Platform: Xbox 360
Developer: Capybara Games
Clash of Heroes: Might and Magic was not a game on my radar. In fact, it was so far off my radar that I didn’t know the game existed, a year after it was released on the Nintendo DS, a device of which there are four in my household. It took a re-release on Xbox Live Arcade to grab my attention.
The game is developed by the likable Capybara Games studio from Canada who previously released the iPhone game Critter Crunch which I rated as one of the Best Video Games of 2009.
Critter Crunch took the simple ‘match 3’ puzzle game mechanic popularized in Bejewelled and turned it into an addictive and charming iPhone game involving little creatures that devour one another.
A year later, they’ve taken the same starting principle and expanded it into a strategy RPG game. It’s incredible how much mileage they’ve drawn from this single gameplay mechanism and how well they’ve done it too.
The opening battles in Clash of Heroes serve as a tutorial for the game’s mechanics which gradually introduce larger and more powerful units called Elites and Champions into the mix. The game then introduces the ability to chain and stack units (see the connections to gem-based puzzle games still?) and voila, you have another winning effort from Capybara.
I am fully aware that what I have described does not sound particularly ground-breaking or special. Know that Clash of Heroes is a game that is significantly greater than the sum of its parts.
The is a massive variety of distinct units in the game, dozens of artifacts that can change the gameplay dynamics and an impeccably well-designed difficulty curve that gradually challenges the player with more complex and tactical battles. The end result is a game that feels endlessly enjoyable. There are few things more satisfying than a see-saw battle that plays out over twenty minutes that ends with your team landing the killer blow with only a smidgem of your own health left. I understand the game tweaked a few parameters from the Nintendo DS version. If so, I guess it’s only added to the sense of polish with the game’s A.I.
I have played full-price, triple-A rpgs such as Mass Effect 2 and Final Fantasy XIII and they didn’t offer as many hours of gameplay as what I’ve sunk into this $20 game. By the time I completed the campaign mode I had clocked in 30 hours of playtime. That is incredible value and I didn’t get bored of the game for a minute. There is just something about Clash of Heroes that Capy have gotten so right. Even the hokey storyline and dreadful voice acting are ultimately overshadowed by the charming design for the units and their excellent animated attacks.
Just like discovering a great film that you knew little about before you saw it, gaming surprise packages are a rare but welcome occurance. I don’t know why I paid so little attention to the game when it first launched nor can I really remember what prompted me to download the demo and give it a try when it rereleased on Xbox Live. Regardless, I’m happy I caught it the second time around. This is an absolute gem of a game and I highly recommend it to anyone and everyone.