The first thing you see when logging into Sentinel Heroes is the option to pick from three different characters who are carbon copies of Phantom Assassin, Silencer and Huskar from the Defense of the Ancients franchise. Regardless of potential copyright issues, I immediately assumed this would either be some sort of Warcraft III or MOBA clone, but what I got was completely different. Instead of a real-time strategy, or multiplayer online battle arena, I entered into a 2D, 3rd person, point-to-click RPG akin to that of an R2Games title.
Neither browser-based nor free-to-play games have earned an amazing reputation lately and many are simply carbon copy MMORPGs looking to make a quick buck. Is Sentinel Heroes going to end up with the same fate and chalked up as browser-based time waster, or is there some actual depth to the gameplay?
A HUMBLE BEGINNING
Upon first logging into the game, Sentinel Heroes leaves a lot to be desired. The town literally consists of two NPCs, a troll and a gnoll, and four buildings, which never really come into play. After a few lines of dialogue, the gnoll directed me to a portal that initiated my first fight. Fighting is rather loosely used here because I literally pressed the “Fight” button and that was it. Combat, along with everything else, in Sentinel Heroes is very shallow. The battle areas consists of nine diamond-shaped boxes to arrange your units, with five units maximum. How you arrange your team is essentially the only player interaction once the fighting starts. In between rounds, during the story quest, characters are healed and players can change their formation, but there’s literally no player input during combat. This means that whether you win or lose a match is almost entirely based on preparation made beforehand, with a few small random chances for dodges or critical attacks.
As the game progresses, the complexity doesn’t really scale, but instead the grind intensifies greatly. Up to five heroes can be used at any given time and it’s best to focus on leveling and skilling up the best available units. Starting out, players receive one rare character and can easily obtain four additional common to uncommon units by capturing them during quests. Rare characters are also handed out for daily and leveling bonuses, such as Omniknight who’s gifted for every third consecutive daily login each week. Furthermore, one epic hero is granted at 1600 PvP reputation points, which takes about a week to obtain, and another random one is given upon obtaining level 35.
THE GRIND GAME
Because there is only so much strategy that players can implement, the game’s progression really comes down to amount of grinding done. Heroes gain immense power every time their skills level up, every eight levels, and when they obtain a new set of gear. Gear sets change every 10 levels and require certain crafting materials and the previous tier of that respective item. Starting around nine materials and increase to more than 25, the grind to upgrade this equipment becomes a massive time suck. Recently the drop rate for material was decreased and seems to be around 20%, which means that it’s possible to require multiple days of questing to upgrade a single item. This has caused a large amount of players to only upgrade the essentials: damage and health.
In order to gain any significant power increase, players either have to increase their character levels or gather material. Unfortunately, choosing to do one of these is counter intuitive to the other because most repeatable quests with material rewards only grant a tiny amount of experience. Thankfully, a lot of additional stamina potions are handed out to ease the burden when players get stuck on a particular spot, but it doesn’t always solve the issue. After being personally stuck on Ghoul, the quest area 60 boss, for almost three days I became increasingly frustrated. The only way for me to progress was to grind dungeons and bonus experience missions until I hit level 40, which unlocked new weapons and skills.
Not only can equipment be upgraded, but it can also be strengthened according to the player level. The initial strengthening cost isn’t much, but it greatly compounds and taking an item from level 1 to 40 can potentially cost in the millions of gold, or the equivalent to a few days’ worth of play. Gems, which can be obtained through dungeons, can be upgraded, exchanged, and socketed into rare or epic level equipment. Finally, hero cards can be compounded up to 10 times by sacrificing a copy of itself or wisps of equal value. After becoming compounded to level 10 heroes can then be enclosed to increase their rarity by one rank and nearly double their power.
Essentially, Sentinel Heroes creates a massive time sink with crafting, upgrading cards and equipment over and over to keep players hooked while the game is devoid of real meaningful story or combat mechanics. At the higher levels, everything is set at such a massive gold cost and a relatively high fail % that it keeps players at a standstill for several days at a time.
The premium currency, diamonds, and bonus packs, which contain rare characters and runes, can be purchased for real money and provide a significant boost in relation to their cost. As a free-to-play title, the premium currency obviously grants benefits to those willing to spend money, but the biggest benefits can be obtain for a mere $10. The initial 100 diamond bonus, or $10, gives the player extra gold, stamina, four additional rare cards and a talent point. For the cost, this is a huge bonus that should be able to propel most players through the initial stages of the game. However, without this bonus it’s quite easy to get stuck after the first 10 levels or so. Having leveled up two accounts, one with no purchases and the other with the $10 bonus, I struggled quite a bit on my free account while I maintained a top 10 PvP spot and breezed through the PvE content until around quest 50 on the other.
What’s nice about the premium currency is it doesn’t provide paying players a massive boost, save one choice. The necessary materials, or dyes, to eclose a card seem to only be available for diamonds and at a rather steep price from 20 to 300 diamonds each. Eclosion almost doubles the power of certain heroes and provides bonuses to skills. Furion, for example, would gain 2400 magic attack, more than double his level 40 base 2184 attack, and an additional 10% to his Wrath of Nature skill. The only way for free players to obtain diamonds is through the arena, and it would take most players close to a year to gain enough diamonds to eclose one rare hero this way.
The other items that can be bought with diamonds are mostly small perks including additional gold, gems, stamina and crafting material. Moreover, there are a few talents that can only be unlocked with diamonds and they provide small perks such as an additional chance to recruit free heroes from quests, extra auction house slots, and immediate quest mop-up completion. The instant mob-up perk is one of the better ones, and it only costs 100 diamonds so it’s recommended to unlock it early. Quests than have already been cleared can be “mopped up” without having to play through them, but without the perk each quests has a five-minute timer.
What Sentinel Heroes truly feels like is an attempt to play on the emotions of fans of Warcraft III and DOTA, but without providing any meaningful content or depth. Just about every single character/character model in Sentinel Heroes is taken directly from the Warcraft universe and was then pasted onto a 2D point-and-click RPG. The characters might look the same and use similar skills, but there’s no intense team combat of DOTA or deep plot line of the Warcraft franchise.
Instead we’re left with a hollow shell of a game that uses art from popular culture to lure in unsuspecting fans. Initially the game is slightly entertaining and becomes addicting with each new feature that’s unlocked, but halfway through the game you’ll start to wonder why you’re still playing. In the end, the game becomes grinding for the sake of grinding. Acquire new gear to progress to the next level and the next tier of something that doesn’t really matter.
This isn’t a new concept in games, especially not MMOs, but in most quality games the journey is what makes the game and not the shiny loot at the end. In Sentinel Heroes the next new item, character or unlock is the entirety of the game and nothing else is all that interesting. If the combat was engaging there wouldn’t be a need for auto completion of quests, and the dialogue between characters is very poorly done.
Since I began playing, there have already been a number of changes that outraged members of the community and have already started to influence players to leave. Items from the premium currency shop have increased 1000%, material drop rates were significantly reduced, and specific materials can now only be purchased for diamonds. These are all signs of a major attempt at cash grabbing from either unsuspecting newcomers or elite members that already feel like they’re invested in the game. I’ve never been against supporting a company if they produce a quality product, especially free-to-play or indie games, but when there’s no substance to a game it feels more like a company is trying to take advantage of its customers.
Due to the lack of depth, storyline and negative direction the game’s taking, I give Sentinel Heroes a 4/10.
- Kills time
- Lots of PvP
- No innovation
- Listless combat system
- No skill required