Antihero has a unique visual style that I’m loving from the get-go. The game is rendered in 2D but because of the angled, top-down perspective of the board, it feels like pseudo-3D. However, all of the character sprites are flat, so it’s a nice contrast with the board itself. Each unit type has a unique appearance that makes it easy to differentiate from each other, and the Victorian-era towns have a cozy look and feel to them. The towns are dark and gloomy, but the red and blue shades of your guild versus the enemy are a nice complement to the somberness. Animations are buttery smooth and fluid on my iPhone 8 Plus, so I had no issues with lag or choppiness. The ambient soundtrack is also fitting for the Victorian setting, and it’s delightful to listen to, along with the sound effects.
There are three ways to play Antihero: single-player Campaign, Go Online, and Skirmish. Going online requires creating an account, which is simple enough, and it allows you to do PvP with other players in asynchronous battles. Skirmishes can be done against the AI or with other players locally, but you can customize the rules for distinctive and interesting battles. However, chances are high that you’ll be spending most of the time in the rich single-player Campaign.
In the Campaign, there’s a large number of levels to play through, with the difficulty ramping up on each stage. You’ll have to go through the levels in chronological order, and there’s no option to skip a stage, so if you’re stuck, well, you’ll need to try harder. The first three levels serve as the tutorial and help you understand the rules and flow of the game.
To complete a level, you’ll need to gather enough victory points before your opponent does. These are earned by completing various objectives, such as: infiltrating a church for Blackmail, assassinating certain public officials to fulfill Contracts, and more. The game tells you in the beginning what things you can do to earn victory points, so you just have to make sure you get enough before your rival.
Game flow and controls are simple enough. Each turn, your Master Thief can Scout, Burgle, or Attack, but each action costs an Action Point. Scouting lets you uncover hidden parts of the level, Burgle lets you steal some gold coin, and Attack can eliminate enemy units standing in your way. The Action Points refill on each turn. As you get coins, you can purchase units and expand your guild. Each unit does something different and you’ll have to think about what’s best for the situation at hand.
For example, Street Urchins can infiltrate businesses so you acquire resources faster (freebies each turn). Thugs can guard for two turns, Gangs can attack or evict enemy units from buildings, and Saboteurs can set up traps. You’ll uncover more unit types as you get further along in the game, and each one has a useful skill that you’ll want to take advantage of. As you get coins, make sure to use them to get more units if you’re able to.
During each turn, you’re also able to check your Guild and purchase upgrades. The upgrades cost lanterns, so you should generate free lanterns on each turn by controlling a Trade Shop. The upgrades unlock more unit types and can give your Master Thief more power, such as more Action Points and more damage when attacking. You can also choose Charity, which gives you free gold or lanterns each turn, but then you can’t get an upgrade.
Once you’ve made use of all available actions for your units and have spent your upgrades or collected charity, you can submit your turn and then it goes to the opponent, rinse and repeat.