Match 3 Elves: Might & Magic Clash Of Heroes

By Alec Meer on September 30th, 2011 at 9:48 am.

Nodes! Why did it have to be nodes?

The confusingly title-inverted Might and Magic Heroes VI will be with us very soon – I have review code right here, in fact – but also and already added to the endless and deathless M&M ranks is Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes, a resolution-embiggened port of the turn-based strategy/RPG/match 3 oddity that first showed up on Nintendo’s DS pocket-toy. It’s on sale now, and there’s also a demo. I took some crazed/amazed/irritated/bemused notes as I played through the demo (not the full game, which I can’t speak for), which I’ve now removed all (or most, anyway) of the grammatical abuse and typos from for you below.

- Elves are mentioned within two seconds of the game starting. Yep, this is a fantasy game alright. Maybe we should rip off Old Man Murray and introduce a Start To Elf rating?

- This semi-animated and very long expository introduction is extremely tiresome. If I’d bought this on DS I’d be pretty annoyed by how much battery had been wasted before I’d even started playing.

- Oh, they’ve won me back at Necromancers. I love a bit of necromancy.

- And only now do we get to whatever the actual threat to all this wibbling lore actually is. And it’s the cutest demon I’ve ever seen.

- Nope, can’t stand any more of this intro, skipped.

- And we’re in. It looks slightly like Bastion, but less distinctive, more soft-focused. Better than grimdark, I guess.

- I’m still not playing. Child-like characters are still talking. STOP TALKING.

- Why does every character look like a child in fancy dress? Even the bearded men?

- OK, this is odd. You don’t have any freedom of movement as such, and can only move via ‘nodes’, arbitrary circular markings on the ground. feels really limiting, and reveals the handheld roots somewhat.

- That’s quite sweet – it shows a Tom and Jerry style fight cloud when enemies rush at you, before you drop into the fight proper.

- It’s a row of my eleves against a row of demonic dogs. Only there’s no direct fighting between them – instead I have to form my units into stacks of the same colour; when 3 are put into vertical lines, that becomes an Attack at the end of my turn. This isn’t how fighting usually works, is it? Maybe that’s why I got a bit bullied at school. If I’d hung around with people wearing the same colour clothes as me, everything would have been fine.

- You can also arrange them into defensive walls by forming horizontal rather than vertical groups of 3.

- So depending on where your attacks are positioned, they’ll either neutralise enemy units/attacks or take hit points off the off-screen enemy leader, who you need to defeat to win the battle.

- So it’s sort of Match 3 with Elves, then. There’s even an option to remove units of colours you don’t want in order to help form matching colours. This is a deeply odd game – clever and bold in a way, but the arbitrary nature of the colour matching clashes with the turn-based strategy part of my brain. IT FEELS SO WRONG.

- And also an annoying one, between the Nintendian bleeps whenever you do anything and the seemingly endless exposition and achingly dramatic music.

- Oh no, another cutscene. I can’t bear it. Time to hammer Escape to try and skip and… oh, it’s crashed.

Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes is out now – you can buy it or download its demo via Steam.

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53 Comments »

  1. pakoito says:

    The campaign sucks donkeyjunk, but the battle system would be consistent is someone took time to balance the factions and artifacts.

    I’d love to make a opensource clone with possibility of real customization of armies, but it’s not a 1-man project sadly :(

    • bglamb says:

      They’ve had a good go at fixing the balance issues from the DS version.

      Definitely worth playing. It’s got an impressive amount of tactical depth, and is much, much more than just a match-3 game.

  2. Dominic White says:

    Alec.. Seriously? This really isn’t your best. Or even close to your best. You basically just rambled on a bit and said ‘Minute-long cutscene? TOO LONG DIDN’T WATCH’.

    And the funny thing is that there’s almost no cutscenes in the game, just the two little bits of exposition right at the start.

    • Alec Meer says:

      That’s true, I did ramble on!

      And I played the demo, not the full game, as clearly stated. The demo was mostly made of crap cutscenes and exposition, and then it crashed.

    • Colthor says:

      The full game is brilliant on the DS. It does take a little while before you get enough soldier types to make combat interesting, though (which stops you getting confused and overwhelmed, at least). Later chapters realise this and give you loads of toys almost straight away.

      Well, apart from the final boss. I couldn’t be bothered with the grinding necessary to kill him. But bosses have to be rubbish, by EU law.

