Review: Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes HD
Remember my PAX impressions of the game? Well, they were not unfounded, to say the least. To call Clash of Heroes a great game is an understatement. Simply put, it’s one of the best games I’ve ever played. Capybara Games has taken simple, fun ideas and wrapped them in a beautiful box. Take the pulling/launching mechanic from Critter Crunch (Capy’s first PSN outing), add an opposing player whom you have to pummel by powering up tons of different units, and slather the whole dish with buckets of strategy. This is more than a port of an already outstanding DS game. With stunning HD visuals, a 25-30 hour campaign mode, and online multiplayer, CoH HD has the goods to stand on its own two feet. Hell, I’ll go as far as to say it can do jumping jacks and pole vault great heights… without the pole… at the same time.
The game takes place in the Might & Magic universe, a place I’ve never stepped foot in until playing Clash. The story is broken up between five different heroes who are all more or less fighting for the same reason: to stop a demon uprising from plunging their world into dark, dark times. There is a set story and a linear progression by which to uncover it. Much of the game is spent in battle, but traveling from fight to fight takes place on an overworld map with nodes on which the character can walk. The first character you play as is Anwen, an elven archer who’s fighting to avenge the death of her father. Anwen’s sidekick, Findan soon joins the game and follows Anwen around. This same formula is used for the other four characters. Completing each character’s campaign unlocks his/her respective sidekick for use in multiplayer matches. The entire campaign took me 28 hours to get 100% of the artifacts and complete all side quests. Besides for some of chapter 5, I was never bored with the game. There’s enough variety in the side quests to keep you playing from battle to battle (the meaty portions of the game), and the dialogue is jam-packed with cultural references and humorous quips. My thoughts of skipping any dialogue were quickly banished when I came across this line: “Only you can prevent forest fires. And by you, I mean us. And by prevent, I mean KICKING YOUR BUTT!” It’s the type of humor that’s not too serious, but it’s also not completely drawn from being self-aware (I’m looking at you, NIS). Besides for the funny parts, the actual story is quite serious. It’s no epic tale, but it’s good enough to keep you interested. If you find yourself unsatisfied with the plot, you can skip every shred of text and get to the best part of CoH: combat.
The basics of the combat system are relatively simple. All of your units are scattered about on a grid. You must pull a unit from the back of a column and launch it onto another column in order to make formations. It’s all about matching like-colored units with each other. If you match three core units vertically, the formation begins to power up its attack. There are a whole lot of core units, each with its own stats (including charge time) and special attributes. For example, Anwen’s archer unit takes only one turn to charge up its attack, but it’s also the weakest unit she has. Her bears, however, are a bit stronger and take two turns to charge up after being activated. Matching three core units horizontally transforms them into a wall which then makes its way up to the front lines. It’s important to note that once a formation is made, it always moves to the front of your battlefield. This makes it possible to get to hard to reach units who are otherwise inaccessible on the front lines. In addition to core units, there are elite and champion units that take up more room on the battlefield and are generally more powerful. An elite unit can be activated by placing two like-colored core units behind it. A champion unit can be activated by placing four like-colored core units in a square behind it. Believe it or not, this is just the tip of the combat iceberg. Within the first few hours, playable tutorials explain some of the deeper combat mechanics. However, and this is my one minor complaint, only basic combat strategies are viewable in the game’s ‘How to Play’ option screen. My roommate and I had a lengthy argument about what constituted a chain, what a link was, and the effectiveness of fusing units. All of this terminology gets thrown at you in a relatively short period of time. It’s weird because though you’ll know how to play, you probably won’t initially know how to describe it to another player. I’ve compiled a short video detailing some of the more advanced strategies that are vital to playing the game. Click these words to check it out. (The capture quality isn’t the greatest because I suck at rendering video, but it gets the instructional job done, I think.)
Graphically, Clash of Heroes is a treat. 2D HD is what Capybara Games does best, and this game’s art style supports that claim. Each character and unit is animated with an extreme attention to detail. Some of the units look so cool that I didn’t really care if they were useful or not, I just wanted to see them in motion. The Bone Dragon, for example, flies into the ground and chomps his way across your enemy’s battlefield. It’s simply fun to watch, which is something that can’t be said for many games. The music is pretty good, and all of the sound effects are spot on. The game supports custom soundtracks, and I had a great time listening to Star Wars soundtracks whilst pummeling opponents into the wee hours of the night. It would be great if, like in Mushroom Wars’s online mode, the music didn’t stop when you played online. Alas, your music can only be played in offline game types.
There are many different ways to play Clash of Heroes. Besides for its lengthy campaign, you can play 1v1, 2vAI, or 2v2. The 1v1 and 2v2 modes can be played online, but no mixed couch/online play is supported. This means that if you want to play 2v2, you’re going to have to do it with all online players or all offline players. I’m not too hung up about the lack of mixed play since there’s so much game here. Since its release, my PS3 has been on and running CoH almost constantly. If I was busy doing something, one of my roommates was making progress on his campaign file. If I was free to play, I played either single player, against a roommate offline, or against some chumps on the PSN. Perhaps the best thing about Clash of Heroes is that it’s fun to watch/play. If I passed through the living room and my roommate was playing against someone online, I’d have a seat and rip strats with him. The same is true the other way around. Many an online 1v1 was actually 2v1, with my friend and I bouncing around ideas to make the right moves. Capybara Games’s second outing is as fun as its first. People who have played Critter Crunch will feel right at home with CoH’s pull/launch mechanic. This time around, Capy shows their strategic side, and boy, what a strong side it is.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes. For more info on our review policy click here. This review is for the PlayStation 3 version of the game.
What I Like:
- Beautiful artwork
- Deep gameplay
- High level of replayability
- There's a LOT of game here
What I Dislike:
- Scant tutorials