Was this highly anticipated mobile port worth the wait?
It's here, at last. It seems so long since a mobile port of developer Capybara Games' critically acclaimed DS (then XBLA, PSN and PC) title, Might & Magic Clash of Heroes that we'd almost forgotten about it. Almost. It consumed endless hours of our time in previous incarnations, and the possibility of playing the game during those equally endless commuting hours seemed too good to be true.
If you've gorged yourself on fantasy games of years gone by then you'll find the story of Clash of Heroes either reassuringly familiar or unremarkable. Five children find their lives in ruin when a mysterious demon destroys their home, and the game tells the story of their journey to uncover the truth behind the demon's origins, and destroy the powerful artifact that led to this monstrous power. It's a story that's set against a backdrop of beautiful hand-painted background scenery, filled with lightly animated manga-like characters.
The really delicious meat of Clash of Heroes though is found in its combat. To describe it as a match-three game really doesn't do it justice, although it does form the backbone of this turn-based strategy title. You have a variety of different troops in a grid formation on the field - create a vertical line of three and you'll have an attacking force, create a horizontal line and they'll form a defensive wall against the opponent. Unit sets of the same color can even be fused together to create more powerful forces if you have the space to maneuver.
What makes the strategy interesting is that, once formed, your attacking units may take a handful of moves before they "wake up" and launch their assault - by which time, the opposing forces may have radically changed their own defensive and offensive set-up. You also only have a handful of moves each turn to either move units around or call in reinforcements, so the game is one of constant cat-and-mouse teasing between you and your opponent.
Once units are ready for battle, they'll automatically launch their assault at the beginning of your next turn, ripping through the defenses in front of them, tearing through any enemies, and then - if they haven't used up their attack points - smashing into the "home" line of your opponent, chipping some health off their total HP. The first person to lose all of their health loses, and to the victor go the spoils.
Those rewards take the form of XP and currency which is used to invest in Elite units. These powerful, elementally attuned units not only take up two vertical spaces in the grid, you also need to place two standard units of the same color behind them before they'll activate. When they do though, they can radically change the course of battle. Each of these powerful creatures brings something different to the battlefield, whether it's a healing effect, a debuff against the enemy's defenses or a buff to your own attack power.
All this is challenging enough in the game's generously proportioned campaign, but there's even more longevity to be found in multiplayer. Here you can either find a match online, make use of a 'pass and play' function for local multiplayer, or simply lay your iPad down on a table and play against a friend face-to-face.
On everyone's mind, in the wake of Final Fantasy: All The Bravest, is how publisher Ubisoft has chosen to monetize this mobile edition of the game. The answer, we're pleased to say, is to charge a premium price ($4.99) and then limit in-app purchases to shortcuts for the impatient and affluent gamer. You will unlock all of the factions in the game through the course of normal play, but if you want to get stuck into multiplayer with all factions at your disposal immediately, you can buy early access.
Are there any complaints about this excellent port? A couple, but they're relatively minor. Loading screens are frequent as you travel between the world - and whenever you enter combat - but thankfully they never interrupt the fighting itself. We'd also have loved an undo option in this turn-based game, as it can be easy to drop one of your units in the wrong position if you try to take things too fast.
Those loading screens are a small price to pay for the sumptuous world of Clash of Heroes though, and the latter problem is resolved by taking a slow and considered approach to the deep strategic combat on offer. After all, mastering your own rashness will be child's play in comparison to mastering what is one of the finest strategy puzzle games you can find on the App Store.
Might & Magic Clash of Heroes costs $4.99 to download, but additional purchases are available from the in-app purchase store. You can unlock all factions through normal gameplay, but if you wish to unlock them early they cost $0.99 each, or $7.99 collectively.
What's Hot:A gorgeous fantasy world filled with endlessly deep strategic puzzle gameplay.
What's Not:Loading screens are frequent, and an undo function would have been very welcome.