    • karry says:

      Well, he wanted to rip off Old Man Murray, who wrote pretty bad articles by any imaginable standard, so it was to be expected.

    • TheApologist says:

      Yeah – I have to say it’s a game that deserves to be taken a bit more seriously than poking at the demo. I’ve been playing it on PS3, and load times and slightly wearying first 10 minutes aside, really loving it. Like PuzzleQuest except with a battle system that doesn’t randomly screw you.

      Compelling stuff.

    • Alec Meer says:

      If the demo doesn’t convey what the game’s really like, then fair enough, I am interested and will take a look at the full thing when I get a chance. The publishers are somewhat at fault for putting out the wrong slice of game if so, rather than showing off elements that demonstrate how compelling it is/becomes. An all too regular problem with demos, alas – they should be tailored to being enticing demonstration content, not just slices crudely hacked off the top. Especially when it’s mostly exposition.

    • Dominic White says:

      The demo is actually really long, and continues quite some way after that bit of exposition. But due to your computer being haunted, it crashed.

      And yes, the game is very, very good. There’s a reason why it got near-universally great reviews and why people have been singing its praises for the past year-and-a-bit.

    • TheApologist says:

      @Alec – fair points all. And glad to hear you will take a longer look – it’s a fun time.

    • Ultra Superior says:

      This grumpy article… written too soon. PLAY THE DEMO TO THE END. All those points are correct (though the game never crashed in my case), but they shouldn’t be the reason to dismiss this game. The game’s quite deep and tactically satisfying.

      Childish graphics is misleading as it is sometimes very challenging puzzle/tactics game.

      Played demo, bought the full version and enjoying it very much. Heartily recommended.

    • Miker says:

      Alec — I’m pretty sure the demo acts like a trial version, so the long intro is simply part of the actual single player game. Also, it’s worth noting that the demo includes hot seat mode, which I think is one of the largest draws of the game. You should pull over someone who’s good at puzzles and play a match with them before writing off the game, I think the multiplayer is one of the game’s better features. The unit balance has also been tweaked since the console versions, too.

    • bglamb says:

      Awww…..poor Alec.

      I don’t think he was expecting to be delivering that review to a horde of people who really love the game.

      It is a very good game though! (and not the best review)

    • Metonymy says:

      I’ll say the same thing I’ve said before, the person writing the piece needs to have some passing familiarity with the material, or previous versions of the game. Failing that, the previewer needs to like the game, unless it is truly horrible.

      Sometimes a piece like this is funny, because we laugh at the absurdity that gaming sometimes consists of, and there are some funny jokes. (there were a few here) But the taste left in my mouth is that someone making fun of a game that was far better than anyone was expecting, a surprisingly excellent bit of innovation on the DS.

      You’re making fun of the art style? The “I hate this game” posts on anonymous forums are usually better than this.

    • Fearzone says:

      I played both the demo and the full game on a recent port to the PS3. I imagine they are about the same as the PC version. The demo is reasonably representative of the full game, which gets more complex as you go, but always the same idea. I mean, if you don’t like the demo you probably won’t like the game, but if you do like the demo, your $15 won’t be misspent but it is probably worth closer to $5 or $10. For a portable title it is ok, for the console or the PC it is at best a fun little diversion.

    • Miker says:

      @Fearzone

      Worth $5 or $10? Really? Given the length of the campaign (15+ hours) and the multiplayer aspects (I’ve sunk 4 hours into hotseat alone), I’d say there’s far more content here than in most games of comparable price. Hell, most people were saying Clash of Heroes had great value at $30 when it was released for DS. I understand that the game isn’t a full-blown M&M title or anything, but the amount of content you get for your money is impressively generous.

    • Fearzone says:

      Yes, really. Now, I definitely enjoyed the puzzles and the lightweight fantasy motif. But this is not a big game and all in 2D. Even as a new release on a new system, and even if you really get into the multiplayer, I’d be hesitant to say this is worth more than $20. I mean you might think a hula hoop is the funnest thing in the world but that doesn’t make it worth more than $5 at Walmart. For a port, $5-10 for this one would be a good price. To each their own. Regardless of price, I enjoyed playing it, but I also payed $15 for Tactics Ogre on the PSP and the two are incomparable in terms of depth, duration of play, story, music, production, and overall value.

