Might and Magic: Clash of Heroes

In 2007, D3 made a splash in the RPG genre with Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords, combining RPG elements with the popular puzzle game Bejeweled. Two years later, Canadian developer Capybara Games developed its own puzzle/RPG hybrid, Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes, though the combination falls somewhat flat.

Story-wise, Clash of Heroes is a prequel to Heroes of Might and Magic V, following five different protagonists whose paths cross at times. The story is actually one of the better aspects of the game, though only those who have played other games in the Might and Magic series will be able to appreciate it fully, and the plot in the end is in the end largely unintriguing.

The different heroes command their own different sets of soldiers with their own strengths, weaknesses, and abilities, with protagonist and the hero having their own puzzle grids. Outside battle, the player can equip three core units, which take up one square on the battlefield, and two elite or champion units, which respectively take up two and four squares, not to mention one accessory with certain effects.

During their turn, the player can move units from one column to another, with three moves allowed per turn. If the player matches three core units in a column, they will begin charging their attack for a certain number of turns. However, if the player matches three core units in a row, they will form a defensive barrier. To begin charging attacks for elite units, the player must place two core units of the same color behind them, and for champion units, four of the same color. The player can also "delete" any unit from a battlefield, and if the deletion causes units to match, the player will gain an extra move.

The same rules apply to the opponent when they take their turn, with charging units executing their attacks after the necessary number of turns, needing to break through the opponent's units and barriers to deal damage. Charged units have a certain attack power that depletes the more opponent units they collide with, with the attacking units disappearing if their attack power reaches zero. While the player has unlimited core units, elite and champion units have a limited supply, although the player can use money and two different types of stones outside battle gained from victories to purchase additional elite and champion units.

Winning a battle earns the player's current hero and all participating units experience points, with up to five experience levels for units, affecting their attack power, and up to ten for the hero, which affects their HP. All in all, while it has some nice concepts, the battle system ultimately falls short in execution, given the heavy degree of randomness and luck required for victory, and given the cap on unit and player levels (and the need to level all over after finishing each hero's story), grinding doesn't always make the game easier.

The controls, however, are actually decent, with easy menus, unit management, and a good sense of direction on how to advance, though backtracking to stock up on elite and champion units can be mildly irritating, and there is no save feature in the middle of battle.

The soundtrack attempts to go for an "epic" feel that adds a decent ambience to the game, though most tracks are forgettable and repetitive. The graphics, while not ugly, are certain lazy, for instance, with character sprites always facing towards the player and not showing any emotion, and a dependence upon still character portraits during story scenes. Ultimately, while the music and graphics don't detract from the game, they don't redeem it, either.

Finally, the game is about thirty hours long, with some sidequests to pad out playing time. Overall, Might and Magic: Clash of Heroes is a disappointment, given its nasty difficulty and just about all its aspects, aside perhaps from control, leaving plenty of room for improvement. Those in search of a solid puzzle/RPG experience would best check out the Puzzle Quest games instead, and avoid this subpar offering.

The Good:
+Controls are good.
+Story is okay.

The Bad:
-Winning often depends upon luck.
-Music is forgettable.
-Graphics are subpar.
-No reason to replay.

Score Breakdown:
Platform: Nintendo DS
Game Mechanics: 3/10
Controls: 7/10
Story: 6/10
Music/Sound: 5/10
Graphics: 4/10
Lasting Appeal: 2/10
Difficulty: Very Hard
Playing Time: 20-40 Hours

Overall: 3/10

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