by Justin Snyder
reviewed on NDS
The Might and Magic franchise has been around for about as long as home console gaming. From 1986, with the first title, Might and Magic: The Secret of the Inner Sanctum, the series has been known for great, innovative gameplay. It has become a giant for RPG and strategy fans alike, but many gamers would agree that it has been less of a presence in recent years. For that reason alone I would expect most to roll their eyes at a Might and Magic DS release; especially because this is the franchise's first entry on the platform. But Ubisoft and indie developer Capybara Games have brought us, in my opinion, the best DS game of the year, though not without its failings.
This game is not a traditional entry in the Might and Magic universe as it sports very different gameplay from its PC and console counterparts. Clash of Heroes feels more like the start of a new franchise. If it wasn't for the Might and Magic name, many gamers wouldn't find much reason to associate the two, and personally, I think it would be better if that name wasn't attached as this game is truly a new IP. Forget about the Might and Magic part of the name and everything that comes with it, this is a new, must-play DS strategy title.
Races and Units
Players are dropped into a pretty typical fantasy plot involving elves, wizards, demons, necromancers, and plenty of other fantasy mainstays. In the five chapters the player gains control of five different races of commander (the four mentioned above, plus a human, for good measure), leading to five races' worth of unique units. The game could best be described as a mix of role-playing game, puzzler elements and deceivingly complex strategic unit movement.
The battle mechanic pits two players, acting as commanders, against one another, with their armies facing each other on each of the DS's two screens. Each player alternates by taking their turn, consisting of three moves. Every battle starts with each player's army taking their places on the screen in a random order. From there, it is up to the player to strategically move the units around in order to accomplish the battle objective. A horizontal connection of at least three like-colored units results in a wall, which pushes its way to the front of your army and blocks incoming attacks, whereas vertical stacking of the same connects the units into an attacking formation.
Each type of unit has different stats and limitations. For example a specific charge time before their attack, with one point of charge time eliminated per turn. Or Attack power, which generally starts at about half-strength, and builds up as charge time goes down. And toughness, which determines how much damage an idle (non-attacking) unit can take before an attacker moves through them.
It is a bit much to take in at first, but after playing a few matches, strategizing starts to come naturally. But those strategies need to be completely reset once you change races. So, for each of the five chapters, the game takes a refreshing turn, and the gameplay doesn't get stale because of it.
Clash of Heroes includes a wireless multiplayer mode for local battle, but unfortunately, no online mode is included. This doesn't really subtract from the sheer depth of the experience, though. The game is simply gigantic. Might and Magic's campaign mode is much more than I expected when I picked it up. It spans the game's five races and could easily take thirty hours in order to complete the main quest line. In fact, I'm at forty hours and I completed the storyline, but there are still secret units I never found, bounties I never completed, and puzzle battles left undone.
Units are varied, with interesting unique abilities.
Seemingly typical fantasy storyplot.