  3. Enzo says:

    I’m playing this game since it came out on Steam, it’s pretty great. I actually like the battle system in Clash of Heroes more than the battles in Heroes of Might and Magic. The art style is also sweet, the animations of legendary and epic units’ attacks are neat.

  4. Gundrea says:

    It doesn’t look that cutesy, more low resolution. Maybe it was your heart that crashed?

  5. drakkenson says:

    So how long did you play before you realised how late it was?
    I played for six hours…

  6. Jams O'Donnell says:

    Don’t say mean things about Clash of Heroes. It’s a wonderful game, full of charm and fun strategy (if a little too reliant on luck sometimes), and one of my favourites of 2009.

    You can tell the post is by Alec because it is mean!

  7. Shar_ds says:

    Played this through over the Xmas period 09/10, utterly brilliant game! Unbalanced as hell in places, but always stayed fun.

  8. pyjamarama says:

    I would never play this on the PC just like I didn’t play Puzzle Quest, the DS is the way to go on these type of games, maybe a smartphone is an option but the DS is clearly the best choice

  9. bsplines says:

    I got this game for the DS and I ‘ll also comment that it’s a wonderful game. It doesn’t pick up the pace immediately though, the introduction is a bit dull.
    Think I ‘ll skip it for the PC though, the improvements do not seem so significant.

  10. wastelanderone says:

    This article is an accurate portrayal of how my attempt at Clash of Heroes went.

  11. TLGAthena says:

    The sad part?

    Match Three Elves is probably going to be more true to Might and Magic than the new Might and Magic : Discip-*AHEM* Heroes 6.

    And that’s assuming that Heroes 6 does not emerge as the steaming pile of fail that it was in beta.

    • Dominic White says:

      HoMM6 doesn’t even really seem necessary. The HoMM5 community are currently wrapping up the big fan-patch, which is going to be used as the foundation for a new fan-made expansion/campaign. That game is really refined and polished now, wheras the sixth game is rather wonky at the moment.

    • Dawngreeter says:

      My impressions of HOMM6, based on the demo, is that it is a lot more like HOMM than previous incarnation and that it is a fine, fine game. Both in combat and in kingdom sections. The only unforgivable heresy is no full screen town overview with dynamic landscape. But I’ll forgive that because hero leveling is so damn good.

    • TLGAthena says:

      @ Dawngreeter : If by HOMM you mean Disciples, sure. Trust me, it’s not all that. I’ve got spoiled lately with genuinely good tactical games such as Frozen Synapse and HoMM likes such as Kings Bounty (which frankly still stands head and shoulders above HoMM 6).

    • Dawngreeter says:

      By HOMM, I mean HOMM. I’ve played every game in the series for a good, long while. I am fully aware what the game is like. And HOMM6, judged by what I’ve seen in the demo, is the best one since HOMM3.

      I have no idea what your obsession with Desciples is.

  12. Demiath says:

    Wow, that was…not a good article. There’s a whole lot more to Clash of Heroes’ strategical gameplay than described here, and most of it is readily apparent from the first hour or so (which is all I’ve played of the game myself). Crashes to desktop – this is PC gaming we’re talking about here, remember – has to the best of my knowledge never stopped an RPS writer from doing the bare minimum of field work necessary to give an adequate-ish overview of the relevant gameplay mechanics. Given the complaints about the overtly long cutscenes and node-based movement, it would also seem that the writer has somehow managed to never play a Japanese RPG and/or a Puzzle Quest game. Which is in and of itself remarkable and noteworthy in ways this RPS article is decidedly not.

    For me personally, the saddest part of Clash of Heroes it that it replaced my beloved if exceedingly generic Western fantasy world from the Might & Magic (i.e. not Heroes) RPGs with a completely different (and no less generic) Japanese-esque fantasy setting. It all sounds horribly inconsequential on paper, but, well, it hurts…

    • Dominic White says:

      Erm. It’s set in the same world as HoMM5 – the art-style is cartoonish because it’s a puzzle game aimed at a slightly younger audience, but it’s the exact same western fantasy world as you remember, right down to a bunch of the characters being younger versions of those you meet in HoMM5.

  13. mageta says:

    I want the old Might & Magic back :(

  14. Jams O'Donnell says:

    I suppose it ought to be pointed out that this is Might and Magic in name only. Anyone hoping for anything with more than a superficial resemblance to the franchise should look elsewhere. However, if you’re looking for a fun strategic puzzle game you should absolutely try it out.

