Might & Magic Clash of Heroes, which we first learned was heading to iOS back in June of last year, didn't quite make its 2012 release window, but it's not too far off the mark – it's set to land later this month. I've been playing through the first campaign of Clash of Heroes and have been enjoying many aspects of it, and though there are some "rough around the edges" issues with the port itself the game feels right at home on an iOS device.

Originally released for the Nintendo DS in late 2009, Clash of Heroes is a turn-based strategy RPG set in the same universe as Heroes of Might and Magic V. It was critically acclaimed when it launched on the DS, and in 2011 it was remade in HD for Xbox Live, PSN and PC, which is the version that the iOS game is ported from.

The game looks really nice, with special note of how well the character art is drawn and animated. It feels like you're playing a cartoon. I'm not huge into Might & Magic and I didn't play this particular game in any of its previous forms, but despite that I'm finding the story pretty entertaining so far. It's your standard "world in turmoil and you're the only hope" type stuff, but it's entertaining nonetheless and it includes a lot of decent voice acting.

While you'll travel across lands taking part in battles and quests and unearthing the various plot lines, the real heart of Clash of Heroes is its fantastic battle systems. It's just too much fun. It's turn-based, and uses variations of match-3 mechanics to set up your attacks and defenses. Your squad of units is placed in columns on the bottom portion of the screen, and your opponent's are on the upper portion. Match 3 of the same unit type and color together vertically to send an attack to your enemies in the same column above, or match units horizontally to create a defensive wall.

That's the very base mechanics of battling, but there are so many strategic layers built on top. You can create two attacks in the same column to combine them into one much stronger attack, and do a similar thing with defensive walls to make them fortified. There are special Elite and Champion unit types which take a greater number of turns before being able to act than your typical soldiers would, but can deal some devastating damage.

There are so many little strategic touches tucked away in the battle system in Clash of Heroes, and it takes a lot of forethought and strategy to make the most effective combinations of units and to use the open space of the board wisely. It reminds me a lot of playing Triple Town [Free] in that regard, actually, which isn't a bad thing in the least.

I'm enjoying the campaign and story progression so far, but the battling could easily be the entire game and I'd be perfectly happy. That's where the multiplayer modes come in. You can pass and play with a friend using a single device, play face to face on the same iPad, square off solo against the computer AI in a quick battle, or go online and face opponents from all over the world. No doubt I'll complete the single player portions of the game, but multiplayer is likely where I'll be spending most of my time.

So I'm digging the gameplay in Clash of Heroes so far, but what's not so hot is the actual port job itself. It feels very sloppy in a lot of areas. Dialogue runs over the border of the text boxes, loading screen transitions are choppy and abrupt, menu buttons often fail to register, and overall the tap recognition is really hit and miss. It also feels incredibly tiny on the iPhone, with seemingly no effort to readjust for the small screen (it does feel great on the iPad, though).

These issues haven't stopped me from progressing or anything (not yet, anyway), but they definitely mar what is otherwise a solid experience on other platforms. There really doesn't seem to be any reason it can't run just as good on the iOS platform. Hopefully these are things that can be smoothed over in the next few weeks before release, or in post-release patches.

Technical issues aside, Might & Magic Clash of Heroes really does appear to be a fantastic little strategy RPG. I'm looking forward to forging on in the single player portions, and testing my ability in the online multiplayer arena. I'm also not ashamed to admit I have played against myself in several heated pass and play games just because the battling is so much fun. Also because I am a lonely, lonely individual.

Clash of Heroes is set to hit the App Store on January 24th at a price of $4.99, so drop by our forums until then for some discussion and check back later this month for the official release.

  • famousringo

    1. I can't believe it's taken this long for this game to make it to iOS.

    2. Seems it would be better suited to portrait orientation. Not sure why so many devs have a hard time figuring out that sometimes vertical is just better for the game.

    • themostunclean

      I've never played Might & Magic, but a few months ago there was a little "under the radar" game that came out for iOS called Puzzle Saga that a lot of people were comparing to it (some going as far as calling it a ripoff of M&M).

      Puzzle Saga was designed in portrait orientation and if the gameplay between the 2 is at all similar then you're absolutely right. Landscape makes no sense for this type of game.

    • Nick

      I am in the exact opposite camp. I hate portrait orientation. I generally have my iPad plugged in while using it, and no matter the case, I've yet to find one that works solidly in portrait mode. Landscape, no problem, portrait is frustrating.

      So for me, I'm thrilled it isn't forcing me to keep the iPad in a foreign position. I wish more games were like this, so many times a game of mine is ignored because the orientation just doesn't work.

      But because we both have clearly valid points, I think it should be a fair request to be able to adjust from one or the other. That's not too much to ask, is it?

