Heroes of Steel is an old school "pickup and play" tactical party combat RPG. It shares common ground with systems in the Ultima series and Final Fantasy Tactics (overhead grid tactics) along with the wizardry style dungeon crawlers (Fixed party of 4 with specific roles to make a party).
I emphasize this is a combat game because that really is what the game is: a COMBAT game! 80% of what you do is fight and kill enemies, the other 20% is a mix of exploring and gear/stat management with some light story sprinkled in to keep a cohesive experience.
The combat turn is free forming where any character can do any action in whatever order you wish. The characters don't have to complete all of their actions before selecting the next character, and there is no turn order. For example you have have a caster debuff a monster, have your fighter run up to it and smack it, then have the caster nuke a different monster, then retreat your fighter back to support your caster all in 1 turn.
The game is a slow burn and takes a couple hours to get off the ground.The combat can seem like a foot slog at times, especially in the beginning when your party are just starting out and don't have many options. It takes some time for the game to open up. Most RPGs are also guilty of this, but it is worth mentioning that you wont be tearing through the enemy with ease right from the get go.
There will be tough situations and battles of attrition where you have combat waves of adds or large engagements and heavy odds. Some of these battles can last the better part of an hour. For some people this may be off putting or exhausting, but the game auto saves all the time so you can quit out and continue anytime midbattle so this isn't nearly the hassle it can be in other games.
The game is challenging but fair. Enemies aren't pushovers, the threat of dying from careless play or overextending is always there. Often you kill enemies fast, but if you are careless they will kill you fast. It's important to figure out a fighting style or general group strategy that suits you and then SPECIALIZE. The whole party is a UNIT, each individual fulfilling a specific role. Damage and healing are obvious but good crowd control, and positioning are more subtle and just as important.These subtleties are important as you advance through the game into episode 2 (20-30 hours) and beyond when the enemy AI behavior ramps up to where things like: tactical retreats, luring/pulling, stealth attacks, cursing, repositioning midbattle, and using terrain are paramount or you will die a lot.
Speaking of death, it is handled in a very intuitive way. There is no resurrection or revive mechanic. If any of your characters die, you are given the option to retry the turn (this rewinds the game back one turn so you can try again, or you can reset back to the beginning of the dungeon area before the engagement. This is handy to start the fight from scratch or leave the area to resupply. The only negative for death is a hit to your total learderboard score.
The game encourages you to explore every nook and cranny and to kill EVERYTHING you come across. Stealth basically boil down to a way of getting the first turn in combat (getting an edge on buff/debuffs and positioning) and getting high critical bonuses on sneak attacks.
In fact, the game is so combat focus that it is hard to avoid most fights. There is no "escaping combat" mechanic. This can be a problem if fights goes badly. In this situation it is usually best to try and salvage by a tactical retreat for a few turns and regroup, or to let yourself die and restart before the engagement.
The story and dialog adds purpose and life to the game without destroying the game pacing or getting in the way of the combat. Story and dialog are pretty well done. The highlight here is the interaction between your characters and their reactions to things in the world around them.There are some cliche things but nothing too grating. It uses some common themes like a post-apocalyptic world and Norse myths, but it has enough twists and different situations to keep things interesting. There are some critical choice paths to make throughout, but interactions are never meant to take away from the combat focus.
The UI is easy to understand and the battle system and descriptions are clear and well explained. But some things need improvemen like: more general graphic and ui options, more keyboard shortcuts, more ways to sort equipment, ways to quickly check buffs and character status. Some of this just comes from its trappings as a mobile game first but they could definitely help.
Edit: In an update the devs added a mini status bar with buff and status effect duration which helps a lot. Good job on them improving this.
Rebuffing between fights can sometimes be a chore due to certain buffs needing a specific formation to optimize the buff and apply to all party members at once.
Edit: In a recent update this problem has be resolved with a new feature: Auto Buff! This basically refreshes all buffs on all party members with one button click, no more repositioning and having to individually cast every buff!
Health and Mana management is done mostly through camping at specific sites spread around the dungeons or consumable items (potions, scrolls, etc) There are some skills that can help this along, like a skill that lets you sacrifice mana of one character to refill anothers sort of like a mana "battery." This system works well for the most part. If you do struggle sometimes its better to go back to the local town or camp to refill your HP and Mana for free instead of consuming a ton of potions. Being conservative and walking back and forth isn't instant and can slow the game's pacing down a lot at times. Something like a town portal or zone teleport for dungeons you have already explored would help with the downtime here. Edit: The devs added a fast movement option which does help with downtime.
Raising your statistics and leveling up is handled in a traditional D&D sense where you raise an attribute like strength or constitution, then raise a martial mastery like a weapon or magic skill like blades or conjuration, and then allocate points to improve a specific active skill like "Crushing Blow," "Healing" or "Fireball." Theses skills often have the trend where as you increase them they are more potent but cost more, so you need to balance it. This isn't too difficult to figure out and you can sit on points if you don't know what to pick, but it is important to not spread your talents too thin and to have a goal or strategy in mind. It takes some critical thinking and planning as it is possible to make a counter intuitive build and there isn't yet a respec option.
The music ambience isn't bad, but it lacks variety and needs more songs added to the score, sound effects could use a volume slider since you can only toggle on/off currently.This area really needs some attention and would help enhance the atmosphere and mood of the game dramatically.
Overhead Tactical Grid Combat System
Explore subterranean world in post-apocalyptic environment with fantasy and Norse influence.
Traditional RPG stat and level progression
The pull is the simple, fun, challenging combat, and shear amount of content offered, this game is LONG.
The difficulties and the various ways combat can play out helps give it even longer legs.
The setting and writing are interesting and not drab
The devs are very involved with and receptive to the community, the game is always receiving updates and improvements
UI can use some more improvement, it still evolving from its mobile game trappings
Music and sound lacks variety and needs more general options
Minor tweaks to the the system like addressing escaping combat, fast travel, respec would help the games pacing and ease of access.