  15. Koozer says:

    “- OK, this is odd. You don’t have any freedom of movement as such, and can only move via ‘nodes’, arbitrary circular markings on the ground. feels really limiting, and reveals the handheld roots somewhat.”

    I don’t understand how that movement system reveals handheld roots. I’ve never seen that system, ever, and I’ve owned every Nintendo handheld since the good old Game Boy (except those silly DS versions between Lite and 3DS).

  16. Velvetmeds says:

    What the… Is this? I didn’t know RPS writers had 2 second attention span. Probably the most disappointing thing i’ve read here. Hell, it might be worst than the IGN, Gamespot and Gametrailers level

  17. leomr says:

    Well, I won’t bother with the same hyperbolic responses about Alec’s short attention span that others have expressed, but I will say that those singing this game’s praises are spot on. I spent a lot of time with the DS version and loved it, and while I haven’t had an opportunity to play the PC version yet, I can’t wait to do so.

  18. Quinburger says:

    I’m currently playing through this, and so far my only complaint is that the random element of army placement at the start of battle can really screw you, and that’s frustrating. When, in the first turn you have no easy matches, yet the enemy can move 3 times and start charging 3 large units…

  19. johnpeat says:

    The biggest problem with the PC version of this is that it has a RAFT of performance problems across a variety of hardware…

    It might no seem like the sort of game where FPS matters, but it’s timing is framerate locked so the upshot of this bug is that….. the………………… game……………………………. plays………………………………………….

    at

    glacial

    pace….

    • Miker says:

      While I think the game has odd stuttering pauses every once in a while (3 second pauses every 5-10 minutes, maybe?), I think the game’s performance is quite commendable overall. My girlfriend runs it on her core i3/intel integrated graphics without any issues, and I’ve heard reports that it might even be netbook-friendly. Besides, Capybara says they’re working on sorting out the performance issues.

  20. kalidanthepalidan says:

    This is one of my favorite games on the DS. Everyone should give it a chance at somepoint, regardless of your gaming system of choice.

  21. RyuRanX says:

    I’m enjoying this game, despite it’s a puzzle game. It’s not near as good as the Heroes series, but it worth the price.

  22. Hypocee says:

    Shame all around. Shame, Alec. You’re better than this. Shame, port team managing to make a few sprites CTD. Shame it’s published by Ubisoft.

  23. Spider Jerusalem says:

    I had the same impressions from the demo, and it stopped me from buying it tbh.

  24. namad says:

    this is one of my favorite DS games ever, a lot more fun IMO than puzzle quest, not sure if the pc game will really be worth it tho when it was already perfectly fine on the DS

  25. Daryl says:

    I played the DS version and loved it. I never completed though since it got pretty damn difficult towards the end. I might pick this up though.

  26. BobsLawnService says:

    I think the writers of RPS need to step away from their keyboards foir a bit, have some tea and Jaffa cakes then phone their mums and have a bit of a chat. They’ve been pretty grumpy of late.

  27. Froibo says:

    I have been playing this here and there on the little free time I have. The game is satisfying in quick intervals, which is perfect for my busy schedule I’ve had lately.

    The game mechanics are surprisingly well polished and original, I honestly didn’t give it much hope in the strange direction they took the franchise. You are right to highlight the horrible campaign though. It wouldn’t be so much of an issue if the game didn’t attempt to force you to take in the story. I thought the days of not having the option to skip story aspects were behind us. It also has annoying meta-games such as avoiding gaurds in a predictable pattern a la Zelda64. Any aspect outside of the actual gameplay, is simple and childish, and not in a good way because it also eats a good proportion of play time.

    Overall I have been enjoying it though, about to complete the 2nd faction, but I haven’t tried out the multiplayer yet. It gives me confidence on what the developers can potentially do with Might and Magic and the Heroes therein.

  28. Arathain says:

    Just chiming in with everyone else to say how much I loved this on the DS. It really is something special.

  29. Towercap says:

    Huh. I’ve found the game enjoyable so far. Much prefer its combat mechanics to the standard Heroes/KB-style TBS fare.

  30. Phoenix says:

    They picked a really bad part of the game to demo. Ideally they’d demo a bit of the Knight campaign, somewhere in the middle, so you could try out some puzzles, more units, etc. The prologue bit is boring as fuck, and it’s mostly cutscene setup – it’s really a horrible decision for a demo.

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