Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes Review for Nintendo DS

Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes Review for Nintendo DS

A Mighty Good Time

The Might and Magic role-playing franchise goes back quite a ways, starting out on pre-Windows PC back in 1986. The series later gave birth to Heroes of Might and Magic, a collection of strategy games based upon the same mythology. Capybara Games (Critter Crunch) has now taken the license yet another step further from tradition, creating a unique gameplay experience for DS that shouldn’t be missed.

Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes screenshot

Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes takes place in the mystical world of Ashan, a land populated by tree ents, unicorns, and demons. You’ll take up the mantle of five separate characters as they struggle to unravel an evil conspiracy that has pitted elves and humans against one another.

In spite of the cutesy character sprites and miniaturized overworld, the story of Clash of Heroes is a very compelling one. There are occasional lines of cheesy dialogue when meeting up with foes during side quests and such, but the writing is otherwise topnotch. The game’s pacing feels very organic, and being able to see things from all sides of the equation is not only a great way to experience the story, it mixes things up wonderfully in terms of gameplay.

You’ll begin your journey playing as Anwen, daughter to one of the slain Elvin elders. The game does an excellent job of walking the player through the basics, adding the tutorials to the main menu for future reference once you’ve completed them in-game. The character you play as for each campaign essentially represents a hero for the armies you control during battles. Both your hero and units level up, adding an RPG element to gameplay, but for all intents and purposes, Clash of Heroes is a puzzle-strategy game.

In battle, there are four unit types you’ll need to concern yourself with: core units, elite units, champions, and your hero, who represents your health on the battlefield. Similar to Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords, units fall randomly onto the battlefield, and matching three like-colored units is the basic foundation of combat. That, however, is pretty much where the similarities end.

Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes screenshot

Matching three basic units vertically forms an offensive team that lines up to attack after charging up a set number of turns, determined by the unit type. A meter is displayed over each unit team, showing the number of turns left until their attack is executed, as well as their damage/health. Once it’s time to attack, they’ll march forward toward the enemy, either damaging units that bar the way or doing direct damage to the enemy hero.

Elite units and champions, however, add many additional elements and depth to your strategy on the battlefield, and using the right units for the job is absolutely crucial to your success. A knight, for instance, takes quite a while to charge up his attack, but once he lets loose his wrath, the damage is great. Wraiths, on the other hand, are fairly weak elite units, but they instantly kill any enemies they make contact with. With five separate campaigns to run through, players will experience a lot of variety with respect to unit types and strategy.

Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes screenshot

Of course, we haven’t even discussed half of the game’s mechanics. By matching core units horizontally, they form a defensive wall in order to break damage from charging enemy troupes. Some units, such as those in the third campaign, even transform into walls once they’ve been defeated, and often sacrifice proves to be the best course of action. Heroes also each have a unique spell that can be executed once a mana meter has been filled, either by inflicting or taking damage.

Fusing and linking units is the last and perhaps most integral element of combat in Clash of Heroes, and players who fail to mine these mechanics well will find themselves fighting an uphill battle. By matching multiple groups of like-colored units in the same turn, you’ll create links that add additional strength to your offense, and by stacking groups of like-colored units on top of one another, you’ll fuse groups together to form a more powerful offensive that takes on the lowest charge counter of the two groups. Of course, you can chain units together by sacrificing a unit to create a match; since this doesn’t count as one of your moves, it’s an extremely valuable strategy on the battlefield.

With all these various elements of strategy in play, you’ll have plenty of great options to noodle with during combat. However, Capybara Games didn’t merely settle for a strong foundation. The developer has created a myriad of incredibly entertaining scenarios and boss encounters that will push players to dig deep into their mental toolsets. Sometimes the focus isn’t simply on defeating an enemy hero, but rather unlocking doors or freeing someone from a cage. Constantly being forced to use what you’ve learned in new and creative ways keeps the experience feeling fresh from start to finish.

Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes screenshot

In addition to story-driven objectives, you can pick up bounties, as well as take on puzzle challenges that require you to defeat your enemy in a single turn. Though these little extras are optional, most folks will likely find them a necessary means to leveling up their units in order to successfully take on the tougher challenges that lie ahead.

Clash of Heroes is one of the most exciting new games we’ve come across in recent years, but we must also issue these words of warning: It can be very tough at times. Things start out simple enough, and the mechanics are easy to understand. However, a level cap on units means you can’t simply grind until you’re powerful enough to overwhelm enemies, and the randomness of the battlefield can be both fun and frustrating. No quarter is shown here by the game makers, and each and every battle past the first campaign will be hard fought. This, of course, means that each and every victory feels incredibly satisfying. Players are forced to think outside the box, often making magic (or wit) more valuable than might, so to speak.

It doesn’t hurt that Clash of Heroes is lovingly gift wrapped inside a beautiful presentation. The overworlds are varied nicely, with tons of gorgeous detail, though battlefields are, understandably, a bit plain. Conversation stills are both pretty to look at and highly functional in terms of understanding dialogue, and the character sprites are extremely well crafted.

We especially appreciated the game’s aural complements. It’s not often you enjoy or even notice hearing text scroll, but such minor details add to the game’s high level of polish. Themes make an exciting backdrop to the story and battles, and there are many subtle additions that help fortify the adventure.

Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes screenshot

And that’s really what Ubisoft and Capybara Games have given DS owners – a true adventure. The story isn’t merely an excuse to play through endless battles; there’s an intriguing tale being told, in spite of a few silly lines of dialogue here and there. At the heart of Clash of Heroes, though, is an incredibly refreshing take on already existing gameplay mechanics. The developers mix things up in playful, devilish ways, and they do it for 30+ hours. Tack on single and multi-card multiplayer, and folks are getting an amazing amount of bang for their buck here.

With that being said, this isn’t necessarily a game for everyone. Clash of Heroes is inviting at first, but the challenge eventually ramps up to a seemingly brutal level of difficulty that will draw a line in the sand between casual players and diehard strategy fans. If you’re of the latter group, then this latest entry into the Might and Magic lore is an absolute must-buy.

The game isn’t pushing any technical boundaries on DS, but it sure does look pretty. 4.0 Control
You can use the stylus, buttons, or a combination of both to control all elements of gameplay, which is great. Touch-screen controls can seem a bit finicky at first, but it’s very satisfying once you get the hang of it. 4.4 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Great themes and musical transitions; excellent sound effects. 4.7

Play Value
The five campaigns make for a huge journey that melds together seamlessly. There’s tons of variety, and the challenges are truly refreshing. Single and multi-card multiplayer round out the package nicely, but there’s no online component.

4.4 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.

Game Features:

  • Epic Fantasy Adventure: Storyline set in Might & Magic universe, prequel to best-selling Heroes V title.
  • Innovative Dual-Screen Gameplay: Accessible & highly addictive gameplay, offering a fresh spin on the turn-based battle system – only possible on NDS.
  • RPG Elements offer Depth: Recruit new heroes, collect artifacts, and learn new spells as you traverse the world of Ashan.

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