Puzzling Perfection

HIGH Making five combos and earning three extra moves at the same time.

LOW Backtracking to a shrine to buy more minions.

WTF Why do I lose a super-unit if I remove it from the board myself?

Coming up with a new spin on the puzzle genre is tough. Coming up with something that’s not only original, but also top-quality is even tougher. However, every once in a while something comes along and stands out from the rest, commanding respect and demanding to be played.

Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes is one of those.

The true value of a puzzler lies not in the trappings, but in core mechanics. What does it do, and how well does it do it? Capy Games managed to craft something that not only delivers gameplay that’s challenging and rich, but satisfies in every other regard. It’s the total package.

The game was originally released on the Nintendo DS back in 2009 and took advantage of the hardware’s dual screens – enemies on top, and the player below. This setup has been seamlessly translated to modern consoles on a single screen by Dotemu, along with a total overhaul of the graphics. It was always a sharp-looking game, but now it’s even better.

Rather than gems or blocks, Clash of Heroes capitalizes on its Medieval-ish fantasy setting and requires creatures of similar color and type to be grouped. After lining up three green archers or three purple hellhounds vertically, this active cluster counts down a predetermined number of turns before launching an attack on the enemy. Although weak footsoldier types are the most numerous, players can also acquire ‘elite’ or ‘champion’ creatures which are much larger and take up more space on the board. They’re more difficult to use, but their power and abilities are devastating if activated.

The formula just described would already be enough to make a great game, but the devs didn’t stop there. Enhancing complexity in a positive way, creatures on the board can also be manipulated horizontally to create shields for blocking enemy attacks. Preventing the game from being all offense all the time, it’s up to the player to juggle between attacking and defending.

Adding yet another layer, there are special effects that can be used as an ace in the hole, entirely separate from the creatures on the board. One such twist lets players create a nearly-impenetrable shield to block attacks for one turn. Another sacrifices all unmatched creatures for a direct-damage fireball. There are several others over the course of the campaign, constantly requiring the player to re-think comfortable strategies and giving them limited access to a game-winning ability that can’t be spammed.

Looking strictly at the mechanics, Clash of Heroes is both intricately complicated and simple to grasp at the same time. The difficulty curve and the pace at which new elements are introduced is spot-on, and the end product balances brain-busting strategy and free-flowing ease-of-play.

Shockingly, the substantial story mode is more than decent, featuring five distinct characters for the player to control, each with their own separate plot arc and minions. It was a treat to see what sort of monsters I’d be working with next, and although it’s not War and Peace, the saga easily kept my interest. Nobody would have blinked at a phoned-in script, but it’s full of clever lines and grin-worthy bits.

In nearly every respect, Clash of Heroes stands above the competition. My only complaints (it’s too easy to lose super-units and backtracking to purchase more is annoying) are so minor that they’re not even worth discussing in detail.

I have no idea what brought this updated version of a 14-year-old game into being, but I’m quite glad that it’s received this second chance with a new audience. By anyone’s standard, this is a superior work that belongs in every puzzle fan’s library.

Rating: 9 out of 10

Disclosures: This game was originally developed by Capy Games. The 2023 Definitive Edition is reworked, redeveloped and published by Dotemu. This copy was obtained via publisher and played on PS5. Approximately 6 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode in the 2023 version, but 18 hours of play were spent on the 2009 version and that game was completed. No time was spent in multiplayer modes.

Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated E10+ contains Mild Fantasy Violence and Mild Language. The official description reads: This is a puzzle/role-playing game in which players help a group of heroes stop an evil sorcerer. As players explore a fantasy world, they interact with characters and engage in turn-based battles against enemy generals. Players match units (e.g., archers, swordsmen, knights) into groups of three or more to perform attacks/actions. Some attacks/actions include weapons strikes and casting magic spells. Battles are highlighted by impact sounds, mild explosions, and screen-shaking effects. A handful of sequences depict dead bodies and a character killed by a magical blast. The word “damnable” appears in the game.

Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: Text cannot be altered or resized. All dialogue is delivered via text and since play is turn-based, there are no auditory cues necessary. In fact, I played the game for long periods of time with no sound whatsoever, and had no difficulty at all. Everything here is fully accessible.

Remappable Controls: Controls are not remappable.

Brad Gallaway
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1 month ago

I have this game on DS and I initially loved it. It felt addicting and I loved the characters and style of fighting on the dual screens. Unfortunately, for some reason, after getting to the second character (the knight in the castle town), I could not complete his full mission. No matter what I did, as I reached the main battles, I would get destroyed. I capped the levels so there is simply nothing else I could do. Even at the highest level I could get, I would go back to simple battles and I would win them but it… Read more »