May 25, 2011

Review – Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes HD

Might and Magic Clash of Heroes
Though the Great Fall of the PSN has much delayed us, that service’s howling, furious resurrection has finally allowed Team Sugar to report on the matter of Might and Magic: Clash of Heroes, the HD upgrade of 2009’s DS original.

Clash of Heroes exists in some infinite limbo between puzzle game and turn-based strategy. The goal of each battle is to deplete the enemy’s health by firing attacks into his endzone—which is carefully protected by his army of units. Units can be organized to form attack formations or defensive wall formations. Additionally, specialized hero units can be purchased and employed for devastating attacks.

The primary task here is to maximize the number of actions that can be performed in one turn. The player has a limited number of moves, and while certain actions may grant additional moves, one must be mindful of the most efficient, useful maneuvers on the field. Combat, accordingly, is as much a puzzle as a strategy game.

Might and Magic Clash of Heroes
More advanced abilities—which soon become critical—may involve stacking attack formations on top of each other, fusing them, or synchronizing the turn in which they launch their attacks, thus linking them. The player has to keep abreast of which attacks will launch during which turns, often requiring that the battle be played several steps ahead.

If introduced all at once, the elaborate battle system would no doubt overwhelm the player, but Clash does a solid job of introducing its core concepts; the early battles are a set of disguised tutorials that introduce, one element at a time, the fundamentals of the battle system. Equally, the core units are introduced gradually, as are the later specialized units, such that the player can grasp their functions one by one.

Still, there’s a little room for discovery. I quickly noticed that some unexpected behaviors can occur when linking attacks and creating walls; the game never explicitly states what happens when a move causes two separate formations to be formed by the same units (for example; moving a unit into a position where he would create both an attack formation and a wall formation), and the result can be a little confusing at first.

Nevertheless, the learning curve is largely smooth and simple. Unless you choose to attack warriors whose level greatly outclasses your own, you’ll never be out of your depth—but the battles remain in a comfortable challenge zone.

Might and Magic Clash of Heroes
The campaign sets you on a fairly linear path that will lead you through the story and its important battles, but there are also a handful of side paths and quests to explore. These are only optional in the loosest sense, as it’s often necessary to participate in these battles to increase your level to the point where you can complete the story missions—but the exploration is short and sweet, and the battle system is so satisfying that these encounters are never tedious, and don’t feel like grinding.

Along the way, many battles will introduce interesting (and baffling) twists to make the experience more interesting. A particular battle may require the player to destroy a target that changes its battlefield position from turn to turn, or the player may even have to strike specific areas of the enemy endzone in a particular order.

In a lesser game, these tasks could become unbelievably frustrating, but here they are rendered in the same careful, deliberate design that characterizes Clash of Heroes as a whole. Thus, they instead serve to enhance the experience with variety and unique challenge.

Additional challenge is also offered in the battle puzzles; stages that discard the standard battle conventions and instead offer a pure puzzle experience. In these puzzles, both the player and the enemy have a set number of units in set positions. The player must rearrange his units in such a way that they will obliterate all enemy units in a single turn. These are extremely challenging, but equally satisfying to surmount, and force the player to think about the best way to maximize the efficiency of his moves for future battles.

Might and Magic Clash of Heroes
While navigating from battle to battle, the player will also encounter a handful of simple puzzles on the path that must be conquered in order to move forward. Unlike the optional battles puzzles, these are relatively easy and quick to solve, serving mainly to break up the pacing and keep things interesting between battles.

Also filling the gaps between exploration and assorted war-puzzles is a cute, if simplistic story told across multiple lands and characters. Though the story didn’t do much for me, the art used to tell it is rather sharp, as are the in-game graphics, pixel-style though they may be.

Clash of Heroes also includes a multiplayer option, which can be played in one-on-one and two-on-two configurations.

The one-on-one mode plays exactly like the core game, with the obvious exception that humans can be A) far more devious, or B) far more oblivious than an electric opponent.

Might and Magic Clash of Heroes
Two-on-two, however, is a far more unique challenge. In this mode, the two players on a team share their side of the field, though they can only control their own units. This means that two minds must work cooperatively to puzzle out the best strategy. This adds an interesting spin to the battle and can lead to some pretty impressive strategies, but it’s not without a hitch.

The unfortunate reality is that any team not communicating via voice is going to suffer. The game offers a rudimentary system for bringing units or spaces to a teammate’s attention, but it’s not implemented in a way that can communicate the particulars of what is trying to be said. Thus, too much is left to interpretation, and mistakes are easily made. Regardless, if you can find a way to communicate your strategy to your teammate, the four player mode is an intriguing challenge.

Clash of Heroes, with its lengthy campaign, wealth of units, variety of puzzles and, most notably, ingenious core gameplay design, is an entirely solid offering on the digital market. Though its unique challenges may not appeal to everyone, any player with an affinity for puzzles, strategy, or both will find something to enjoy here.

Capybara Games


Xbox 360 (Xbox LIVE Arcade), PlayStation 3 (PSN) (PlayStation 3 Reviewed)

Singleplayer, Multiplayer

Release Date
April 12, 2011

1200 Microsoft Points, $14.99

*A copy of this title was provided by the publisher for review

1 Comment »

  1. Thanks for the review Brad! I own it on DS and will soon (hopefully once the PSN store is back) get to review this game for which should make for several fun-fun hours going back to it thanks to what Capy has done with a fine, fine game.

    Comment by EdEN — May 26, 2011 @ 3:47 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Leave a comment

Powered by WordPress