January 9, 2015 7:30 AM | Lena LeRay
Hero Emblems is a match-3/RPG hybrid that's light on story. The basics of the matching system are pretty typical; any two adjacent emblems can be swapped as long as at least one of them will complete a row of three or more in its new position. But each type of emblem corresponds to a specific party member and that takes the focus away from just finding matches to strategizing about what is best to match and when.
The party consists of four characters: a healer, a tank, a mage, and afighter. Making a match with either the mage's or the fighter's emblems causes them to attack and matching healer emblems heals the party. The tank, however, is a bit more complex. In addition to a health point pool, the party has a defense point (DP) pool. If the party's DP is below max, matching tank emblems will refill the DP meter. If it's at max, the tank attacks. When the party is attacked, the tank uses DP to reduce HP damage, and if the DP pool is empty the party takes much harder hits. Managing that DP pool is really what makes the game more than just a match fest.
There are some other cool features to the matching system. Matching more than three emblems at a time makes the party members more effective, of course, but it also creates new blocks that activate special skills on the characters' parts. The best special emblems come from matching five emblems in a straight line; that creates an S-skill emblem that can be swaped with any adjacent emblem to unleash a character's best skill, and if you swap two S-skill emblems then all of the characters use their best skills at once.
Not all of the matching elements make things better. When a party member is afflicted with a negative status effect, it will appear on one of the emblems and will only go away once that emblem is successfully matched. When a treasure chest is encountered, the player has a set number of turns to get the key to the bottom of the grid by matching away the things under it or they lose the chest. And chests usually appear with enemies, which means the player still has to keep an eye on health and defense and the like.
Once out of tutorial territory and into the world map and the meat of the game, strategy becomes pretty important. The player can of course wander around looking for random encounters and grind experience and gold for equipment to improve the party's chance of survival, but a skilled player will be able to do well without that extra effort. Experience is gained only when an area is finished. For random encounters on the overworld map, that doesn't take long, but the dungeons are longer and harder.
All in all, Hero Emblems is a good blend of RPG and match-3 elements. It's a premium game with a regular price of $3.99, though it's on sale for the first two weeks for $2.99. You can pick it up on the iOS app store.