Wednesday, April 27, 2011

And Now for a Review...

For the record this is my first review ever so if you post something in the comments section go easy on me. I also should mention that I’ve played all the Heroes of Might and Magic games with the exception of the fourth entry in the series. Although word is it has excellent game play I could never get past the lackluster graphics and sound. But I digress….on to Clash of Heroes!

Breaking somewhat from its tactical roots this latest entry in the Heroes series’ biggest feature is a strong puzzle element which drastically alters the battle strategy. Originally Clash of Heroes was released on the Nintendo DS, but the version I’m reviewing here is the up-res rebalanced PSN version.

Let’s start with graphics since that’s what everyone tends to notice first. Despite being made for the handheld market the backgrounds look vibrant and free of pixilization. The 2-D sprite character and battlefield unit animations are smooth with portraits during dialogue sequences having a definite anime vibe to them. Personally I don’t mind this since it feels like a natural progression from Heroes V. Don’t forget that the original Heroes of Might and Magic had a very cartoon look albeit more western in flavor.

Sound effects are crisp and clear with various chimes and jingles conveying important cues during play. The music sets the mood quite well and feels very reminiscent of previous Heroes titles. Voice acting is sub-par, but thankfully only occurs during short inter-chapter cut scenes. The rest of the game, for better or worse, utilizes the classic RPG text scrawl.

The story is a mix of J.R.R. Tolkien and G.R.R. Martin. Five kingdoms are wracked by conflict and it’s up to a small group of youngsters to save the world. The narrative is split into chapters with each taking place in a different location. At times character arcs intertwine, but for the most part each is doing their own thing. If you have a soft spot for fantasy you might enjoy it. If not it’s easy to skim or skip your way to the action.

Of course the real draw of Clash of Heroes is its puzzle style battle system. By matching like units on the battlefield in rows or columns the player and his or her opponent can create offensive and defensive maneuvers. There are also a number of systems in place to encourage combinations as well as special units which bring their own unique abilities to the battle. Overall it’s a rich and deep set of mechanics that in order to master requires careful observation and planning. There are a number of in game tutorials to help ease you into the game though so don’t feel discouraged if puzzle games aren’t your forte. Additionally, some encounters feature brain game challenges that not only offer in game rewards, but also illustrate strategies which can be used in regular battles, something which can come in handy especially in later chapters. Rounding this out is the Hero himself (or herself), who has a unique magic power and possibly an equipped artifact that can influence the battle in various ways.

Outside of combat players can explore areas and interact with characters via a simple waypoint system. Gold and resources can also be acquired in order to purchase special units. Numerous aforementioned artifacts can also be found, although the hero may only use one at a time during battle.

Total playtime varies depending on whether or not you speed through the story bits and skip passed option side quests. However I think it’s safe to say it will take 20+ hours to finish the single player campaign. In addition to that you can go online and test you puzzle skills against real people if you have a strong competitive streak.

Overall I highly recommend this game to anyone who enjoys turn based strategy or puzzle games. At $15 it’s a bit pricy but one of the best entertainment to dollar value downloadable games to come out in recent memory. In truth my only strong criticism of Clash of Heroes is the frequent load screens. Considering that it isn’t a particularly graphics intensive game I felt mildly annoyed with how much time I spent staring at that rotating “Now Loading” wheel in the center of the screen.

Editor’s Note: I’ve heard that the Xbox360 version has shorter load times, but since I’ve only played the PS3 version I can neither confirm nor deny this statement.

1 comment:

  1. I actually liked the 4th Heroes of Might and Magic but disliked the 5th, mainly because the AI was so bad. I am happy to see another puzzle game with a story but I am even happier it see the multiplayer aspect. 20+ hours of game play sounds like a good length and $15 is a lot cheaper than the traditional $60 for a game, which might not be anymore fun to play. I just wish I had a PS3... and the play Station Network was working.