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Legacy of Heroes, the new free-to-play, social, collectible card game (CCG) from developer 5th Planet (whose released games include Legacy of a Thousand Suns and Dawn of the Dragons) has only been out a week, but you wouldn’t be able to tell that from the community that has already sprung up around it. When I hopped on Kongregate (an online game-hosting site) to try it out, the chat was full of people organizing pick-up tournaments and saying things like, “Need nine more energy.” And the enthusiasm doesn’t end there.
The free-to-play business model depends on a few big spenders, known as “whales,” to bring in revenue. “We already have our first whale,” 5th Planet chief Robert Winkler said in an interview with GamesBeat. “We have people who have spent over a thousand bucks on the game, and it’s only been out for a few days.”
In Legacy of Heroes, players create their own superhero and enroll at the Phaeton Project, a school for gifted humans. The plot comes courtesy of DC and Marvel Comics veteran Brian David-Marshal, whom CCG fans might also know as the official historian for the popular collectible card game Magic: The Gathering. The art team includes several other comic industry notables, including Steve Ellis (The Silencers), Amanda Conner (Power Girl), Lee Moder (Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E.), Dan Panosian (Prophet), Giancarlo Caracuzzo (Jonah Hex), and Jamal Igle (Supergirl).
After a few introductory battles, you can choose a focus and gain powers like superstrength, mental skills, or forging deadly weapons out of fire. If you think this class selection sounds straight out of a role-playing game, you’re right. Winkler says that 5th Planet took this route to “add depth and engagement.” But leveling up your character also has a bearing on the game, allowing you to unlock more powerful cards to add to your deck.
As a CCG, Legacy of Heroes is all about the cards. Your deck includes attacks, blocks, and support characters whom you use to chip away at your opponent’s defenses. It all moves a little quickly at first, but it doesn’t take too long to get a sense of what’s going on. “We have really strived with this game — and with our previous games, too — to try and only have it take a few minutes to pick up but take a lifetime to master,” Winkler says. “New sets don’t come out more than every two months, but we still do one-off card promotions and that…keeps it interesting and fresh and challenges players to come up with new decks and new strategies.”
Legacy of Heroes is currently exclusive to Kongregate, but 5th Planet plans to expand to Facebook and other platforms in the coming months as well as hosting on its own website through Facebook Connect. 5th Planet’s previous games have almost 180,000 active users per month on Facebook, where they’re up against juggernauts like Zynga and Electronic Arts. With the free-to-play market already so crowded, Winkler believes that what sets Legacy of Heroes apart is its authenticity and faithfulness to its subject.
“One of the things that makes us different as a company — and I think it shows in our games — is that we’re analytics-informed, not analytics-driven. I’m sure we could have cut a lot of corners on art and spent a lot less time on design and still gotten the game to look decent, but it wouldn’t have been the same experience. And we want to be proud of what we’re doing, and we think the time that we spend on that stuff is going to show. And people that presumably are interested in comic books and superheroes and cartoons — that will resonate with them, and that will work out for everyone.”