I have such fond memories of the original Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes that I was thrilled when a modern remaster was announced, dubbed its "Definitive Edition". When I saw that it now has a demo available as part of Steam Next Fest, I leapt at the excuse to dive back into its colourful, puzzle filled world. But after having finished it, I'm left disappointed at how subtle an update this is.
For those unfamiliar, Clash of Heroes was a spin-off of Might & Magic, originally released on PC in 2011. Developed by Capybara Games (or "Capy"), now known for Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery and Grindstone among many other hits, it swapped out the series' usual first-person dungeon-crawling or turn-based strategy for puzzle battles. In fights, your army of different coloured soldiers must be matched into rows of three, either vertically to create an attack formation, or horizontally to build a defensive wall, while your opponent attempts to outmanoeuvre you by doing the same.
As you adventure through its singeplayer story mode—a tale of orphaned children fighting against a demonic invasion—you level up and gain new abilities and troop types, adding more and more layers to these wonderfully elegant fights. The seemingly simple puzzle mechanics unfold into a brilliantly rich and engaging series of brain-teasers, given life and personality by chunky fantasy characters. And after around 20 hours of puzzle RPG adventure, you could then test your puzzle skills against other players in a robust head-to-head multiplayer mode.
So, what's been updated for the Definitive Edition? Well… almost nothing, near as I can tell. Playing through the absurdly short demo—basically just 10 minutes of the tutorial, most of which is cutscenes, and not even enough to give you a taste of a real battle—I found myself curious enough about what had changed that I went back and booted up the original to compare. It's almost completely the same, with even the UI not seeming to have been touched at all. The only noticeable update is that character portraits have been redrawn to look a little sharper—though that just means they clash weirdly with the still fuzzy cutscene stills. The more I look into this new release, the clearer it becomes that there's very little "definitive" about it.
Is that super light touch a bad thing? I'm a little torn. On the one hand, the game holds up fantastically well as-is, and it's great that this version will allow players to battle it out in multiplayer again after Ubisoft shut down the original game's servers a couple of years ago. The Definitive Edition is divorced from Ubisoft entirely (though weirdly its logos still show up in-game), instead published by Dotemu and Gamera Games, and in a sense they are rescuing the game from obscurity. This release also folds in the DLC and makes some minor balance tweaks.
On the other hand, very little work seems to have been done to justify putting a new $18 price tag on this version, and that's especially galling if you already own the original—there's no means for original owners to get a free copy or a discount, though the publisher has said its "looking into what we can do for people who own the old version". The launch of this project will also see the original go off sale, so the Definitive Edition will be your only option going forward. And it's not very cool to see that the original developer wasn't even told the game wasn't getting a re-release, let alone consulted on it.
A game this good feels like it deserves much more than a minimal refresh—but if Dotemu and Gamera Games' efforts give an underappreciated gem a second life, that's still something to celebrate. For console players, at least, it makes the game available on modern platforms where it wasn't before, and if you're a PC gamer who's never tried the game before, it's still an absolute treat for anyone who likes the idea of defeating the forces of evil with the power of match 3.