Genre: Role Playing Developer: Capybara Publisher: Ubisoft Classification: PG Release Date: 14th Jan 2010 Platforms:
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The Might and Magic series has been around almost since the dawn of gaming. Dozens of games fit under the Might and Magic banner, covering genres from RPG to Turn-Based Strategy to First Person Adventure. None of the games in the franchise ever tackled the puzzle genre however, until now. Fortunately Clash of Heroes lives up to the excellent reputation set by its franchise predecessors, and is an excellent entry into the puzzle market.
To be more specific, Clash of Heroes is more a Puzzle-RPG than a straight puzzle game. Your character levels up, and units level up, you find artefacts to equip and you journey through the lands defeating enemies with your puzzle skills. It is a lot less abstract than Puzzle Quest though, which is both a strength and a weakness. Battles are fought with units as opposed to various coloured gems, and while it adds a sense of immersion somewhat lacking in Puzzle Quest, it loses the charm that comes with conquering evil with jewel matching.
As a Puzzle-RPG, the campaign gameplay is separated into two parts - battles and exploring. Exploring is as simple as moving from place to place, grabbing loot, talking to npcs and fighting any enemies you see. It is in battles that the puzzle elements come into play, as you line up sequences of your men to send attacks against the enemy.
Here's how it works - strap in because it's going to get confusing. You can have five different unit types in each battle - three different core units, and either two elite units, two champion units or one elite and one champion unit. As you progress through the game you unlock more units to choose from, and each unit does different things. When formed, each unit has a particular turn around time before it attacks, generally from one turn for your weakest core unit to five or so for your strongest champion unit.
At the start of battle each unit is placed randomly and in differing amounts depending on how many of them you have (you have infinite core units, but the better units must be purchased from shrines around the map.) While the random set up does add an element of luck to the gameplay, very rarely does it leave you with no option other than resetting. While many battlefields may look un-winnable to start off with, once you've learned the strategies available in the game (all readily accessible in the Tutorials section) they simply add an extra challenge.
All attacks are executed by lining your units up vertically. By lining up either: three core units; two core units and one elite unit; or four core units and one champion unit you ready those units to attack, and they are locked into place until their turn count is up and they launch. Lining up three core units horizontally builds a wall to deflect some amount of the enemies attack.
You can also remove units from the field, moving the unit behind it into its place. If that unit was needed to make a match and execute an attack or a wall, you get an extra turn. Along with tactical unit removal and choosing which types of units to take into battle, same coloured units (whether core, elite or champions) can be linked to attack at the same time - boosting the power of all attacking units. While it would be a stretch to call this game a strategy RPG, its strategy-lite elements certainly set it apart from the almost entirely luck based nature of other games in the Puzzle-RPG genre.
Clash of Heroes is set in the Ubisoft Might and Magic universe, and the events of the game precede the story in Heroes of Might and Magic V. The story is split into 5 sections, with the player controlling a different hero in each section, as they attempt to stop the demon forces from destroying the land. The story has serious elements, with some betrayal, intrigue and treachery, but overall it's a much more light-hearted affair than HoMMV was. There are a lot of tongue in cheek comments and jokes, and the game doesn't expect you to take it all too seriously.
Starting each section with a new character means starting over from the beginning with experience and loot as well. Your enemies start over as well, but it does ruin the sense of progression important in RPGs. What you gain in Campaign mode has little effect in the other game modes other than unlocking special units, so unless you miss something your first time through there is very little reason to play through it again. Multiplayer has both Multi Card and Single Card modes however, and can be good fun if you're looking for a way to
kill 10 minutes with a friend while you sit on the train or bus.
The music in Clash of Heroes is mostly inspired by the music in HoMMV, and a lot of it is great to hear at first. There is not a lot of variety though, and the battle music plays so often it is certain to stick in your head and play over and over while you try to write a review.
I was very surprised by how much I enjoyed Clash of Heroes. When I first saw the artwork I thought it might have been a Japanese take on the original Might and Magic games, and I was pretty excited. When I later learnt it was a western game using an anime style I was both impressed and dismayed. Impressed that a western game had anime art that didn't look like a poorly drawn flash animation, and dismayed that I wasn't going to get to play the remodelled old school Might and Magic game I was expecting. Actually getting to play the game though and finding it a mix of Heroes of Might and Magic 5 and Puzzle Quest, I am ultimately glad Clash of Heroes turned out to be the game it did. It's not Might and Magic the JRPG, but it is both a solid entry into the Might and Magic universe, and the Puzzle-RPG genre.