December 8, 2009

First Impressions: Might & Magic Clash of Heroes

Chris Nitz Says Might & Magic has finally landed on the DS! Fans of the series take note, this is not what you are used to. The game is still engaging, but there is a departure from the existing history already set forth by the PC games. This is not a bad thing as Ubisoft did a great job of creating an interesting game for those on the go.

The story so far is ok. Demons are breaking into the world, as they have done many times before. They have a plan this time though. They are going to pit the humans against the elves. It is up to you to stop this madness and restore peace to the land.

Where the game really takes off is it's approach to the battle system. No only is there the strategy of unit movement and how to best the enemy, but a small puzzle game takes front stage as well. The basics are to match three units of the same color to form an attack. These units will attack whatever is right above them on the enemy screen. The units will run directly at the enemy if the path is clear.

Of course, there is more to this than just a match three and win. Each unit has a different attack counter. This is how many turns it takes before the unit will actually fight. This comes into play when trying to counter an attacking enemy, or fighting a moving target.

Match six units of the same color to form a stronger attack, which is also called a fusion attack. Stack three units of the same color sideways to form walls. This is done with just the normal units.

Elite units attack after two normal units of the same color stack are stacked on them. Elite units have special abilities like increasing enemy attack timers, or jumping enemy walls. Champions take four normal units to attack. Champions have bigger special abilities, and do a whole lot more damage.

If two units get ready to attack during the same turn, they form a chain attack. The more chains that get stacked together, the bigger the damage multiplier. This really takes off when units can be called to and from battle. The only units that cannot do this are the elite and champion units that have been defeated in battle. Lose these and it is time to spend some money and resources to restock them for the next boss fight.

After so many attacks, a magic ability becomes available. This magical ability gets stronger as the main character levels up. Use this ability to destroy units, or directly attack the opponent. This is mighty handy for taking out an enemies elite unit or ending a battle quickly.

This might sound complex, but the game does a good job on the tutorials and introducing you to these fighting techniques. There is even a tutorial option on the main screen.

Not all fights are as simple as just attacking the opponent. Some specific enemies shift from side to side every turn. Other battles include beating the enemy while a good guy moved amongst the enemy ranks and could not get hit by your attack. It was nice to see a mixture of battles so early in the game.

Unit selection starts to get obnoxious right away though. Pixies, archers, deer, druids, bears, and trents are usable before ever leaving the first area. This sounds great until one realizes that only three normal units and two elite or champion units can be used in the constructed army. All of these units have their positives and negatives. The one plus is whatever units end up in the army, they can be assigned to specific colors. This way, a pixie can be used soley for building walls or triggering the higher end units for battle.

This game is colorful. The sprites in the armies are well detailed and fit the bill for looks. Having a dragon on the screen will dwarf a pixie. The stylus is not necessary for the game, but can be used to help speed things along. The top screen is where the enemy resides and the bottom screen is for your army.

The one complaint I have is there is no way to tell what level baddie you're engaging until you engage it. This is terribly annoying when you take on a side mission to attack this or that foe. I often would get into a fight with an enemy that was three levels higher than me. It was a bit annoying and forced me to play the main quest line first and come back for the secondary quests.

This game got very addictive very quickly. It does a good job blending the strategy genre with the puzzle genre. You might even forget you're playing a match-three puzzle game. I have yet to see if there is a way to run around and level up, but so far the fights have been fun and not terribly frustrating. Look for the full review in the upcoming weeks.