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1202150 Kristen Stewart

        No idea on the programming involved, but it'd definitely be more UI work. And design work, e.g. if you had already created a game where you had optimized the levels for a specific screen size/orientation.

        Unless a substantial number of your customers (or potential customers) are clamoring for flexible screen orientation, it's probably just not worth it to sink extra money/time into that kind of thing.

      • Nick

        Problem is, you can plan for it from the get go, then it's not an issue with backtracking. And who knows how many are clambering for it, or are just passing it over because it doesn't support the ability to rotate. Maybe people will get the game, try it, see it doesn't work in the orientation they prefer and just let it sit, it's happened to me.

        I've said this many times before, and I believe it's common sense: offer options. Even if people don't immediately take you up on it, having options is like giving something for free. I never play punch quest in portrait, but I respect them far more for putting that in.

        I'll admit it doesn't always make sense, I think that's a given, but there are many cases where it's clear it would work, and might just be preferable. Match 3 games are a good example for this.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1202150 Kristen Stewart

        I think I understand what you're saying, but my point was simply that producing options like flexible screen orientation isn't free. Even if you plan for them from the get-go and thus reduce their cost, they still require designer/artist/programmer time.

      • themostunclean

        You shouldn't have to plug your iPad in all the time. Unless its really old there may be something wrong with your battery if your charging it that much. My iPad 2 only spends 4 hours on the charger every couple of days. Not to mention you get more accurate level readings if you go through a full cycle frequently.

        If you're solely playing on an iPad then orientation would effect you less since the aspect ratio is much more square. I like to switch it up and playing a game like this on iPhone would be extremely claustrophobic in landscape mode. Check out the title I mentioned above (Puzzle Saga) to see how the orientation in a game like this is based on playability, not aesthetics or personal convenience. Many portrait style games would not be the same or just plain wouldn't work in landscape on an iPhone.

      • Nick

        I keep my iPad plugged in regularly. I've had an iPad since 2010 and its battery is just fine thanks. I use my iPad pretty much regularly throughout the day, for various reasons. As for your theory about going through a full cycle "frequently", that's far from the truth. These are lithium batteries and do much better with regular, shallow charges. It is recommended to do a full drain about twice a year, not frequently.

        I've played puzzle saga, and I've played many other portrait locked games. Very few do I think are absolutely necessary to be limited to portrait.

      • themostunclean

        I made no comment about the health of the battery. It's the calibration of the software that gauges the battery level that benefits from full cycle charging. Read any Apple users guide, they recommend once a month (which I consider frequent). I'm fully aware battery health is not directly effected.

        SMAMC, Cut the Rope, Bad Hotel, Monster Flip, Micro Miners, Doodle Jump. Just a few games that would absolutely not work in landscape and there are probably dozens more.

      • Nick

        Once a month is far from "frequent". I don't mean to play semantics, but I think here you need to be more specific. And I see that's what the manual states, and while that may help, my readings are incredibly consistent without doing the cycling. And as I've said, my 1st gen iPad is still perfectly accurate, and I've never drained it. But regardless, it's not material to the discussion. That's how I roll with my device, and keeping the charge full without draining it, reduces the cycles on the battery, which is probably why my 1st gen is still doing so well. Oh, since I'm nitpicking, it's affected.

        And yes, I agree there are some games. But there are far more that are locked in portrait that could work rotated. Many card games, for example. Developers just don't want to do the extra work to adjust the UI. I understand it adds to the cost, but I've many a game I rarely play because of it.

    • http://jamesgecko.com/ James

      Landscape is likely so that the HD environment assets can be reused from the console/PC versions.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mattdivito Matt DiVito

    Any idea whether the online multiplayer will be asynchronous or real time?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Neal-L-Ensor/1664689766 Neal L Ensor

    Yesssss! Been waiting for this one. Loved the DS version, but I'm good with playing through again. Got high hopes.

  • UnSurreal

    Want this so bad.

  • ratsinheat

    I've bought this game on every platform. It's one of my all time favorites. Please, PLEASE rebalance it for multiplayer. And PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE let us skip the damn campaign mode for unlocks...I'm so sick of it and its soooo slow.

  • Andrew Chen

    This game shall be bought, eventually. I have high expectations for Capy games so hopefully the presentation issues outlined in the article will be ironed out shortly.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Drexiel Drexiel Tempest

    I would MUCH prefer this on my Vita cuz of the trophies since I don't like playing it just on my ps3, but having this on my iPad will do for now :D don't really like not being able to play online on the DS version D:

  • SirFobos

    Insta buy when this hits the store tonight. Loved it on console can't wait to play again on my phone!

  • Nick

    After playing this for a while, it wouldn't at all work in portrait on the phone. Not at all.

    That said this game is stupid big. 2 gigs uncompressed. Say goodbye to any free space.

    I've never wished I had a 64 gig phone so much :(