Starting to sound a little complicated? It takes some time to get used to how things work, though it's rewarding once you wrap your head around mechanics like walls, fusion attacks, link attacks, and spells. However, if you're a longtime puzzle game fan, you might find the gameplay to be a little clunky due to some minor issues. This is because your moves on the puzzle board are limited to picking up and dragging the bottom-most unit on any column, deleting a single unit anywhere on the board, or casting your hero's spell (which needs to be charged up by dealing or sustaining a sufficient amount of damage). There's also an artifact that one faction possesses that lets you pick up and move walls anywhere on the board, but that's it. Otherwise, there's no way to manipulate your units horizontally, and although you can earn additional moves each turn by pulling off a combination maneuver that ends up either forming a wall or charging units, sometimes you'll begin a battle with a bad layout with no combinations available and cumbersome units taking up too much space. In fact, most of the champion units in the game have such long charge times that their bulky 2-by-2 size makes them much more trouble than they're worth, since they'll often get killed off before you can fully charge them. Getting a bad layout can also kill your chances of winning Story mode's various boss battles, which throw creatively placed challenges or moving targets at you with very few turns to react. Still, with the exception of the trial-and-error nature of some of Story mode's boss battles, these problems aren't showstoppers--the game's complex battle system is otherwise very satisfying once you figure it out.
The real star of Clash of Heroes is the lengthy story mode, which offers RPG-like progression and boss battles.
What's even more satisfying is Clash of Heroes' Story mode, a well-written, colorful adventure that resembles the gameplay of the classic 16-bit console RPGs as you move your characters along an overland map to the tune of gentle symphonic music. In Story mode, you follow the adventures of five different plucky young heroes as they uncover a sinister plan to overrun the world with demons. The plot isn't necessarily original, but it's written well enough to make you care about these brave young warriors and want to see their motivations through to the end. An even greater incentive is the sense of progression as you gain experience levels for both your heroes and their armies, pick up new artifacts, and eventually end up crushing enemies that once overwhelmed you. In some cases, you're all but required to repeatedly fight random encounter battles to grind your armies up to a higher experience level, but otherwise, Story mode has a very good pace that lets you either rush through to the end or take your time--upward of 20 to 30 hours or more--to gain your levels and perform challenging side quests and puzzle missions that are always rewarding.
Aside from Story mode, Clash of Heroes offers a Quick Battle mode and multiplayer, which can be played with all five Story mode heroes, as well as five additional companion characters that you unlock in Story mode. In both Quick Battle and multiplayer, you start with your hero at the maximum level of 10 and with your units at the maximum level of 5. These matches are enjoyable enough, but they don't offer the incentive of continued progression that Story mode does--being victorious in a quick battle or in multiplayer doesn't earn you any kind of character progression or achievements. And as it turns out, not all of Clash of Heroes' factions are created equal--the wizard tower faction is noticeably more powerful than any other in the game thanks to its relatively quick-charging elite units and devastating spells, while the knight's castle faction ends up being the slowest and weakest of the bunch.
The puzzles and balance aren't perfect, but the RPG elements and colorful presentation add a lot to the game.
All things considered, Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes has a lot going for it, including intriguing hybrid mechanics, callbacks to a classic strategy series, enjoyable puzzle battles, and a well-written story that could have come out of a vintage 16-bit RPG. Since the puzzle gameplay is an integral part of the battle system, and since the role-playing elements are the star of the game's main attraction--Story mode--you'll need to be a fan of both puzzle games and RPGs to get the most out of Clash of Heroes. However, if you are a fan of both game genres, you'll find a very good puzzle game and a great console RPG experience here.