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.
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