Monday, April 25, 2011

Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes

Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes is the love child of Heroes of Might & Magic and Puzzle Quest. It used to run only on the Nintendo DS, but high-definition versions just got released as downloadable games for the PS3 and XBox 360 for a very affordable $15. A free demo is available. I bought the game 2 weeks ago, and quickly got hooked, playing the single-player campaign(s) through in 35 hours.

The single-player game is divided into 5 campaigns, telling a continous story. In each campaign you play with different troop types, starting with the elves, then moving on to the knights, and so on. In each campaign you collect the 8 existing troop types (3 core, 2 elite, 2 champion, and 1 secret unit), and battle various enemies with the army you form that way. Unlike in the HoMM series, you have unlimited numbers of core troops, and need only 1 each of the other troops to be able to use them, the rest is just backup if you lose troops. Each campaign has a linear story to follow, but also offers side-quests and "random" battles in some places, which are useful if you want to level up your hero and his troops.

Each battle is a turn-based puzzle. Starting from a random placement of troops, you have a small number of moves each turn in which you try to stack the same color and type of troops in rows or columns of at least 3. The column stacks then "charge up" over a number of turns, before attacking. The row stacks form walls to intercept the enemies' attacks. As in most of these puzzle games, the skill lies in forming combos and chains, for extra moves and more powerful attacks.

As you use the troop icons themselves for the puzzle, that feels less abstract than Puzzle Quest, where you just move colored balls. The troops are animated when attacking, so you see elven rangers firing arrows, nightmares charging, and wizards throwing fireballs. Both the hero and the troops gain xp and levels, getting more powerful over time. But troops are level capped at level 5, and the hero at 10, so you can't simply do random battles until every fight becomes trivial. That keeps the game challenging, and particularly the last campaign is pretty hard to win.

I can't tell you about multi-player as the PlayStation Network has been down for days now. The single-player game has medium replay value, as while the battles are always different, the story and boss fight will be the same the second time through. But given the price, I'd say that is still good value for money. Recommended.

[By the way, if you are waiting for Might & Magic Heroes VI, I have bad news: The release date just got postponed to September 8th.]

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