When a game as good as Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes HD comes along, it does make you recalibrate your price expectations of other games. It doesn't happen that often, granted, but when it does, it's hardly surprising that some of the old-school thinkers in the industry worry about the kind of precedent it sets.
The fact that a game of such startling quality has come from Ubisoft is interesting in itself. This is a company, after all, that has traditionally made most of its money from flogging millions of big-budget boxed products.
But it is pouring more of its resources into providing a steady stream of top-notch downloadable titles like Beyond Good & Evil HD and, soon, From Dust, Rayman Origins and Outland. It is commanding this area of the market in a way that many of its rivals, frankly, are not.
Enough about that. Go and buy Clash of Heroes. Now. Do it. You'll thank me later.
Might & Magic: Clash Of Heroes HD
- Xbox Live Arcade - 1200 Points (Ł10.20)
- PSN - Ł11.99
A few months back, a friend of mine was utterly incredulous that I hadn't bothered to play the DS game Clash of Heroes yet. "What the hell is wrong with you? Go and play it immediately," was roughly his response.
Of course, I did that thing that all idiots do and promptly didn't bother. But as luck would have it, its arrival in the land of the downloads has given me the chance to make up for this absurd lapse in judgement.
Those of you smart enough to have cottoned on to this low-key Might & Magic spin-off a year back will already know that developer Capybara has essentially created a beautiful, smiling offspring from the eternally virile Puzzle Quest and Advance Wars.
As with either of those perennial classics, it's all about marshalling your units in the most effective way. But Clash Of Heroes does so with a breathtaking elegance that obscures a deceptively complex – and hugely engaging – battle system.
In basic terms, two armies face each other on a grid, and the goal is to whittle your opponent's HP down to zero before they can do the same. You each have three moves per turn to reorganise your units into defensive or attacking formations and try to pierce your opponent's rearguard.
At first, the game schools you in fashioning defensive walls by lining-up three like-coloured units horizontally, or attacking by arranging units vertically. But then you start to peel away the layers of strategy that lie within, such as fusing one unit with another.
Before you know it, you're neck-deep in the kind of strategic puzzling that you probably would have thought unfathomable only a few hours before. Such is the grace with which the game reveals its inner complexities, the hardest part is tearing yourself away from the bloody thing.
With a depth and longevity that humbles most full-price releases – including five single-player campaigns and online multiplayer – Clash Of Heroes HD demands your immediate and undivided attention. Don't make the same mistake I made.