The Might & Magic franchise has been around video games for a long time now. I remember playing Might & Magic II on my Genesis, a crucial turning point in my video game education. After the third installment of the series appeared on the SNES and Genesis, the series moved to computers and left console players to languish. Fortunately, Ubisoft has started to resurrect the series, but instead of following the tradition of old, they have begun crafting unique games that are accessible and enjoyable by fans and newcomers alike. I played Clash of Heroes when it was released on DS and became completely lost in the experience. When it was announced that PSN and XBLA would get updated versions of the game, I was ecstatic that console players would finally get to see it. Clash of Heroes manages to deliver a rich experience to console players that sets it apart from nearly every other downloadable game out there, and also changes just enough to give those that have played it before a reason to go back.
Clash of Heroes appears to be standard fantasy fare from its opening sequence. You begin as elf darling Anwen, helping to facilitate a meeting between leaders of different races and tribes. As so often happens, demons crash the party and destroy Anwen’s family and village, leaving her thirsting for vengeance. The plot doesn’t stray far from its traditional fantasy trappings, leading you on an adventure to gather friends and allies to stop the demons from taking over the world. Always cheesy, although occasionally endearing, the plot is simply there to facilitate what makes Clash of Heroes so special.
The reason Clash of Heroes is such an addicting experience is the unusual take on combat. During battles, the screen is split in half, setting you up in a loose grid. Your teams units fill your half, broken up by what type of units you choose to bring into battle. Each unit has a color; blue, green or yellow. To form attacks you must form vertical lines of three like colors, for defense the lines must be horizontal. You can only move the end piece in each row unless you’re removing a piece from battle. Special units, which come in a variety of forms, can create stronger attacks, but require more difficult arrangements and more turns to act. Each battle becomes a puzzle, forcing you to use spatial reasoning and chess-like strategy in order to claim victory. The learning curve can be a bit difficult during the first chapter, but losing a battle isn’t the end of your progress. Clash of Heroes is kind enough to allow you to replay battles after a loss or flee, preventing you from losing hours of progress after a tough fight.
As the game progresses, you gain new units and new abilities. The game is kind enough to give you optional tutorials for each new unit, something that I can’t recommend strongly enough. New rules come into play throughout the game, and enemy units become much trickier. Don’t lose heart however, instead of becoming more and more frustrating, Clash of Heroes become more and more rewarding with each difficulty spike and every passing chapter.
The RPG elements of the series are still there for the stalwarts. As you battle, you level up. There are towns to explore, treasure to uncover and side quests galore. Your battle characters level the more you use them, allowing you to grind and level everyone equally or specialize with just a few trusted groups. Items are found and earned that give you or your battle pieces special attributes, and side quests earn you money for more items and to replace lost units. These aspects feel charmingly nostalgic without slaving to tradition or feeling cheap. There is enough there to please RPG addicts like myself, but the game can be conquered without hours of grinding and questing. You can approach it as a puzzle game or an RPG and leave feeling satisfied. A rare feat for games.
With the release on PSN and XBLA come a stable of upgrades for the game. The biggest feature is the addition of multiplayer, either one on one or two versus two. You can play either of these online or locally. The graphics have also been majorly overhauled, adding beautiful and smooth animations to each attack, as well as more luscious environments both in battle and out. There are also far more items and abilities than were included in the DS version. And, most importantly to the RPG crowd, side quests can actually be revisited later in the game. These additions alone nearly double the size of the game over its previous release, adding countless hours to the game play.
While Clash of Heroes won’t invite comparisons to Tolkien or Martin with its story and dialogue, the game itself is one of the more addicting downloads in my library. The dialogue is bad, and the constant loading may cause you to pull out your hair, but in the end, Clash of Heroes is the deepest game I’ve ever played for a measly fifteen dollars. Each battle adds new layers, and the elation of a perfect run of moves is sure to keep almost any player glued to the screen. The nearly 10 hour original campaign is now compounded with multiplayer and broader choices in the game itself. Clash of Heroes manages to stand out among the high caliber retail releases surrounding it and even outshines a few of them. Any RPG fan or puzzle fan has a new must-buy to add to their list.
|Amazing puzzle combat. Hours of play.||Silly story and poor dialogue.|