There's a story behind Hero Online, but when you first start playing the game it's not exactly revealed to you. You're given a few quests to start and without reading any of the guides or help files you may feel a little lost. It's only after you give the game a little time and dig a little deeper that you start to see some of the more in-depth aspects. When I first started playing it seemed like nothing but a grind, and yes, this can be said for pretty much every game out there. They all involve SOME sort of grind. With Hero, it looked as though all there was to do at all was grind away experience.
You start off at 1Kyu which is basically level one. Every ten Kyu you gain a Dan, for a maximum of 10 Dans (100 levels). When you're talking in terms of levels it would be (for example) 8Dan4Kyu which is level 84.
At level 10, you can pick a job class. At five Dan (level 50) you can pick a second promotion to that job class. The four classes are Physician (healer class), Hunter (can tame pets), Warrior (can boost their own skills and decrease opponents), Assassin (has life drain and stealth). I stuck with my typical healer class since it's what I'm most comfortable playing.
Once you hit one Dan you are also able to purchase (or tame if you're a hunter) pets. These pets are much more then pretty sidekicks, they can do a number of things. You can use pets as mounts, you can also use them to do combat with you - and they can even act as extra storage space since you can trade with them. Your pets level up with you, and you can get them by purchasing them or by taming them (hunter only). You have to feed your pet much like some other games out there, or the pet will leave.
There are not only jobs and pets though there's also a whole world of PvP out in Hero Online if that's what you're into. PvP servers have unique rules that you can look up on the Hero Online web site. They include things like bonus experience to kills and even a penalty to experience based on your deaths. Hero Online allows you to create three characters (per account) and play them on any one of the servers (channels as they call them) that you'd like. Channels 7-10 are dedicated to PK.
You also have the ability to put your skill points into the skills you wager are best for your character, allowing you to create your own builds. It's all of the smaller things in this game that make it fun.
There is a housing system that I didn't get a chance to look at, but from what I understand a party of two or more can join up and create a house. It costs a lot of money and works in much the same way a guild works. You can also customize your groups, to share experience and decide how you'd like to split loot. It may not seem like the most extravagant of systems, but it works.
Community / Customer Service
The community of Hero Online is dedicated, that much is apparent. The forums are active and there were LOTS of people in game. Of course, not all of them speak English but they were still helpful. I spent some time talking to players and talking on the forums to get an understanding of who was playing the game. The GM's are also active, there were a number of activities going on while I was playing including some exclusive boss events for new players, as well as double experience (again for new players). These events were running for specific days in March / April, and it was great to see. There was some concern about the number of bots and gold sellers, as well as spam in game - but again with a F2P game it sort of comes with the territory. The game claims that you can get 1:1 support if you have an issue in game, and I attempted to test that theory but after a few hours of no response I decided to leave it be.
While I don't see this game being a triple A title for anyone, it's fun for what you pay for. You can delve as deep as you'd like and start purchasing from the stores with real cash, but you don't have to. The main issues I see with a game like Hero Online is that it's old now. Take a look at the competition, the new F2P games that are being released offer a lot more as far as graphics and game play. There is depth to F2P games now, and that's something that's still fairly new. If you would rather not continuously level up and grind experience you're going to find yourself with sparingly little to do in Hero Online. Playing the market is fun but only for so long. The game is nice if you play other games, or if you're on a very tight budget, but unless you're an avid martial arts fan why wouldn't you find a newer game to play that offers more as far as character customization, skills, and graphics. It's not good enough these days to be an average game even if it is F2P. If you want to keep people playing, you have to offer them more.
On that same note, Hero Online can cater to a niche of martial arts games fairly easily. A lot of the F2P games coming out follow different genres, so there's still room for a game like this.
I didn't enjoy the game in huge abundance because there was nothing that struck me as 'wow I have GOT to play this game more!' and that's what I look for in a game. There's so much competition out there these days. There was also nothing that I really hated about the game either, it was just sort of middle of the road. Fun to give it a whirl, and fun to play with pets and mounts but these days LOTS of games offer those exact same things, with better graphics and more depth.