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   Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes - Staff Review  

Puzzling Heroics
by Michael "Macstorm" Cunningham

Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes
PLATFORM
DS
BATTLE SYSTEM
5
INTERACTION
3
ORIGINALITY
4
STORY
2
MUSIC & SOUND
3
VISUALS
3
CHALLENGE
Moderate
LENGTH
20-40 Hours
OVERALL
4.0/5
+ Puzzles are addictive
+ Story helps support gameplay
+ Easy to pick up and play
- Starting over at level one each chapter
- Some battles come down to luck
- Minor gripe, but fix the play clock
Click here for scoring definitions 

   Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes is a puzzling little RPG. Literally. This title came to us from independent game developer Capybara Games, and what they have done with the Might & Magic license is take the genre blend first seen in Puzzle Quest and give it a soul. This addictive game is more puzzler than RPG, but there is plenty of RPG to enjoy.

   The story of Clash of Heroes is clearly not the main focus of the game. Keeping that in mind, it is a solid and comprehensible tale of five youths out to seek revenge on the demons that slaughtered their parents and ruined their lives. While the story is mostly filler, the key plot points are well-written and do a good job of giving us a reason to care about more than just fighting puzzle battles. The game is broken up into chapters with each focusing on a new character, complete with their own personality and reason for fighting. Even though the story seems secondary, each character is developed enough to not seem like mere filler, which really helps give the game life. The only issue this brings is the way the characters are divided up. Until the very end, it feels like each chapter is a brand new game. This is only slightly jarring, but starting back at ground zero each chapter is a minor downer.

   The true heart of Clash of Heroes is the puzzle-based combat. As players venture point by point across an area map, enemies will occasionally pop up to block their way. Once in combat, the mechanics are quite simple: line up a set number of matching pieces vertically to attack or horizontally to create a wall for blocking. Basic combat units just require they be the same color and type to engage, while other more complex units have more difficult usage requirements to meet. These more advanced units will do more than just attack, as each type has different stats and skills. Some may take longer to charge, but do more damage and vice versa. Units level up after combat, but max out at level five. The main characters each have a max of level ten, and level helps determine the size of their army along with their health meter. It's somewhat limiting, but the game is balanced well enough to where it doesn't matter.

Challenging encounters Challenging encounters rarely frustrate.

   Characters each have their own unique set of units available to them, three standard units, two to three elite units, and two to three powerful champions. Only two of the elite and champion units can be used at a time, so it takes a certain amount of strategy to determine the best team fit for battle. Leaders also have a special skill that can be used once they have filled up the required bar. Some of these powerful skills are more useful than others, but all can be used to gain an advantage. Most battles are fairly straightforward, but certain story battles and boss battles try to shake things up. Often these fights will be more than just a back and forth to the death and will have players attempting to complete certain objectives or deal with moving enemies. It doesn't seem like much, but it really helps combat from getting stale.

   Outside of combat, players can equip a single artifact that will provide a specific advantage during combat. These artifacts can be found in chests or by completing quests. The game's interface works well in combat, but slightly awkward outside of it. Nothing functionally is wrong, but menus just don't flow very smoothly. The few options available outside of battle are basic enough to never become problematic. Players can save at anytime outside of combat, making things easy when going into challenging areas. Thankfully, battles can also be quit midstream with only a little bit of money lost as a penalty, so if things are not going well, it offers a fail-safe.

Bosses shake things up. Bosses always shake things up.

   Clash of Heroes keeps things simple in the presentation department. The art style is very impressive, with each character sporting a unique look, but there just isn't a lot to it. The graphics are slightly more than serviceable, as they are bright and very befitting for a puzzle game. The music is about the same, as it just doesn't help, but does not hinder. It is typical fantasy fanfare fodder, but better than many others RPG that toss music in as filler and especially better than lots of puzzlers.

   There are many parts to Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes. The story, presentation, and all the rest don't really matter though, because the reason to play this game is the gameplay. That is where Clash of Heroes truly shines. It's an addictive experience that cannot be mindlessly breezed through. The challenge, the puzzle battles, and the unit customization will have most playing for well over twenty hours without even realizing it. The future of Clash of Heroes will hopefully continue to grow as this game is another example of a simple to play, hard to master experience. I'll be thrilled to see what else Capybara can do in this realm, because their start with Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes is wonderful.

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