Platforms: PSN | XBLA
Developer: Capybara Games
That's right. It's time to match three again.
The mechanics of placing three similar objects together is easy to code, simple to teach and yet surprisingly capable of extreme depth when paired with RPG elements. It worked like a charm for Puzzle Quest, and provided similar success for Capybara Games when they released Might & Magic: Clash Of Heroes on the Nintendo DS last February. Not content with sticking to handheld platforms (and their exceptional arty puzzler Superbrothers: Swords & Sworcery EP), the Canadian studio has brought the Clash Of Heroes experience to the Playstation Network and Xbox Live Arcade. Where, I'm delighted to report, it thoroughly deserves to flourish.
Clash Of Heroes is set forty years before Heroes Of Might & Magic V, and chronicles the adventures of five orphans who are scattered across dimensions after demons lay waste to their parents' camp. Each character has their own lengthy campaign as well as access to unique units and abilities, making for a significant amount of value from the off.
Hearing words like "units" and "abilities" might make you think that Clash Of Heroes is a strategy game, but it's all about the puzzles. Combat takes place on a chess-style grid, where units are represented as coloured game pieces. Whilst there's a huge amount of depth to explore, the experience ultimately boils down to making vertical columns of three similarly-coloured units to create attack formations or horizontal rows to create defensive walls. You've only got a certain number of moves per turn, and the idea is to make the most of them by moving or removing units to arrange these all-important lines.
There's more to Clash Of Heroes than that, naturally. Each unit type has distinct offensive and defensive stats that dictate how much damage they deal when their attack triggers... and how much damage they can absorb and mitigate from enemy strikes. The two opposing armies face each other on opposing halves of the game grid, and creating meat shields of idle units can be as important as placing your attack formations opposite weak enemy troops. Fragile unique units can be bought with gold and resources earned outside of battle; taking up lots of space and dying instantly if hit, yet dealing out horrendous punishment if deployed correctly.
You'll also learn the vagaries of linking, stacking, hero spells and other manoeuvres through comprehensive and laborious tutorials. These optional levels labour their objectives long after you've got the hang of it, though since they do their job (and are entirely skippable), I can't really complain.
The battle system, therefore, is dynamic, deep and yet instantly accessible to puzzle fans. It lacks the variety you'd expect from an RPG, and random chance arguably plays as important a role as strategy, but combat provides a sound sticking point that forms the meat of the package. There's no denying that it lacks the variety and replayability of the Puzzle Quest series, mind - and can become incredibly repetitive after extended sessions. More sub-objectives would have helped to switch it up.
Outside of battle, you'll rove around some fairly limited maps, collect resources to purchase new unique units and occasionally engage in some entertaining subquests. Random battles give you chance to power level and grind, but in a considerate twist, quickly jabbing the B/Circle button stops your foe from engaging. Final Fantasy could learn a thing or two from humble little Capybara.
Might & Magic: Clash Of Heroes HD contains the same content as its handheld forebear, but the multiplayer modes have naturally been punched up to include online battles (as well as exclusive multiplayer equipment). As you'd expect, the visuals have received a complete overhaul replete with luscious HD sprites and hand-drawn backdrops that look sumptuous even when you manage to get your eye in. Sound design is middling and you'll frequently encounter palette-swapped sprites, but it looks consistently gorgeous. I'm reliably informed that some attacks use over 100 frames of animation, and I can well believe it.
There's only one thing stopping me from wholeheartedly recommending Might & Magic: Clash Of Heroes HD... and it comes down to whether you happen to own a Nintendo DS or 3DS. The original Clash Of Heroes is a perfect fit for a portable console and provides exactly the same game experience as its high definition brother. Depending on where you shop, you'll be able to grab it for much less than the download - and much, much less if you buy preowned. With, of course, the added bonus of resale value.
You should definitely buy this game. But if you frequently commute, travel or game on a Nintendo handheld, you might be better off with the original.
- Fun, deep puzzle gameplay
- Massive amount of singleplayer and multiplayer content
- Overhauled visuals are a joy to behold
- Luck and grind is as important as skill
- Weak sound design
The Short Version: Might & Magic: Clash Of Heroes is a lengthy and enjoyable puzzle game that was perfect on the Nintendo DS. The HD version delivers more of the same, and if you're craving some deep, cerebral action, it thoroughly deserves your time and money.