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Might and Magic: Clash of Heroes

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And with that, Might and Magic: Clash of Heroes commands, nay, demands, that you play it. The DS gem has recently been brought to the PlayStation 3 via PSN, but don’t expect just a quick and dirty port. The game’s PS3 release is fully HD, giving the game a sharp, crisp look reminiscent of developer Capy’s work with last year’s Critter Crunch. Behind this extremely polished exterior lies an addictive and enjoyable turn-based game offering a suite of features and content.

Clash of Heroes casts players as five different heroes and heroines across the singleplayer campaign. Players first assume the role of Anwen, an Elf. When we first meet the cast, dignitaries from the nation’s kingdoms are at a secret meeting in the Elven nation, but soon come under attack. Stolen during the raid is the Blade of Binding, a special sword that allows the wielder to command demon armies – an item the demon lord, cast off years ago, would love to get his hands back on.

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As you work through the game’s lengthy campaign, you unravel the mystery of the sword’s location and work to suppress (or at least mitigate) the damage the demons have already done. The story is interesting, but what will likely keep players most engaged is the gameplay. Clash of Heroes takes classic staples of the RPG genre, such as character building, an experience system and item collection, and combines them deftly with a turn-based combat system more reminiscent of a puzzle game. This results in a battle system that is far more engaging, particularly when the game is played multiplayer, than practically any other RPG on the market. As players move through the game world, you’ll periodically be tasked with putting enemies in their place. You’ll be then whisked off to a battlefield. With a vertical orientation, the player and opponent have a field of fighting units organized in a grid.

The goal in Clash of Heroes is to create attacks and defensive structures by organizing your units into columns and rows. Each player is given three turns to try to move their army into positions across the battlefield. To create an attack formation, players need to align three similarly colored unit types into a column, and to create a defensive barrier, players need to form rows of like units. The ultimate goal is to protect your hero while destroying your foe, which involves defeating their units to expose the end zone, a line which demarcates a hit against your foe. Heroes and villains each have their own HP to keep track of and as you battle through the game you’ll level up and improve your stats as you would in any other RPG.

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If players were only limited to three moves per turn, this could be a brutal game that chugs along at a snail’s pace, but fortunately, you can earn additional turns through performing chains. As your units are organized in rows, players you can only select the outermost unit. But you can also delete troublesome units that are preventing you from queuing up attacks or defensive structures. When done correctly, players are rewarded an additional turn. By a few hours into the game, I could very regularly hit 4 to 5 moves per turn. Once your units attack, units behind them move to the frontlines and when planned correctly, these too can lead to additional turns. You can set it up so that after your archers unleash a torrent of arrows down on your foes, three spearman come together to form a defensive wall, netting you an extra turn.

Each player has three basic unit types to control, depending on the hero that they’re controlling. If you’re playing as Godric, the Knight, your basic army consists of swordsmen, spearmen and archers. But when you play as Fiona, a necromancer, you get three different basic unit types. As you play through the campaign, you control each hero for a few hours and what to keep it compelling are the distinctions between each. Where the heroes start to show their distinction is in their special units, which appear less frequently but offer very useful benefits. Powerful dragons, treants and even angels can join you on the battlefield, and which units you choose can drastically change how your battles go. Learning how each works is rewarding and as you progress through the singleplayer campaign, you can even unlock additional special units.

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Another layer of depth is added to the battle system through fusing and linking attacks. If players can organize two identical attack formations in the same row, they merge and become much more powerful. If you can’t fuse the attacks together in the same row but can synchronize an attack of the same color elsewhere on the battlefield, you’ll gain a moderate advantage. Since all units are randomly placed on the battlefield at the start and when the player calls for reinforcements, some of your success might be determined by luck, but skillful players will find lots to discover about each unit.

What this yields is an addictive battle system that encourages players to think creatively and successfully drives that “one … more … turn” mentality that catapults the best turn-based offerings to stardom. Battles are constantly evolving, with advantages shifting back and forth as players strike against each other. Clash of Heroes isn’t perfect; during some battles, random characters will move around your opponent’s battlefield and they cannot be hit. Since you can’t delete attack formations, you’ll sometimes attack these foes accidentally, partially because the game doesn’t let you delete attack columns. There’s also a lot of loading considering how small the game world is.

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It isn’t a particularly difficult game against the AI, but they offer enough of a fight to keep you thoroughly engaged and help teach you the finer points of the game before you get into the multiplayer. Clash of Heroes offers local and online player for up to four players. I was a little disappointed that we couldn’t play two players locally online against two other online opponents, but the quality of each match that I played was unsurpassed. This is a game that you will get hours and hours of fun out of multiplayer. As an incentive to play the singleplayer portion of the game, players can unlock artifacts for use in both modes that give your hero a boost. There are ten to collect for each hero and they can often give you the edge over tough opponents (especially revival artifacts).

Might and Magic: Clash of Heroes is a superb title that offers players a deep campaign, addictive turn-based gameplay and a multiplayer suite that only makes one misstep. RPG, strategy and even puzzle fans will feel right at home here with one of the most satisfying and rewarding games of the year. Hours into the experience, players will continue to discover new strategies and nuances to employ as they take to battles against AI opponents and their friends. So, what are you waiting for? Press Start Button!

9 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is an Associate Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in February 2003.

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