In: Reviews by Leah "WhiteGodiva" Haydu22 May 2011
I’ve tried many times to get into the genre, in large part because the marketing for these titles often tries to trick me into thinking it’s something I really want to play. Featuring large-eyed, anime-inspired characters peering enthusiastically from the cover art of a game is generally a surefire way to make sure I pick something up. I’m sort of predictable like that.
About a year ago, however, I purged my collection of all the strategy games I had accumulated — in the vain hopes that I would somehow magically become adept at the genre — and resolved that I would no longer be taken in by appearances alone. I would steer clear of strategy games, because there were plenty of other things I could be playing that would give me much more enjoyment and much less frustration. Despite some occasional moments of weakness, I’ve actually stuck with that resolution.
I tell you all that to tell you this: Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes is not a strategy game.
It involves strategic elements, certainly. They’re quite important to the gameplay, as I will discuss. At its heart, though, Clash of Heroes boils down to being a match-three puzzle game. With complications, of course.
If you’ve ever played Puzzle Quest (and if you haven’t, we can’t be friends anymore until you do), you’ll be familiar with the skeleton of Clash of Heroes: characters on a quest to save the world from a great evil roam around a board-game-like world where they encounter enemies both large and small lurking on various spaces. In order to progress, the hero must engage the villain in
Things become somewhat more complicated in Clash of Heroes than in its ancestor. You’re still lining up three (or more) of a given color unit, but if you form a vertical line, you’ll get an attack formation, while a horizontal line gives you a wall that blocks a set amount of damage unleashed by your opponent. Each type of unit needs a different amount of time to charge, and each has a different attack power. This is linked to how much damage they can take while charging before they are destroyed.
Once you’ve got those basics down, Clash of Heroes makes things even more complex by introducing larger Elite units. These take longer to charge than basic formations and are often easier for the other team to disrupt while doing so, but are devastating if used properly. There are also advanced tactics such as linking and stacking to take into account, all of which combine to form a surprisingly deep battle system that can take a while to master.
The story is nothing special — in fact, if you squint and look really hard, you can probably see the copy of Lord of the Rings the writers kept open on the table the entire time. Ultimate evil strikes, and a ragtag team of heroes must hunt down the magical artifact that’s currently making one of them crazy and evil but will ultimately allow them to defeat the big bad guy and save the world.
Also, there are elves and wizards. And
I really enjoyed that not all of the battles you encounter are the same. There are plenty of side quests, and at least once per chapter you face a “boss fight” that forces you to focus your attacks much differently than you normally do. In addition, there are “puzzle battles” available in which you’re given a specific set of troops and a limited number of turns in order to complete a tricky objective. These are optional — and frequently insanely difficult — but they’re perfect if you enjoy brain teasers.
My only real complaint with this game is how the “random encounters” are handled. To put it bluntly, there aren’t many. Random enemies will only attack you in certain locations (which is fine), but the levels of these enemies are often wildly disparate from what your own might be (which is not).
This is sort of balanced by the fact that you never have to fight randomly if you don’t want to. Pressing the B button within about a second of the attack will get you off the hook. If you’re looking to level up a bit, however, you can’t tell if you’re walking into a slaughter or a real battle until it’s too late — usually, for me, this meant I’d just run away and not look back.
The difficulty curve in Clash of Heroes is steep. You will need to use all of the tools at your disposal to win battles, and it’s next to impossible to win a fight with an enemy that outweighs you by more than one level. Couple this with the fact that, as I mentioned before, level grinding can be tricky, and you have a definite challenge on your hands.
For those who enjoy soldiering through and building up your troops, though, Clash of Heroes can be incredibly rewarding. I racked up about 35 hours of gametime in a single playthrough, and I didn’t even uncover all of the dark corners or hidden puzzles. If you are so inclined, you may also explore the online multiplayer modes — I suspect these would be best tackled with a friend, at least to start with, as the only available opponents I ever encountered could have destroyed me by looking at me sideways.
If you aren’t a fan of this genre already, Might and Magic: Clash of Heroes probably won’t win you over. If you are, though, it’s a wonderfully different twist on the formula that’s been refined so well by series such as Puzzle Quest. Personally, I hope there’s a sequel in the works.
Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes HD
Developer: Capybara Games
Reviewed for XBox Live Arcade (also available for DS)
1200 MS points ($15)