Let’s rap one-to-one for a moment shall we G? The Might & Magic series has, in recent memory, been a bit… awful, hasn’t it? Once a paragon of traditional European role playing games squaring up against the Ultima series for your hard earned pocket money, now relegated to the sidelines, watching 21st century big boys Dragon Age: Origins and Mass Effect 2 battle it out for who can make BioWare the most cash.
The market then is seemingly tied up by the kings of the branching storyline based D20 simulator, so Ubisoft has decided to take a different approach to this latest release. The spin-off route hasn’t exactly paid dividends for the franchise before; both Warriors and Legends Of Might & Magic entirely failed to set the world ablaze, offering different gameplay structures but ultimately not excelling at any of them, while the main series continued to drive itself into the ground. But that’s exactly what Ubi has done, and it’s a risk that has paid off.
Firing up the 1″ x 1″ wedge of plastic cartridge within the DS is a somewhat uncanny experience. The titles proudly announce that this is a Might & Magic game, but absent are the disappointingly rote aesthetics, no more is the soundtrack pompous yet plain, gone is the tired stigma of an M&M game. Instead players find western-manga influenced characters, exciting orchestral scores, fresh design ideas, the complete antithesis of what the M&M series has come to represent.
Clash of Heroes is, at its very core, a puzzle game dipped ever-so-gently into RPG-lite, wrapped in a Toonami Saturday morning cartoon. Coming from the studio behind Critter Crunch, Capybara Games, it’s immediately evident that this team has worked on puzzle games before, drawing influences from the great puzzlers, though creating something unique to call their own. Imagine combining the best elements of Columns, Puzzle Quest and Magic: The Gathering into one title; aligning troops into horizontal or vertical groupings of three to form attacking units or defensive structures, chaining combos to enhance an attack’s power, and wiping out an opponent’s units trying to do the same thing across the board on the top screen. All of this is handled on a turn by turn basis, with the objective to bring an opponents personal HP down to zero or fulfil a specific request such as hitting a particular spot on an enemy. The rules of play can feel a little overwhelming at first, though the title does do a good job of teaching you everything you need to know, every step of the way.
The RPG elements come in the form of Clash of Heroes wider structure. Taking on the role of one of a number of different heroes with unique units and special abilities, both yourself and your troops gain experience throughout the single player campaign in much the same way as a traditional role playing game. On the subject of climbing levels, Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes also features a somewhat compelling plot that, while not a mind blowing narrative epic, does manage to give the title a little more clarity in terms of progression as opposed to simply asking you to clear numbered stages.
Recently a high definition XBLA and PSN version of this title was announced (the video for which you can see here), though for me the DS is a perfect fit, as Clash of Heroes’ mechanics allow for quick, easily accessible sessions of play, just short enough for that commute to work, just satisfying enough to feel as if you’ve made significant progress within the campaign. The touch screen controls feel a little tacked on, a little imprecise, but standard button control more than makes up for these shortcomings.
If you’re a puzzle fan Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes will make an excellent addition to your DS cartridge library and if you’re not it’s definitely worth a look in too, as it tries some neat little things with the genre. It would have been great to see Capy take the aesthetic even further and really make this product stand out from the crowd, but as it is this is a damn, fine, game.
MLG Rating: 8/10
Platform: Nintendo DS Release Date: 26/02/2010
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a copy of Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes for review purposes by the promoter. The title was reviewed over the course of one week on a Nintendo DS. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.