Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords Reader Review
There is nothing else on this planet that will frustrate as much as this game! Now let me explain why...
Puzzle Quest is a puzzle game in the vain of Zoo Keeper or Bejeweled, you have to connect 3 or more of the same coloured gems/gold/skulls in lines by swapping adjacent pieces around. Puzzle Quest takes this puzzle, and sticks a load of RPG type abilities, spells/skills, and equipment on the side. Or it might be the other way round, a RPG with the puzzle game replacing combat. Either way after a couple of recommendations from friends, and some favorable reviews I thought I'd investigate, and here are the results.
Starting the game your prompted to choose one of four type of character, Knight, Wizard, Fighter, and Cleric. Each of these classes has access to different powers, earnt when leveling up, which affect the course of puzzles/battles. In theory the different powers mean you use different strategies to progress through the game, in practice it make little difference. The game can be split into two key parts, the first in the world map, where you do all your traveling and character management. Rather then being a free roaming world you travel between locations by tapping on your destination and watching your character walk along fixed routes between locations. There are no random encounters as such, but enemies will appear along certain routes providing an opportunity to battle out side of quests, or to find a path around them. Their are several main locations where its possible to go to the shop and buy new equipment, manage you character, visit the tavern for rumors, and collect quests.
The quests make up the main bulk of the game, there are key story quests which...err...progress the story, and side quests, some of which you can repeat multiple times. Side quests also earn you gold and experience, and on occasion can get you some nice new equipment. Unfortunately all quests are basically the same, travel from X to Y and fight Z, and the story quests are usually proceeded by a poor dialog (which fortunately is skipable). The story and dialog in this game is very poor, a totally generic fantasy world, and after the first few story missions I totally gave up the cut scenes and tavern rumors.
The actual meat of this game is in the puzzles/battles (I'll let you decide what to call them). You and your opponent take turns in moving pieces on the board to connect 3 or more of the same type of gem together. You are able to influence things using your powers and companions that join you during the game. Powers are activated using mana, which is collected by connecting gems, blue for water, yellow for air, green for earth, and red for fire. You can also earn experience from the purple stars, gold from the gold, and cause damage to your opponent by connecting skulls. Its a very addictive puzzle game, I've been playing Zoo Keeper since launch and its rarely far from my DS.
And its also the biggest problem with Puzzle Quest. The battles all come down to luck, and while your skill at the game plays a part, if the moves you need are not available there is little you can do. Frequently you'll find yourself stuck with only one possible move, which will leave your opponent set up with a good combo. Ok the reverse is true, you can have very good luck and win a battle in one move, I've won one battle in only 20 seconds, but the good luck is definitely thinner on the ground then the bad. This problem is exaggerated by the poor AI, which doesn't bother to hide the fact it knows what�s coming up. Frequently you'll see your opponent ignore moves that you'd be stupid to ignore (4 skulls for example, dealing damage and earning you an extra turn) just to make a insignificant move elsewhere triggering off a massive combo as new tiles fall in to play and leaving you with nothing on your next turn.
The distrust of the AI is increased as combos cause screen filling labels to appear blocking your view of the grid. This is very annoying, especially if you are playing with timed moves as you loose precious seconds waiting for the screen to clear. Other than these labels the rest of the graphics are perfectly adequate, nothing to shout about, but certainly nothing wrong. The music and sound effects are fairly dull, and a bit repetitive, but then most puzzle games do that with music. The touch screen controls are good, but an option for using the pad and buttons would have been nice, especially when being bounced around on a packed tube!
There are a few extra bits I haven't really touched on. During your quest you are able to develop your citadel by building new parts. For example with a dungeon and a mage tower you are able to capture monsters and research them to learn the abilities they have. Capturing brings up a slightly different puzzle, a fixed layout of gems where you must clear the board, if you succeed the enemy is captured. Other things you can build include a stables, allowing you to gain mounts which give you bonuses in battles. There is a multiplayer mode as well, this is really broken, allowing you to use your character from the quest, and gain experience as if playing the single player game.
And that�s why this game is frustrating, looking at its parts its a generic fantasy role play with a poor story, where progress is down to luck as much as, if not more than, skill, and an AI that bordering on cheating. At the same time it has kept me playing it for a good while now, and the concept is good, I really do want to like this game. And so it manages to frustrate again, how can I recommend something that�s poorly put together, and who to recommend it to, there are better puzzle games and better RPGs available. Gah!
7 / 10