Might and Magic: Clash of Heroes Review: A Fresh Take On The Strategy Genre

by Mike Bendel March 8, 2010 @ 2:33 am

While the bulk of portable offerings tend to mimic their console brethren in bite-sized form, a select few dare to separate themselves from what is considered traditional for a genre. It’s hardly surprising, given that taking risks from a creative standpoint can be an unsettling venture at times. When risks are taken and executed properly, however, it pays off in spades. Ubisoft’s DS title Might  and Magic: Clash of Heroes strongly exemplifies this notion, offering a fresh take on the turn-based RPG genre.

The charm of Might and Magic lies predominantly in its robust turn-based combat system. With a set number of moves at their disposal each round, players take turns strategizing their battle plan by shifting units in varying colors around on a grid-based battlefield. This is where things take a turn for the interesting: in order to inflict damage on opposing forces, players create combos with units of a similar color. For instance, lining up three green units in a vertical fashion creates a standard attack. Similarly, arranging three of the same color units horizontally creates a wall that defends your troops from enemy attacks. Of course, walls are not invulnerable and can be broken down. The defensive strength of these fortified walls depend on several attributes, such as unit type, unit level, and so on. To spice things up and add to the element of surprise, incurring a certain threshold of damage in any battle allows players to unleash a special attack on the enemy.

The depth of the combat system does not end at pulling off an intricate series of attack and defense combos, however. As players progress through the game, specialized elite and champion units become available. Gutsy in appearance and strength, these formidable units add yet another layer of strategy to the mix. Positioning two or more common units behind an similarly colored secondary unit initiates their attack. As blows delivered by these units inflict more damage, charging time is increased over that of standard units. There is one caveat to using these units. Once downed in battle, they are permanently removed from your troop roster. Death isn’t exactly perpetual, however, as such units can be re-obtained by purchasing them with available gold at select shops.

This approach to combat strikes just the right balance. Ubisoft has managed to craft a system that while not overly complex, offers a wealth of possibilities, enough to appease nitpicky hardcore gamers like ourselves. No matter what the foe, seeing each battle to its finish and emerging  victorious offers true satisfaction. In the crushing event of having to admit defeat, let’s just say that turning the DS off in frustration is a thought unlikely to cross your mind. You will feel compelled to try again. And again. It’s that addictive.

Whilst combing around dungeon areas, combat is an optional affair. An on-screen shield indicator pops up at which point players can decide to imitate a combat sequence with the enemy or take a defense stance, opting to fall back and flee. With the combat system being addictive as it is, we found ourselves taking the confrontational route all too often. We have a feeling you’ll be hard pressed to opt out of battle sequences as well.

Above all, Might and Magic: Clash of Heroes is a real gem, a perfect illustration of how innovation can expand appeal and even change one’s perception of a genre.  At its heart, it is a turn-based strategy title with all the standard trimmings, backed by an elaborate story and a well-rounded cast of supporting characters. Above all, though, it reinvents the typical turn-based strategy formula in a fashion that lends itself exceptionally well to Nintendo’s dual-screen portable. Without a doubt, it’s the most fun I have personally had on a DS yet. I’d go as far to call Clash of Heroes the must-have DS title of 2009. Any DS owner that calls themselves a fan of the strategy genre should have it in his or her collection. Even for those put off by this genre in the past, it’s still worth checking out. Who knows, you just might broaden your interests in the process.

Score:  5/5

Review written by Mike Bendel / x3sphere

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