REVIEW: Might and Magic: Clash of Heroes [iOS]

Might and Magic: Clash of Heroes is a turn-based match-puzzle RPG. You take the role of one of five heroes and roam the lands fighting demons, collecting treasure and solving puzzles. The game consists of five campaigns (one per hero) set across five different lands. Each hero uses a different army that fits with a well-known fantasy motif, such as forest dwelling elves, festering undead or silly Griffin kniggits.

Your hero moves through each kingdom via set waypoints, ‘clashes’ (a-haw-haw) with various demons and gribblies in battles resembling unorganised dance offs. The battlefield is split into two halves, your units placed randomly in columns running horizontally across your field. To make attack formations, you align units of the same colour and type vertically, whereas defensive formations are created by matching them horizontally. You make these matches by spending one of three action points to move a unit around (or off) the board. The aim of the game is to organise your troops, and send them charging through your opponent’s ranks, to the edge of their half to chip away at their life total.

Your army consists of three core units, and two interchangeable ‘hero’ units. Core units make up the majority of your army. These elvish archers, gangly skeletons or strange little helmet men with blunderbusses are your rank and file attackers, which also activate your hero units and make defensive walls. Hero units such as vampires, unicorns and four-armed, sword-wielding cats require same-coloured core units to be matched with them to start their attack.

Unfortunately for the impatient gamer (though fortunately for anyone needing anything resembling a challenge), the units attack at different speeds, each taking a different number of turns to charge their attack. This gives the player the ability to twist their moustaches, tent their fingers and grin maniacally as they orchestrate an overly-elaborate yet perfectly-timed attack. If a player can co-ordinate attacking units and start chain reactions while matching, they are rewarded with bonus action points and bolstered attacks which transform their plain, offensive formations into an avalanche of whirling, stabby death.

In addition to the campaign mode, the iOS port comes with multiplayer options. ‘Pass and play’ mode is a local two-player option, where players literally pass the device to their opponent to take a turn, as if sharing a control pad. However, my favourite way to play is online mode. After a player takes their turn, a notification is sent to their opponent. They then load the game, watch your turn, and retaliate at their leisure, giving the mode a warm, quaint feel which I imagine one gets when playing a game of chess via carrier pigeon between various scrimshaw and whittling projects.

[img_big]center,3660,2012-06-28/MMCOH_Battle_4.PNG,Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes[/img_big]

Clash of Heroes is not without its drawbacks. The precise D-pad movement and actions previously assigned to buttons have been replaced by click, hold and drag gestures for touch devices. While the replacement gestures aren’t particularly complex, the precision and care involved slows gameplay to an awkward crawl. I often misclick and move the wrong units, as my finger covers the general area around the unit I’m currently manipulating, wasting precious action points and ruining formations. There is an option to zoom in on your half of the board, which alleviates part of the problem, but because you’re zoomed into your side, you can’t see your opponent’s units. (This might not be as big a problem on larger iDevices, but here I am, pawing at an iPhone).

Being a direct port of a full version game, Clash of Heroes has a significant amount of gameplay. In addition to the substantial main campaign players are given side quests, puzzles and opportunities to find hidden hero units, so there’s a lot of puzzley fun to be had. How much fun exactly? According to my timestamp, I’ve already sunk over 800 hours into the main campaign. I’m assuming it may be a bug or even more likely, a date as opposed to a timestamp, though the point is still valid.

As a quick, get in-get out game, the issues regarding precision and touch means any quick plays will likely end up a frustrating mess of colour and defeat. As a game to play slowly and patiently with cool logic, vicious cunning and the dexterity of a mongoose, Clash of Heroes is a very enjoyable puzzler.

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