Capy has managed to do with Might and Magic: Clash of Heroes HD what Infinite Interactive could not do in their two attempts since Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords first combined an RPG mentality with puzzle mechanics. These type of games are perfect for those who like to sit back, take their time, and plan out their battle scenarios. I don’t care a lick about the story, but each and every battle is challenging without feeling cheap, and rewarding without making you feel overpowered.
Clash of Heroes is a port of a DS game, and it shows a little bit. There is more loading than it seems like there ought to be in a game with static maps, little voice acting, and next to no animation. That doesn’t take away from what Clash of Heroes does exceptionally well, however: engrossing battles. At its most basic level, Clash of Heroes plays like Capy’s other recent puzzler, Critter Crunch. Pull a unit off of the stack and put it back down on another stack. Form a vertical set of three, and you have an attack formation while a horizontal set of three forms a defense formation. Wait the prescribed number of turns (no more than three for standard units) and then an attack is unleashed. Taking a cue from Magic: The Gathering, it is useful to attack your opponent’s units, but you will only be victorious after attacking your opponent’s hit points directly.
In addition to your three standard units in three colors, you will pick up special units along the way. The majority of your force will be made up of normal units like rangers, bears, and knights, but you can augment your force by progressing through the story or by winning out-of-the-way battles. Winning these battles is worth it, because as a reward you will find sentient trees, dragons, and unicorns to fight on your side. Elite units work like standard units. Line two units of the same color up behind them, create an attack formation, wait two or three turns, and watch your opponent’s units fall. Champion units are larger and require a square of four standard units behind it. It isn’t always easy to find four available blue rangers to line up behind your dragon, but it’s worth it. Champion attacks are devastating, and they can turn the tide of just about any battle in your favor.
Clash of Heroes reminds me a lot of Othello’s tagline: “A minute to learn… A lifetime to master.” Clash of Heroes is deceptively simple, but the strategies possible when it comes to linking attacks (arranging to have several attacks fire off on the same turn which imparts a bonus on each of them), fusing attacks together (creating two attack formations of the same color in the same column, combining strength and firing at the earlier time), and strategically removing units from the field make for a great experience in both single player and multiplayer. Multiplayer works just like single player, except your opponent is a real live person so you can expect a better challenge than the AI can provide in campaign mode. (There’s also a bonus to the HD version: a co-op battle mode. You can play two-on-two or play against the AI, and each side’s units are color-coded so only one team member can move them.)
Might and Magic: Clash of Heroes is a rare thing – a puzzle RPG that works well. If you enjoyed either Puzzle Quest or Critter Crunch, then Clash of Heroes is a sure hit.
Pros: Surprisingly-deep strategic gameplay
Cons: Unnecessarily-long load times