Clicker Heroes Review

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I must preface this blog post with the following statement: I love idle gaming.  I have clicked countless cookies with Cookie Clicker, fought my way across dungeons paved with lollipops in Candy Box, and earned my way to the top of AdVenture Capitalist.  I love the freedom and flexibility offered by this genre.

Having set the tone, I declare loud and strong that Clicker Heroes blows all of them away.  The developers, Playsaurus, have subsumed some of the best elements available to them and made them their own.  I will elaborate on their genius as I meander along. 

The biggest bane of the clicker style of idle games has always been a lack of interaction outside of the object being clicked.  Some decry that this lack of interaction is the very nature of an idle game.  However, Cookie Clicker has Golden Cookies which would spawn and could be clicked on for various benefits.  They would only show up for a limited period of time, and would require active participation and a very deep understanding of how Cookie Clicker worked in order to maximize the benefits.  This allowed players who were invested in advancing their production the chance to vault the average idler. 

Candy Box contains bosses which require knowledge of how to build your candy makers in the proper order to accumulate enough resources to defeat them.  They could not be automated, and required an active and engaged player in order to be passed.  AdVenture Capitalist failed in this regard, not allowing any form of user input.  The only option available to a young entrepreneur is to make the buildings which generate profits on a specific and measured output.  In this regard, I feel that AdVenture Capitalist is the weakest of the idle games I have sampled so far as it lacks any unique nooks or crannies to separate it from the field.

I can tell you right now, Clicker Heroes has found the perfect balance of idle gaming and genre-bending twists. Killing monsters generates gold, which is then used to purchase and level up heroes.  Gaining sufficient levels would unlock upgrades, usually at level ten, twenty-five, fifty, and seventy-five.  These range from damage multipliers for the hero being advanced to upgrades which boost the damage of all heroes equally.  Last, but not least, active skills and their upgrades are also available on select characters.  This is where Clicker Heroes veers sharply from previous entries and blazed a trail all its own. 

Active skills sunk its hooks into my mind, and reeled me into the rabbit hole.  The first active skill you are given is Clickstorm, which automatically performs ten clicks a second for thirty seconds.  It has a cool-down of ten minutes, and provides a huge boost to your damage per second (DPS).  I was amazed at the interplay of the ability and the heroes.  Some heroes would provide a boost to click damage based on your total DPS.  Some would allow you the ability to critically click for huge amounts of damage.  All of these boosts were reflected upon using Clickstorm.  With this simple addition, a layer of skill and timing had been carefully grafted onto the genre norms.
 
More abilities would soon follow.  Boosts to overall damage for thirty seconds, increased gold production for slaying monsters, increased chance of critical clicks, the abilities kept rolling in.  These skills would become a constant necessity, as Playsaurus took one of the most unappreciated joys of Candy Box and gave it new life: bosses. 

As the game plays out, you defeat ten monsters randomly generated for a specific level.  After doing so, you may choose to advance one level or remain behind to farm the level just cleared.  Every five levels, a boss fight occurs.  These monsters have vastly increased health compared to normal monsters.  More health requires more time invested in a kill.  In an idle game this isn't much of an impediment.  Playsaurus has a devious trick up their sleeves however, one they use mercilessly.  Each boss requires you to beat the encounter in thirty seconds, no small feat given the enormous amount of hit points they possess. 

This results in players having the ability to use knowledge and skill in an otherwise algorithmic game.  Do you use all of your ability cool-downs to beat the encounter, knowing you won't have them for the next boss in five short levels?  Do you allow the game to be true to its nature and idle on a level prior to the boss and gain gold while you pursue other tasks?  These options were a breath of fresh air, as they are vacant in any other offering that I've sampled.

If Clicker Heroes as a game only had the first play-through, it would be a very satisfying, if short, dalliance.  When the game slows down to a crawl, and the next upgrade is impossibly far away, Playsaurus provides you a gateway to an entirely new level of play.  Once your hero Amenhotep is upgraded to level one hundred and fifty, you have the option to purchase the ability called Ascension.  This ability allows you start all the way at the first level, with no heroes purchased, no money available, and only click damage to help you.  What madness is this?!

Sense is made of this action when you consider the secondary currency of the game: Hero Souls.  Bosses every one hundred levels will offer a guaranteed drop of hero souls.  You encounter Omeet on level one hundred who gives you your first soul after successfully besting him in combat.  Thereafter, every boss you encounter has a twenty-five percent chance of being a Primal Boss.  These bosses grant you hero souls for your next Ascension upon being destroyed.  To add to your tally, every accumulated two thousand levels on your heroes grants one additional soul.  Now that you're accumulating souls like a gatekeeper of the afterlife, what is to be gained from them?

For each hero soul collected, you gain an additional ten percent damage to your total DPS.  This bonus is additive, which means it suffers from the law of diminishing returns, but the first swath of souls you obtain will turbo charge your ability to climb levels.  The first foray takes several days to reach its zenith, yet the second trip with even five souls takes a fraction of that time.  As you repeat the cycle, the interval between games shortening ever tighter, you begin to wonder what you can do with all of these lovely souls you've hoarded.

Let's take a moment to digest: Clicker Heroes has great graphics, offers its purchasable currency to you through clickable objects, and has witty and interesting back story for each of the available heroes.  It's a solid entry into idle gaming and will provide many hours of enjoyment and progress.  Hold on to your hats though, and make sure you are sitting comfortably in a chair.  I'm about to blow your mind.  Clicker Heroes wants you to destroy those souls you worked so hard to obtain, and you will trip over yourself to eradicate them.

Destroying bonus damage might seem like the reverse of progress, but what you get in return left me breathless.  Souls can be used to purchase Ancients.  Ancients are the single greatest addition to any style of idle gaming.  They affect every single aspect of the game in a scope which boggles the mind.  Remember those thirty second boss timers?  There's an ancient which allows you to have more time to beat those pernicious bosses.  Don't care for the active aspect of the game?  There are a pair of Ancients which will allow you to benefit incredibly from being idle and not using abilities or clicking for damage.  There are dozens and dozens of options, each with their own unique flavor.  Combinations abound, and can radically alter your experience both with the game and your enjoyment of it.

This game has been a constant joy.  Only after I've invested fifteen days of play do I feel like I've managed to gain a true mastery of the style I enjoy most, and I still have so far to go.  There are even options to reset your ancients and receive three quarters of the invested souls back.  You should never feel afraid to try a bold new ancient you aren't familiar with.  Playsaurus has given us the keys to the kingdom, and our imagination and desire to progress is the only limit.

Justin “Wally” Wallace
May 31st, 2015
Wallyversusworld@gmail.com

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