The Might and Magic series is about as ‘old-school RPG’ as it gets—it’s been around since the distant, ancient days of the 1980s. As the series has changed hands a couple of times over the decades, plenty of spin-offs have been generated, with Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes being the one Nintendo fans are likely most aware of. As part of the then-new Ubisoft continuity, this DS project aimed to broaden the fanbase by going with an action puzzler gameplay design that would be generally more approachable and fit comfortably on the humble hardware. Now, a decade on, it has been revived as Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes – Definitive Edition by none other than developer and publisher Dotemu, of Streets of Rage 4 and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge fame. Though not much has changed here since its introduction, this Definitive Edition nonetheless shows that this was always a solid and enjoyable puzzler that stands as a welcome addition to the Switch library.
Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes is set in the magical world of Ashan, taking place in the Ubisoft timeline a few decades before Heroes of Might and Magic V. The story kicks off with you playing as Anwen, a young elf girl who is quickly orphaned when a sudden demon attack plunges her camp into chaos. The demons are after a mythical artifact called the Blade of Binding (no, not that one) which could open a portal to the demon realm and kick off a full-scale war in Ashan if the demons got their hands on it. Thirsty for revenge and desperate to avert the impending conflict, Anwen sets out on a fraught race against time.
It's frankly not a very interesting story, and it’s rife with all manner of cliched fantasy tropes that you’ve seen dozens of times before. All the same, we appreciated the narrative here simply for how it manages to couch the otherwise disconnected puzzling gameplay into one cohesive experience. Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes could’ve easily been a level-based game where you simply select stages from menus, but the addition of the story—and all the associated map exploration and dialogue encounters that come with it—make the experience feel like a proper adventure. Plus, those who have played the other mainline games in the series will appreciate the references and underlying lore here, though this is a game that any newcomer can experience without feeling too left out.
Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes is ultimately a match-three puzzler, but it mixes in various RPG elements around the puzzling action to give you a more strategic and cerebral experience that goes beyond simply matching colored tiles. Battles present you with an 8x6 board which populates randomly with a mixture of your equipped units, and you’re given two to three actions on your turn to organize them. Selecting a column will first cause you to snag the unit closest to the bottom, and you can then choose the column where you want to ‘shoot’ it. If you manage to get three like units aligned vertically, they’ll stack up and begin to charge an attack, while if you align three horizontally, they’ll turn into a wall that can absorb enemy attacks. When either side attacks, the attacking squad will have to carve through all units and walls in its path to do damage to the opposing team’s leader, while losing attack power with each obstacle it overcomes—the leader might not even take damage if the squad runs out of gas before it hacks through all the meat shields.
In addition to the basic method of moving units, you have a few other options to add to the strategic considerations. Pressing the ‘B’ button on any unit will cause them to disappear, and if this removal creates a new match, you’ll get an extra action before your turn is over. Additionally, stacking two vertical matches of like color on top of each other will cause them to fuse, reducing their charge counter to one and upping the damage they’ll do, while making multiple like color matches in the same turn will link them and make every group do extra damage when it comes time to let ‘er rip. You can also tap either shoulder button to have more units spawn on the board to give you more options, but the number that can be on the board will always be capped at a certain amount and it’ll cost you one of your actions to call in reinforcements.
Each faction you play as has three ‘basic’ units that can be spawned indefinitely, along with a small handful of limited-use ‘advanced’ units that can substantially turn the tide if played right. The Treant, for example, takes a whopping five turns to charge its attack and occupies a 2x2 area on the board, but its attack does anywhere from 30 to 50 damage once it pops off and it heals your hero based on how much damage was done. The only drawback, however, is that advanced units that die in the field will stay dead; if you want more, you’ll have to trek back to a shop and pony up a lot of resources.
Battles thus have a lot of different elements you need to consider at any given time, which can make for some thrilling and dynamic encounters as you navigate the delicate push and pull of combat. You may be planning a match or two on your next turn to exploit an opening and land some more damage on your foe, only for your enemy to make a few matches of their own that demand you change course to defend against the new development. It might look like you’re about to be screwed, only for you to call in a new batch of reinforcements that brings in just the units you need to eke out a narrow victory. There are usually at least three different ways you could choose to effectively use any given unit on the board—none of those options are inherently better or worse than the next, but the sequence of choices you make will determine whether you succeed or fail.
