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Might and Magic Clash of Heroes

Score: 90%
ESRB: Everyone 10+
Publisher: Ubisoft Entertainment
Developer: Capybara Games
Media: Download/1
Players: 1 - 2
Genre: Strategy/ Puzzle/ Board Games

Graphics & Sound:

Might & Magic is a brand that goes way back in time and spans many platforms, so you could say that Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes has a lot to live up to. It delivers nicely on this front with classy 2D/sprite-based graphics, interspersed with cut scenes inspired more by Japanese animation than classic M&M. You could say it's the updating of a classic, to reflect evolving tastes and new genres. Visually, it feels like a cross between Fire Emblem and Puzzle Quest 2. Think of the latter's very basic world exploration, that gives you the sensation of moving through vast territory while remaining very much on the rails. The battle sequences look more like any turn-based strategy game, but the units aren't mobile in the way you'd expect.

Clash of Heroes looks like a board game most of the time you're playing, which isn't a bad thing if you know what to expect. The characters' battle animations are awesome, plus you're rarely bored thanks to the variety of characters and new battlefields. Those cut scenes mentioned earlier provide splashy, colorful breaks in your otherwise bird's-eye view of things, and they help flesh out each character's story. The sounds of battle keep you immersed in the fantasy world of Might & Magic and you'll come to love (or hate, if it's used against you) the sound of an elite or champion unit preparing for the attack. Our only gripe was that in some cases, it is hard to discern the color of certain units. Because color is a huge part of forming strategic attacks, it's annoying to see some characters with only tiny swatches of color. Thankfully, this is only true for a few units, so it's not a big issue.


Gameplay:

Drawing comparisons to Fire Emblem should tell you a couple things. First, Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes can be challenging, but more on that later. The gameplay similarities are worth mentioning, not because Clash of Heroes is a copycat, but because it does so many things right. Building an army for strategic gameplay was a concept that Might & Magic perfected early on in the series. Where the free-roaming concept has given way to more of a linear, boardgame style of play, there's some obvious influence from games like Puzzle Quest, but the core game is still about gathering and deploying units in battle. The story begins in Irollan, home of an elvish people and the source of your first army. Before the game is finished, you'll sample four other factions with unique unit types, and explore the entire world of Clash of Heroes.

Aside from what would otherwise be a very satisfying solo story mode, Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes features a Quick Battle Mode and excellent Multiplayer. Fighting with a friend (or against him) is an awesome way to up the ante in battle, and Clash of Heroes does what we wish more puzzle games would do by getting online modes working. Local or otherwise, pitting your army against a human opponent provides great new challenge, extending the shelf-life of the game considerably. You can even bring items discovered in the solo campaign into these modes, which provides some incentive to squeeze all you can from the main story.


Difficulty:

As much as we loved the swashbuckling elements thrown into the Puzzle Quest games that help drag them out of typical Match-3 territory, that series is still casual gaming at heart. Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes is most certainly not casual, although it draws on some of the same mechanics. Color matching, as mentioned earlier, does play a role in battle. Matching three or more units also plays a role, but there the resemblance ends. In Clash of Heroes, you have the opportunity to completely customize your army before each battle. Individual units can be swapped out, special units can be used, and "artifacts" augment your battle abilities. Different heroes you'll play through the game have unique units at their disposal, and there are at least two gameplay strategies that can be used. Placement of units is a combination of random drops and strategic positioning. The shape of the battlefield doesn't change much, so you wouldn't think that working on a grid would present much challenge or variety. The key to the game's success is in refreshing and dismissing units as they attack, along with variations created by defensive positions and attacking units. Some units take up more space and take time to charge their attacks, requiring plenty of foresight and planning. Clash of Heroes doesn't require (or offer) a lot of grinding. The enemies are balanced and there are just a few side-quests to keep things interesting or provide more challenge for advanced players.

Game Mechanics:

Moving units around the field of play is smooth thanks to the analog or face buttons on your controller. There is some additional information you can gather on your forces by clicking the left or right shoulder buttons during play, but the interface is pretty clean. Once you commit to battle, you have whatever units you chose to play with, and they drop onto the battlefield in a seemingly random fashion. This inability to select and deploy individual units may drive some players crazy, but it's a feature of the game. Think of it as a bit like Tetris where you just have to make the best of the units you're given. Placement of units is only confusing when you mistakenly select a unit. It took a while to figure out that there's no "cancel" button, but you can just place the unit back where you found it to not incur a movement cost. Reading the instructions more thoroughly might help, but who has time for that? As you progress through the game, you'll employ more advanced moves that link groups by color or type, and you'll learn how to strategically place defensive walls to protect powerful units that charge slowly.

Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes is a joy to play and a boon for fans of the original series that can appreciate the nostalgia value. For players with no previous knowledge of Might & Magic, this still hits home in the vein of great puzzle/strategy games like those mentioned earlier. Some downloads are played and beaten too quickly, or feel like diminutive versions of shelf-bought games, but Clash of Heroes is the kind of purchase that leaves you feeling you got more than you paid for. Highly recommended.


-Fridtjof, GameVortex Communications
AKA Matt Paddock

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