Review – Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes

As my friend drove us out to eat the other night I kept envisioning our car crashing into the one in front of it and that one following suit so that we had three aligned cars that could presumably then cross some screen gap threshold in order to attack some other cars. This phenomenon is usually discussed in terms of seeing giant Tetris blocks everywhere you look but I have also experienced it in the desire to continuously roll up objects. That Clash of Heroes has begun to project itself into my real life is a sign of something – this is the best damn DS game America has ever made. So much so that it was made in Canada.

Clash of Heroes is a variant of the match three puzzle game on the surface, but deeper down it doesn’t kind of suck like Puzzle Quest. No, instead it is an incredibly fleshed out experience that touches all of my nerd erogenous zones with gentle yet firm strokes. This game is not X-Com, which is to me and many others the pinnacle of throwing a bunch of different crap together in a game and it all working out so each aspect influences the other perfectly despite being based in an entirely different genre of game. No, this isn’t X-Com, but it may take the silver medal (extremely belated Olympics reference, get it?).

There is the puzzle game aspect, which takes up about 70% of your play time. It alone is better than many other games and is addictive as hell. I’m playing it right now, which is why this review is so bad. Both screens are used and used well, and there is close to the exact right amount of luck involved to make the game both strategic yet pleasantly unpredictable (think of sending Private Johnson past the corner of a house only to be immediately shot in the face by an alien with remaining time points – that’s fun, right?).

Besides the puzzle stuff, there is a plot that is mostly uninteresting but still infinitely more captivating than the shit I remember from Heroes of Might and Magic III. Making the story more personal certainly helped as did sometimes writing well. I suggest next time they always write well. The plot takes place on the game map which is so appealing that upon seeing it I immediately wished I could vanquish the Mana Beast or retrieve the Tri Force in that world. Unfortunately, you are confined to nodes, which is practical and an homage to the Heroes games yet still a little disappointing.

You navigate these nodes searching for recruits, resources, side quest stuff and, most frequently, the next plot point and battle. Having to recruit the more impressive forces (the lame units are in infinite supply) is kind of fun and yet another throwback to the series, but the resource management is mostly irrelevant. There was exactly one time when I had the money but not the metal pots or sharp blue crystal things required to hire characters.

On top of all of this stuff your main hero and each unit type in your army can gain experience and levels. Not everyone agrees with me (see Christian on this site) but for my money leveling makes everything from video games to buildings better. You can also find artifacts for your main character to equip to satisfy the part of you that desires numerical improvement to your characters through means other than leveling through battles.

What’s amazing is how deep this game feels despite most individual parts being shallow. You can only equip a single artifact at a time, resources are useless, you can almost always recruit sufficient forces, the world map isn’t particularly large nor the node navigation exciting, but it all comes together so well. Perhaps the cake is the puzzle game portion and then on top of that cake is another cake made of random ingredients that are all sugary and delicious. Then on top of that is the icing of appealing sprite work holding everything together. And on top of that is diabetes.

Fuck this game. Due to a bug and my rush to save the game, I saved while embedded in a wall or something and now cannot finish the final scenario. This isn’t a PC MMO, it’s basically a Super Nintendo game and Ubisoft couldn’t test it enough to make sure there were no game breaking bugs?

Video games are terrible.

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