Review: Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes - Definitive Edition
Not for the first time, I find myself taking on the full version of a title that I have already previewed. Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes – Definitive Edition already let me dip a toe into what the game had to offer, and I rather liked what it had on display. So I immediately went onto eBay to look up a vintage copy of the original game and a DS to play it on, and then I… got distracted and put in a bid on something else altogether.
I’m kidding, of course. I already have a DS.
More importantly, however, is the whole game that was offered to me as a game to be played. So how do I feel about it as a whole? Does it live up to the promises that the early version offered? When it launches on PC (the version we played here), Nintendo Switch, and PlayStation, is it worth picking up? Well, let’s expand on what that original preview had to offer. (Yes, that preview has all of the basics. It’s the same game, Brent.)
Fight of Champions
So when I wrote my preview of the game, I didn’t have a lot of great things to say about the story. It was functional, but it wasn’t exactly great. And my feelings upon seeing more of it are… well, honestly, not all that much changed, but I appreciate that the game’s story is at least smart about how it’s stupid?
That’s going to require some unpacking.
Like, the basic premise of the game as it stands is that you need a scenario wherein everyone is fighting with everyone else, which is kind of difficult when at least three of the factions are at peace with one another. (Four, kinda, but the Necromantic faction isn’t chilling in the bar with the others.) So how do you do that? Well… you have the demonic forces start planting false evidence pointing to everyone else being a bad guy to everyone else.
And so yes, our first hero Anwen knows it’s a plot and isn’t fooled… but the Griffin Knights don’t know that, because the people who could have told them “hey, demons attacked, they’re trying to pit us against one another” were… y’know… killed by demons attacking. No one is terribly inclined to listen to one another! And once the Knights attack the elves, well, the elves are legitimately not thrilled about the Knights because they did actually attack. It’s one of those scenarios where things get entangled and awkward really fast.
It’s still fundamentally plot construction made to facilitate everyone going to war with everyone else. But it does at least put forth a plausible plot reason for that setup. The characters are thinly sketched, sure, but they’re not abrasively so and the game seems well aware that its plot has a very short amount of time to actually fill in these characters before it gets tedious. So it uses that time for maximum effect. I respect that.
Row of Avatars
With the full game, it becomes clearer just how much the game is willing to lean in on the RPG aspect of the game instead of just the puzzle aspect. As I alluded to before, however, this is also a tricky balance to strike. Too much RPG makes the puzzle side feel perfunctory, and too much puzzle makes the RPG side arbitrary. And… it’s straining, there’s push-and-pull, but it just edges out in the right side.
Each factions’ unit lineup splits the difference between a variety of different types. You’ve always got the bigger unit that hits harder but takes longer, the unit that attacks faster but weaker, and one that has a unique attribute. The basic units, unfortunately, are pretty basic; it’s the Elite and Champion units where you really get to pick which ones you have out in a given encounter. Between that and artifacts, you ultimately do get a fair amount of control over your strategy; it reminds me a bit of Summoner Wars, where your faction has a few different options but they all exist within a specific ecosystem.
I do appreciate that the majority of added effects are, well… additions, not vital. You don’t need to be making constant links to make projects, for example, but if you can it’s a reasonable advantage. The tension between RPG and puzzle elements are still there, to an extent, but they provide an interesting push and pull rather than feeling like they’re getting in one another’s way, and every time I started to feel like things were getting a little too complex the game backed off just enough to let me explore and get used to something. It’s well-paced to work well.
Fracas of Epitomes
The graphics of the game remain delightfully animated and clean, with the sprite animations playing in a lovely fashion and even similar units having distinct silhouettes. That’s a tricky balance to strike, but it manages. Despite that, between the UI and the general style, something about the title still screams “mobile game” to me. That’s not exactly a negative, but it does mean that part of me is still waiting for the microtransactions even though I know they’re not coming.
One thing that does deserve to be called out is how nicely the interface moves between mouse and keyboard or a controller. Swapping feels natural, both feel natural to control, and while I tended to default to my controller I never felt like I lacked options or things were harder to be than they needed to be.
Heck, in that sense it benefits from having originally been on a portable system. The battles tend to be quick and to the point, composed of a few smart moves rather than dozens of turns. But those few smart moves are also highly motivated; you don’t feel like “ah, my opponent made a smart play and now I have no options.” You have options, and if you’re facing defeat it’s because you responded to something in a bad way. More complexity does not mean you are overwhelmed in an eyeblink.
A Heroic Clash Indeed
The biggest worry I had about this game, as I related in my initial preview, was that this is a bit of a wisp of a thing. Fortunately, looking at the price compared to what is actually on display here… I don’t think that’s actually a problem. Yes, it’s a light thing, but it’s not being priced as a high-end experience. It’s asking you to drop a little money on a game where you can do some fun puzzle gameplay within an RPG framework.
That’s exactly what it delivers, and for that I think it’s definitely worth a look. If you enjoy a bit of RPG and strategy in a game and enjoy yourself a match-three game, you will be well-served by Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes. I can’t tell you how well it stacks up compared to the DS version, maybe, but now it’s available on more modern devices and it’s still fun. What more could you ask for?
Preview copy provided by Dotemu for PC. All screenshots courtesy of Dotemu.