Might and Magic: Clash of Heroes

For years now, developers have delicately combined ingredients from different genres to produce hybird games featuring only the highlights. An early release on PSN was PuzzleQuest, which was foremost an RPG, with a battle system based around a simple puzzle game. Might and Magic takes a similar approach, with a strategic puzzler at its core, complemented by RPG elements and an interesting story to tie it all together. Crucially, all elements of the game work extremely well together, creating a game greater than the sum of its parts. Unlike the disjointed games of PuzzleQuest, that didn't necessarily tie in with the action, Might and Magic does at least feature a battle system that sees units from each opposing side fighting for victory. Battles aren't fought using arbitrary jewels and collectibles, they involve real units, each one themed around their origin. For example, as the story opens, the player first takes control of a young elf, Anwen, whose units vary from woodsmen through to majestic deer and unicorns. The key to the success of any game of this sort is an effective battle system, pulled together by an interesting story, and Might and magic succeeds on both counts.

Might and Magic

To motivate you into action, the story kicks off with the potential for immininent invasion by hordes of demons, locked away for centuries, but now planning their escape and subsequent assault on the collective species of the planet. The demons are crafty, and invade your camp primarily to steal an ancient artifact that can be used to free their people, but also to start sewing the seeds of civil war between the otherwise peaceful nations. The game then follows prominent characters from each nation, as they struggle to unite the people of each city behind the single goal of stopping the demon foes. With that, it's straight to action, with the basics of the game's battle system quickly explained. Essentially, you create attacks by lining up three units of the same kind and colour. Three vertically creates an attack, while three horizontally forms a defensive wall. You have a limited number of turns each go, and then it's time to start. However, the scope for combination attacks and special units is gradually unveiled by the game, and players will swiftly realise just how much potential the game's battle system has. You gain experience and items as you progress, allowing you to gain additional powers and units. Suddenly, your battle tactics rely on planning many moves ahead, observing the countdowns and possible moves of the enemy, and ensuring your own defensive and offensive moves are in place.

Some special units, like the impressive Angels, occupy more spaces than other units, and can mount very large attacks. However, they require more units to form an attack, and take longer to charge. Prior to charging, they are particularly vulnerable, and even once charged, care must be taken to ensure they do not take too much damage. The risk-reward nature of unit placement and usage takes the game's battle system to a level PuzzleQuest can only dream of. The potential for tactical planning and clever combination attacks is almost endless. As soon as you start fusing attacks (creating matching lines of three behind eachother), linking attacks (parallel lines) and setting off specials, you're unleashing an entirely new level of pain on your opponent. Brilliantly, the enemy AI will rise to the challenge, and start matching your assaults with clever combinations of their own. They'll even move precious units out of the way of attacks from your side, which means you need to time everything carefully. It really is tricky to fault such a flexible system, and it makes the core of the game work perfectly.

Might and Magic

Outside of the battling, the campaign is split into five distinct sections, set in different regions of the world. The downside is that you continually start again with only basic units and Level 1 status, but each time you learn new strengths and weaknesses for each character. For instance, the dynamic changes completely between the elven units, capable of recharging their living walls, and the necromorph campaign, where fallen units merge to create new walls. With different special units, character moves and more, things are kept fresh every time you move to a new campaign. The main characters in each are quite likeable too. Each time, you find yourself accompanied by an important person in the area, acting as a guide and helping you in your quest, either willingly, or as part of a conveniently-struck deal. Within each map area, you explore step by step, with most enemies clearly visible, allowing you to plan your route and order of attack. As you explore, you encounter new people, often with new quests, and even bounty agents, who'll encourage you to hunt down rogues from each nation causing mayhem. It is possible to run into random attacks, but they are easily evaded if you don't fancy the battle. That said, they're also handy for gaining experience if you're finding it a struggle against later bosses. There are also alternative combat games, usually found in local taverns, that are limited-move puzzles, as opposed to standard fights. These provide another enjoyable change of pace in a series of campaigns that is surprisingly varied and highly enjoyable.

Overally, Might and Magic: Clash of Heroes was an incredible surprise. Expectations for many were not that high, but it arrives as arguably one of the greatest games on PSN. The story is enjoyable, the characters and animations are excellent. Even though there's little voicework (it's text-based), everything works extremely well. You feel connected to each character you take control of, and genuinely care about them by the end of the campaign. The music completes the experience with some stirring tunes and enjoyable battle themes (they have to be, considering you can spend a lot of the game in battle). The puzzling is deep enough that you never really get bored of the battles, and the variety is there to keep you playing. With great enemies, ingenius units, occasional comedy, likeable characters and a decent length campaign, not to mention to option to play versus or cooperative matches in a multiplayer environment, there's almost nothing to fault in this superb game. To compete with the best disc-based games, it would need a deeper story and proper voicework perhaps, but on PSN, this is sent right to the top of the pile.

Game details

Game logo

Publisher:

Ubisoft

Developer:

Capybara Games

Players:

1

Online:

None

Release:

2011-04-13

Trophies:

12

Review summary

Gameplay:

A brilliant blend of RPG and puzzle elements

Graphics:

Simple but very stylish and effective

Sound:

Atmospheric music, good effects, little voicework

Lastability:

Tonnes to do in this good-value store title

9.1

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Not even I was designed perfectly. I was designed with too much empathy for human suffering. I overcame that problem, true story.