Importantly, it always feels like you never have enough actions to get everything done that you’d like to, which means you need to ruthlessly prioritize your objectives. Two to three actions per turn doesn’t give you a ton of wiggle room, and this is doubly true if there aren’t any opportunities for you to get an extra action. Are you going to burn one saving that advanced unit from getting crushed by the rallying enemy squad in front of them, or will you instead use that action to set up a link that’ll take out the next three squads queuing up on the other side of the board? Should you use your green unit to shore up that crumbling wall on the right side of the map, or to set up an attack on the left instead? That constant tension over deciding what’s most important right now is what gives Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes such an enjoyable edge.
Between battles, you navigate a small, node-based map that offers up some rudimentary exploration options and lets you plan before literally running into the next battle. Each map offers up some hidden paths leading to chests with resources to buy advanced units, while some optional sidequest encounters grant you the opportunity to unlock new units and to grind up your characters a bit. Your hero, alongside every unit type, can be leveled up over time to tip the scales in your favor, while exploring each map to the fullest will yield some new relics to change up your playstyle. You can only equip one relic at a time, but these each offer useful passive benefits like a one-time revive per battle or a buff to a specific advanced unit.
Though the story continues to progress throughout the 20 to 30 hours it’ll take you to complete, this is broken up between a series of five mini-campaigns that each place you in control of a different hero who runs their own faction. The differences between factions and heroes aren’t just cosmetic, each one has distinct strengths and units that change the playstyle in interesting ways. For example, the Sylvan hero, Anwen, has a unique ability that causes any walls she puts up to recover health every turn, while the Haven hero, Godric, has an advanced unit that heals him each turn while he charges his attack. None of the factions feel inherently better than the others, though we appreciated how each one brings something new to the table just about at the point when you’re starting to get tired of the one you’ve been playing for the last few hours.
Though the gameplay loop in Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes holds up for the most part, it has some flaws. The most noticeable is that the difficulty in story mode can be quite inconsistent. You’ll be trucking along just fine for a while, downing foes and progressing the story, then hit an enemy (not even a boss) that suddenly stops you in your tracks for a while. Persisting over multiple attempts of course leads to eventual victory in such cases, but we were a little put off by how stop-and-go the story can be at times. The difficulty spikes are quite noticeable.
Another issue we have is that it feels like the random elements can have a little too much of an effect on the outcome of a fight. For example, there was one instance where we spent just over 20 minutes in an attritive battle against a tough boss that we ultimately lost to. Not one to give up immediately, this writer reloaded the save and tried again, and this time the boss went down in just over five minutes with no damage to our character at all. This victory was not the product of a radical change in strategy or equipping a different relic, it happened simply because our units initially spawned in a favorable manner this time around and that gave an advantage that carried the whole fight. Though we concede there’s only so much a match-three puzzler can do to mitigate randomness without outright changing genre, it nonetheless feels like more could’ve been done here to reduce its effects on battles.
Beyond the single-player, there are also some welcome multiplayer options for getting others in on the action. Though we didn’t get to sample the online in the pre-launch period, you can battle with either friends or randoms in 1v1 or 2v2 skirmishes, with wins gaining you experience that’ll up your level and thus move you up the global leaderboard. If local play is more your thing, there’s also a useful 1v1 hotseat mode where you can just pass the controller and take turns plotting each other’s demise. This multiplayer mode doesn’t just ape the single-player content either, there are some side characters from the campaign that are selectable as heroes here, and the boss characters that were added in as DLC for the original release are playable here as well. We were pleased with the multiplayer offering, and while it doesn’t feel like the focus of the game, it’ll no doubt add plenty of replayability for when you’ve exhausted the campaign.
As for its presentation, Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes sticks quite closely to the friendlier, vaguely anime-like aesthetic of the original release, though touched up with a bit of Dotemu’s signature art style. Every map you traverse looks like a beautifully detailed painting, while the portraits for the dialogue sequences feature crisp and appealing new art for each character. Most of your time will of course be spent staring at a puzzle board, and while the spritework here is a bit simple, we appreciated the little, unique animations that play out for each unit when they activate their attacks.
Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes – Definitive Edition is a worthwhile remake of a somewhat obscure puzzle classic. Its clever integration of light RPG elements on top of the puzzling action gives it an impressive amount of strategic depth, while the rotating cast of characters and factions offer plenty of variety in unit types and playstyles across its run. Add this to a strong multiplayer component, and you have a game that easily justifies the cost of entry. Though we were put off a bit by its difficulty spikes and the woes of RNG, this is ultimately a game that we’d give a strong recommendation to anyone looking for an interesting new puzzle game to add to their Switch library.