Title: Might and Magic: Clash of Heroes
Release Date: December 1, 2009
Publisher (Developer): Ubisoft Entertainment (Capybara Games)
ESRB Rating: “E 10+” for mild fantasy violence, mild language and mild suggestive themes.
Pros: Original and entertaining strategic battle system, great mix of combat goals, lengthy story mode, quick battles and multiplayer extend game life.
Cons: Dialogue can be quite dorky at times and you don’t know enemy’s level until you accept a battle.
Overall Score: Two thumbs up; 96/100; A; ****1/2 out of 5
I’m not going to tell you that Might and Magic: Clash of Heroes is the best DS game of 2009. I haven’t played enough of its competition to make such a bold statement, but I can tell it is easily my favorite DS game of 2009. How much do I like this? I had one dungeon to go in The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks when I played my first game of Clash of Heroes. That was three weeks ago, and I still have one dungeon to go in Spirt Tracks.
I will Be King, You Be Queen
Clash of Heroes is set in the venerable Might & Magic universe. I’ve played a couple of those games on my Mac but this entry is quite a bit different. It’s not your traditional turn-based strategy game but, instead, an odd mix of that, RPG and Bejeweled-style gem matching games. If you’re thinking, “Oh, you mean Puzzle Quest,” then I’ll have to work harder to explain what makes Clash of Heroes so much better.
The story is set in the world of Ashan, where humans and elves generally live in peace. But when a village is attacked and its people slaughtered, the humans and elves turn on each other. The first character you play—an Elven tracker named Anwen—knows that this is a set-up, and battles her way past many foes to prevent war between the humans and elves.
Nothing Will Drive Them Away
After Anwen, you play as heir to the throne Godric, and eventually as the dead Fiona, the bitter Aiden, and the mysterious Nadia. Each character has his/her own battle styles and powers and each moves around a map of the kingdom via a nodal system. Some nodes contain events and battles (inlcuding easily avoided random battles), but most just allow you get from here to there. Plenty of treasure chests and materials can be found along the way, and you’ll need to collect these to buy new elite and champion units.
In fact, let’s move right along to the battle system, as it—far beyond the story—is what carries the game. Your army appears on the bottom screen, facing up. Your enemy is that top, facing down. Fighting on your behalf are usually three core unit types, along with three elite unit types and two champion unit types once you’ve acquired or purchased them. Elite and champion units must be matched up with two or four core units. They take more turns to charge into battle, but usually do more damage.
You’re given a set number of moves with which you can place your units, remove a unit or wall from the playing field, or call in more units (your reserves build up with each turn).
If you line three or more similar units side by side, they disappear to form a wall at the top of the bottom screen to curb your enemy’s attack. If you align three vertically, they begin to charge up for an attack. Charging can take from two to six turns, depending upon the unit, so you need to plan your attacks ahead of time. Once their charge reaches zero, they plow into your opponent’s territory. If their hit points are not dwindled to zero by walls or interfering soldiers, they will damage your opponent. Wear him/her/it down to zero, and you win the battle.
If that sounds complicated, it’s not. In fact there’s a lot more to it than that. You can chain your attacks for more power, each character has a spell that can unleash a much more powerful attack, you can equip artifacts for special abilities, and so on. It’s a very robust system that’s easy to learn, and plenty of fun all the while.
We Can Beat Them, Just for One Day
After playing through the first character, I was confident in my strategies and abilities. But then, the game turns itself on its head. Suddenly, you’re facing bosses that don’t behave like typical armies. Then, your battle goal is not to defeat your opponent, but to hit doors in a certain order or simultaneously. And along the way, you’re presented with puzzle challenges that require you to successfully kill your opponents in only one turn. Clash of Heroes changes itself up just enough to prevent the gameplay from growing tedious, and just enough to make sure you never begin to feel too confident.
The game is huge, and the story mode will keep you busy for quite some time. Towards the end, the battles become very difficult, and there are few that you’ll beat the first time through without luck. But even after you’ve completed the game, you can keep on going with Quick Battle mode, and Clash of Heroes also offers single-card and multi-card multiplayer action.
We Can Be Heroes, Just for One Day
In Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes, Capybara has delivered one of the most unique puzzle/adventure game experiences I’ve ever had on any system. The story is fine (although the dialogue is quite dorky in parts), but it’s the battle system that carries the game. Considering that your character levels up automatically and you never get to select a weapon or armor (you choose nothing beyond which soldiers to send to battle and which artifact to equip), the fact that Clash of Heroes is still so totally engrossing is really saying something.
I sound like I’m gushing and I hate that, so let’s find something bad to say. I mentioned the hoaky dialogue and it’s annoying that you don’t know an enemy’s combat level until you enter into battle; you’ll have to save often so you can back out when you find yourself in over your head.
But that’s it. Get this game. Whatever you bought instead of this the last time you were at the store, put it down and forget about it for a while. Don’t worry, you’ll be able to get back to it in a couple months.