May 032011
 

Status: Story complete, no attempt at multiplayer

Put this on your (virtual) box: Match three for triumph!

Most intriguing idea: Making a puzzle-strategy-RPG.

Best design decision: Using troop distributions on the battlefield as a substrate for the puzzle

Worst design decision: Inadequately balancing the initial grid states.

Summary:

I probably should have known better than to pick this game up, but the concept of a puzzle-RPG strokes so many of my pleasure centers that I’m a sucker every time. Combine this with some nostalgic appreciation for the early entries in the Heroes of Might & Magic games, and even the Might and Magic RPGs (Remember those? No? Dang kids, get off my lawn!), and the trap was set.

Unfortunately, Clash of Heroes‘ match-three mechanics heavily favor whoever gets the better setup and luckier distribution of reinforcements. The player only gets three moves per turn to arrange his armies in horizontal (defense) or vertical (attack) chains of three units. If you can create these groups by dismissing a unit from the field you get the move back, but if you create them by moving a unit into position you get nothing (unless your move managed to create 2 or more chains). As a consequence, the side that gets a good starting arrangement (i.e. one in which many chains can be created by deletion in the first turn) has a significant, possibly even dominant, advantage, especially since almost no healing is available. This feels unfair if you lose, but more perniciously, it makes wins feel unearned. Frankly, I only felt like I won one or two of the battles in the game; the rest of the time I felt like I got lucky either at the start, or with my reinforcements. I also had my share of bad luck with reinforcements: particularly in Aidan’s chapter I found that my expensive elite units almost always dropped into a column where an imminent attack would wipe them out next turn. This led to some amusingly paranoid end-turn choices, which did me no good because Aidan’s spell stank.

The higher-order loop of the game also got a bit tedious for me. In every chapter, your hero starts out at very low level and must gain strength for a confrontation with the local Big Bad. Repeatedly doing this got to be a bore, and the new units in each chapter were rarely unique enough to make army-building interesting. The game’s plodding story offered no real assistance, despite some interesting early flourishes. In this regard, the Griffin Empire chapter was the best, as it contained some plot archetypes I like, as well as the game’s most unique boss. Alas, that was the second of five chapters, and I was heartily ready for the game to be over long before it actually was. My impatience was only exacerbated by the frequent, boring loads. If you’re going to have this many loading screens, you’ve got to make them suck less.

If you can’t say something nice… I much prefer this take on the puzzle RPG to the Puzzle Quest series. With some tuning (stack movement? better chaining bonuses?) to make the initial grid state a little less important and what you do with it a little more so, this could be really grand.

  3 Responses to “Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes HD”

  1. Huh, I didn't have nearly as much of an issue with luck as you seemed to. I never equipped colossal units, though, as they were too much of a bother (it did take me awhile to realize I could unequip certain unit types. Could that have been your problem?). I do wish you had greater say in which troops spawn where, but I tended to play defensively (built a lot of walls) and could usually prepare in time for most upcoming attacks.

    Also, Aiden's spell is terrible, but once he gets the ring that gives him 4 moves per turn he becomes the most powerful character in the game.

  2. Yes, I should have noted that although Aidan had the worst spell he had the best artifact. The extra move was especially helpful on the first turn.

    Like you, I found that the champion units were sometimes a waste. They were hard to set up, expensive to obtain, and their special abilities were only rarely much better than the easier-to-handle elite units. That said, some of them were enormously powerful and useful, if only as damage-blockers. Unfortunately, unless I wanted to grind myself silly in the random-battle areas, the chapters were too short to both experiment with the champion units and level them up decently.

    I found that there were actually several fights in the game that got easier after I unequipped higher-level units entirely. This was true in some of the puzzle-style battles, where the better mobility and shorter charge times of the core units were more suited to the combat goal.

  3. I kinda liked the champion units. Of course they're not always as effective , like you said depends of the grid layout and reinforcements. All in all , a fine addictive game.
    Also, is relatively easy vs CPU .

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.