance / Lag
Like most F2P games Hero Online does not take a great deal of resources to run. I never had an issue with performance or lag, even when I was wandering around in the midst of the market area which was home to an almost endless supply of merchants set up trying to get players to purchase their items.
Instillation went smoothly, as did the updates. Once I had registered on the web site for Netgame I was free to download, log in, and play right away.
There are different areas which can be entered by portals located in the main zone. Each zone is bright and colourful, and brings the Asian theme into play wonderfully. When you first create you find yourself in an area filled with trainers and merchants, and you can slowly explore outside the gates and then head to more dangerous zones from there. Because this is a F2P game, you will of course find a large number of bots and people spamming their sales all over the place, be it in tells, shouts, says, or whatever other means they can get a hold of. If you're used to these types of games you won't notice it as being unusual at all and it's just another aspect to the game. There's always ways to block these from your chat windows, and most gamers have developed a sort of 'selective reading' by now.
Hero Online is certainly not a new game, and its graphics are quite outdated by today's standards. The old saying "you get what you pay for" can also be said, and this may be a turn off to the average player - but - don't let this deter you from giving the game a shot.
While the graphics do look outdated - the character animation can make up for this. Each attack your character makes will mimic an actual martial arts move. The combat is great, I loved watching my "Elegant Mystic" twirl and swing her weapons around, it was amusing to me and interesting. Since I personally know very little about martial arts, it was a real treat to watch all of the different types of combat. Now please keep in mind that I'm also not used to playing this style of game. The animation I am used to is all swinging swords and shield bashes, not high kicks and twirls. A lot of comments have been made about the lack of character customization; when you first enter the character creation you have a choice of four classes and none of your typical options like hair, skin, or clothing. You basically get what they give you. The character faces are quite detailed but for the first portion of the game you'll end up looking a lot like everyone else. Later on you can customize your character a little more with costumes and gear. There are also a lot of particle effects on gear, there's nothing better to draw an eye towards your character by flashy adornments. The scenery takes a back seat to the characters in Hero Online, and rightly so.
The sound was not exactly impressive, but again should you expect it to be in a F2P game? It did bring around more of the Asian flare and had a nice oriental feel to it, but after listening to the music repeat for a little while I just wanted to turn it off. Thankfully the sounds of combat and even the sounds of the user interface can help break up the monotony of the general music. Each zone also has its own music that differs from the 'main' area, and I enjoyed the change.
If you've played F2P games before, you're probably already familiar with the 'click to move' play style. Hero Online allows you to re-bind your keys, giving you some User Interface customization in this regard. You can use mouse click to move around or you can use your mouse, or you can even use the arrow keys on your keyboard by default. Targeting mobs is done by your typical 'double click' method, which is frustrating to some players and quite common with others. Most 'mainstream' MMOs allow you to tab target the bad guys and it can take a little getting used to if you're not familiar with it. Give it some time though and you'll ease into it. The bulk of the UI is minimalist. There are some hotkeys along the bottom that work for your attacks, a map, your group window on the left top along with a chat window with options to block all or none of the chat channels in game. On the upper potion of your screen you'll find more keys that allow you to check your character's statistics, gear, and quest journal. The quest journal is pretty basic, you can click on a 'details' tab but you're really left wondering who you need to speak to unless you take a look at some of the guides and help files which I highly suggest people do before diving in if they're not used to this sort of game play (more about that in the next category). The UI certainly won't win any awards, but there's not a whole lot you need it to do for you, so it works out quite well.