These complaints are minor nuisances compared to how well-polished Time of Heroes feels in every other respect. Battlefields are easily pinch-zoomed and panned, and the game engine does a great job of telling whether you’re trying to do these things or just pick out a destination square. An auto-save kicks in at the start of every player phase, so you have the choice of jumping right back in after a long break or trying to salvage a close defeat. If battles are going too slow for your liking, you can always switch off unit walking animations to streamline things a bit. In a neat little twist, the game makes use of iDevice shaking to roll a die for stat bonuses when characters level up. Time of Heroes goes against the grain in giving the player manual control over the leveling process: experience points are essentially cashed in between battles.

Things can go very wrong in the third dimension, and I must admit I was underwhelmed by early development footage smuttlewerk churned out in its long-running marketing campaign for Time of Heroes — turning on the PR engine early is always a double edged sword. It turned out to be a good choice on the developer’s part in this case, however, because my expectations were completely blown away in the end. Time of Heroes’ battlefields are all crisply rendered and its character models pretty detailed considering the number that are packed onscreen at any given moment. It’s difficult to imagine why players would want to turn off the battle cutscenes because they’re presented with exciting camera work and complex squad behaviors that mask any limitations in character animation.

The release trailer had me worried my ears might bleed under constant heavy metal. In truth, Time of Heroes boasts a fantastic orchestral score that adds tons of atmosphere and has that magical infectious quality that kept tracks on my brain after I set the game down. Different themes accompany player and enemy phases, keeping the audio experience well varied despite how long these battles stretch. Units utter little quips in their native Viking language when the player selects them, which lends a little personality to all those footsoldiers who march off to sacrifice their digital lives at the player’s behest.

iFanzine Verdict: A masterfully designed TBS that borrows a celebrated concept from the past and beautifully implements it on iOS. Time of Heroes could use some more bells and whistles to streamline the flow of battle in updates, but its sheer level of depth and challenge make this an absolutely unmissable title for genre fans.

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