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Clicker Heroes (PC) artwork

Clicker Heroes (PC) review

"Clicker Heroes is good at turning into a surprise addiction, but that's not doing anyone who plays it any favors."

Even before Clicker Heroes arrived on Steam this May as a free download, I had been playing it for months while ignoring a bunch of potentially great stuff that I've paid actual money for but never opened. The absurdly addictive title first came to my attention when it was (to my knowledge) available only as a simple web site. If you feel so inclined, you can still head to and load the application without even creating an account, then leave it running while you do more productive things in your browser's other tabs.

Yes, Clicker Heroes is one of those titles -- the sort that plays itself with only occasional participation from whoever installed it. But as I quickly learned, the game is fiendishly good at what it does. Boasting endearing artwork, a clever sense of humor and some downright devious formulas at work behind the scenes, the game has over the past year and a half or so eaten up far more hours of my free time than I would care to admit. I think I'm finally about done with it now, but I've thought that a few times and it keeps pulling me back in as if I am the wooden part of a yo-yo and it is the string.

Clicker Heroes (PC) image

The extremely basic idea is that there are monsters, and you are out in the wilderness among them. Foul creatures approach you one at a time, position themselves on an isometric landscape and look vaguely menacing. You can click on the current opponent to inflict some damage, and you can continue clicking from there to keep that hurt coming. As each beast bites the dust, you earn gold until finally you have enough funds to hire a mercenary who will strike several blows per second on your behalf. That's quite handy if you want to function as a productive member of society. Some of us have jobs, after all.

A set number of monsters approaches you per "level," and every once in a while, you'll face a boss. This bruiser has a timer. You must deal the required damage within a number of seconds, or you'll be kicked back to the previous stage to lick your wounds. As often as you like, though, you can return and try again. The next time around, you can also bring more mercenaries to improve your chances of success. If you advance far enough into the wilderness, you will also defeat primal monsters to earn "hero souls," which increase the amount of damage you inflict or work as currency you can spend to access special deities known as Ancients. These powerful beings grant you additional powers. They reduce the cost to hire new mercenaries, for example, or they allow you to deal more damage or score more loot when you slay your adversaries. There are around three dozen of them in all, and most of them are insanely useful. Naturally, you can also power them up with hero souls.

To me, it seems like no matter how far a person advances in Clicker Heroes, there is always a new hook waiting just around the corner. By hiring enough mercenaries and leveling them up, and by activating enough Ancients, you can eventually reach much higher levels than would otherwise be possible. There, you can recruit "gilded" heroes that you can use to further improve any mercenaries, so that they inflict considerably more damage.

Clicker Heroes (PC) image

The process gets addictive very quickly, and I spent a number of days learning the ropes and mostly enjoying myself when I first found Clicker Heroes. Then I discovered the concept of the "ascension," which lets you start a fresh run after dumping resources into further improvements. After each ascension, you might get a little bit further, and gradually you will be able to hit much higher plateaus before it's time for a new journey.

But Clicker Heroes doesn't stop there. It was content with those few mechanics when I first downloaded it, but the team at Playsaurus has slowly added a number of new ones while also expanding the options that were already in place. One such addition is the "guild," which lets you partner with other players. Each day, an extremely powerful monster approaches. Together, thanks to asynchronous multiplayer, you can take turns whacking it with your fiercest attacks--which are determined by the total number of hero souls you have gathered over your time with the title, rather than your general stats--and the rewards are quite lucrative if you manage to topple high-level monstrosities. There's also the potential fear that you'll let down your friends if you don't contribute, so that's another reason to check in often.

Another addition is the clickable item, which appears randomly over time. These are seasonally themed. Right now, a candy cane sometimes winks into sight. I can click it and I will receive gold based on the current level to which I have progressed, but sometimes I instead receive a gem or two. When I first started playing, gems didn't exist. They're in-game currency that you can also buy with real-world money. You get a few just for playing, which lets you know how awesome they are, but you won't get a satisfactory number of them unless you check in religiously or you reach for your credit card.

Clicker Heroes (PC) image

Relics have also been added. A player can acquire several of them, and they improve special skills that are tied to mercenaries, or they make it slightly easier to snag additional gems for free. They can also be broken down for core materials that further improve equipment you already have in your collection, because of course they can. Any layer of complexity the developers add is one more reason you might stick around a bit longer and maybe spend money in the process. More recently still, the team added friendly creatures that you can send on missions to gain additional rubies, hero souls, gold, and relics. It's possible to level them up, but they can also die in the line of duty and you'll have to pay a bunch of rubies to bring them back. You had to know that was coming.

Does the above all sound complicated? It's merely an overview. Clicker Heroes started out simple but keeps adding new systems, all without ever breaking. What's scary is that even though you can leave the client running and good things will happen--enough good things that you figure you might as well go for it--you can't safely forget about it for more than a few minutes at a time unless you want to sacrifice progress. No matter how powerful I make my heroes, they can't run through more than a few hundred stages on a fresh ascension before a boss will stop them short. And, of course, new clickables (and potentially more free rubies) won't appear if you leave an old one sitting on the screen unattended.

Clicker Heroes is sneaky like that. The people responsible for its development are very smart. They seem to know exactly how long someone like me will go before giving up on everything if I haven't received a reward. When I play it, I feel like a little mouse running through a maze while someone I don't notice is watching from above, making notes about what I'm doing and figuring out new ways to keep me engaged for just a little bit longer. I still feel pretty good when I click and get a few rubies, or an enemy chest breaks apart and a bunch of coins shower the ground. But I haven't really gained anything worth talking about.

Do I recommend that you start playing Clicker Heroes too? Not really. I'm impressed by how good the game is at sinking its hooks into virtually anyone who gives it a shot, but it's not genuinely fun for long before it risks becoming something else: an addiction.


honestgamer's avatar
Staff review by Jason Venter (December 29, 2015)

Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.

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jerec posted December 30, 2015:

I tried to get out. I can't. Send help.
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Never3ndr posted December 30, 2015:

Even though this game requires little to no thought, it is pretty darn addictive...and probably the best of its kind. I don't play that often and haven't progressed too far, but it is a pretty good time sink in between things I think.
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sashanan posted December 30, 2015:

On the web version I played until one ascension and then figured I was done and moved to other browser games (often idle games because it's quite efficient for me to game without having to be there).

Then I noticed everybody playing this on Steam and...well, I'm back.
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jerec posted January 10, 2016:

There's a save import on Steam (found in the guides section for the game) that you can load up, it has all achievements unlocked.

I did this, and then I uninstalled the game. Nothing quite like cheating to make me lose interest in a game, hopefully for good.

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honestgamer posted January 10, 2016:

I would imagine the save file does help you get over a game, but my problem is that it also negates any way to justify the effort you put into the game up to that point. So I probably won't do that. I'm pretty close to getting all of the original achievements that were in place before more were added recently, so I'll probably do that and then consider myself done.

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