Life with Games

What would life be without them?

Puzzle Quest

Random Screenshot Being that I just played it last night, I figured I’d start this site off with the addictive puzzle/RPG-ish game Puzzle Quest. I own it on both the Xbox360 and the DS, and it is the best time-killer, either at home or on the go. Every time I am like “Should I play Puzzle Quest? Nah, I don’t feel like it” it is a complete lie, because when I finally do decide to say “Yeah, let’s play,” I never regret it (no matter how much I yell at the TV because of it).

I first played Puzzle Quest as a PC demo over a year ago while I was still in college. I tried a few of the classes but you can’t get very far in the demo so you don’t get to see each class’ true abilities. Regardless, the game was still addicting and I needed more. As soon as the game came out for the DS, I picked it up. The number of times I would flip open the DS for “one” battle and then go back to homework is impossible to remember.

For those who have never played it, Puzzle Quest is like Bejeweled with an RPG spin. You pick a class at the beginning, and you can equip different items and use different spells while battling in-game. Each colored gem gave you mana, so you wanted to focus on matching 3 or more gems in a row of the color of mana you needed to use your abilities. There were also skulls that did damage when you matched them, as well as purple stars for experience and coins for money. You got experience for winning a fight regardless, but this was just an added bonus. 4 or more in a row gets you an extra turn. There are also wildcard spawns that can match with any color, and they usually have a multiplier involved. Sometimes I have fully loaded my mana bar with one wildcard at like x8.

There are a lot of tricks you learn as you play the game, such as quickly spotting 4 or 5 of a kind. You also want to pay attention to the opponent’s spells, and sometimes you might have to pass up the skull match (only if it’s 3 of a kind) to steal the mana color that your opponent will need. Later in the game, some of the opponent’s spells will be quite deadly (Breath Fire from Dragon Spiders, or Death’s Embrace (I think) which halves your life). The computer is programmed to do the same to you.

When your character levels up, you choose to put into a variety of stats, and these stats either make you do more damage or get more mana for each match you make on the board. It also gives you a % chance to spawn a wildcard by matching the gem related to that stat, as well as cause an extra turn by matching that gem.

You start off on a world map and you can go from town to town to city to cave to wherever, and you may encounter an enemy along the way. That’s where the battles begin unless you have a quest at a certain town/city/cave/tower. You can also choose to Siege a city, which is literally you versus a castle, and if you win (difficulty can vary based on the “gear” of each city), you own the city and it pays dues to you every month or so. You can work on your citadel from any city, and add buildings. The important buildings allow you to capture enemies, learn their spells, craft items, and train mounts.

Capturing an Enemy Some enemies that you capture can be used as mounts, and the last slot in your abilities during a fight is saved for that mounts’ special ability. Capturing enemies requires you to figure out a puzzle that involves getting rid of all the gems in play, and there’s a different one for each enemy type. See the image I stole from the official site right here for an example.

Many of these smaller points (not cities) have the ability to “Search for Runes” which brings you into, what I believe, are some of the truly hard battles of the game, because the enemies have ridiculous gear as well as great abilities. If you happen to win these fights, you get the Rune. The Runes can be used to craft at any city you own. Some runes have ridiculous stats, but the minigame (matching or destroying “anvil” gems) to make items with really great runes is very hard to beat, because you need to get like 15 anvils. The earlier items only need maybe 3 or 4. Learning spells has the same type of minigame, except it’s matching scrolls instead of anvils, and the scrolls are created only when you get 4 gems or more in a row, instead of just randomly spawning. There’s other rules, too, but you’ll see them if you play.

The “Improve Skills” ability is easily the most broken part of this game. Considering money has very little use once you craft your own gear, you can sink all of your gold into literally adding stats to your character that you’d normally get just from leveling up. Granted it does cost more the higher the level, but who cares? Both my characters are way overpowered because of this, I can’t help but use it.

There’s also a storyline to follow, and you find “Party Members” along the way, which are really just random buffs you get based on what you are fighting (one guy is good vs. undead so he does damage to undead enemies right off the bat, one girl is a princess type so enemies with chivalry don’t hit as hard, etc.). The story is interesting and added together with everything else just adds icing to the cake.

My character’s class on the DS was a mage, and they apparently focus a lot on fire abilities. Note that the DS version was before they put restrictions in like “needs 2 turns to cooldown” so eventually the mage was ridiculously overpowered. I had a rough time at the start, but things started to get easier as I got better abilities, runes (which means better gear), and money to improve skills. A few of the spells, like “Breath Fire” and “Flaming Skulls” were extremely overpowered, and helped me blow through the game a lot quicker. Breath Fire did damage equal to your total red mana, but you needed a lot of red mana to cast it in the first place. I got this to the point where I could hit for like 52+ damage a shot, and near the end of the game 250 life was about average (from what I can remember). Flaming Skulls turned all green mana into skulls, and all blue mana into red mana. This made 4 or 5 in a row ridiculously easier (I actually glitched the game to not give me full points once because I had 6 skulls in a row and it didn’t know what to do with it). I got near the end, but never finished it on the DS.

The Xbox360 Arcade version is a different story, because I am sort of an achievement whore, so I go for that crap all the time. I started a warrior this time, and I am about level 32 (at the time of this post). I haven’t learned many of the captured enemies’ spells, I have been mainly using the ones I got from leveling the warrior. It’s still fun regardless of the fact that I practically beat the game once. Plus the graphics are way nicer and smoother, just like the PC demo I played. It’s also fun taking another path with other abilities.

I could go on and on forever about this game, but all I have to say is it is a fun and the battles are terribly challenging at many points. I have often found myself yelling “Oh, come on, that’s not luck, the computer is literally FEEDING this guy the good gems” when they drop to refill the screen. I have yelled this at my TV while playing the 360, or on the john while playing the DS. I have often just turned off the DS in disgust because I will have the upper hand in a battle, almost win it, and then all of the perfect gems spawn so my opponent gets 4-in-a-row up the ass, and beats me by some miracle. But I will always go back, because I will never accept failure. Sometimes I will rush to make a move and totally miss a 4 or 5 in a row possibility, and the computer will gladly eat up all extra turns it can find. It is vicious and unforgiving.

They by no means made the enemies easy either. Earlier on in the game they are not too bad, with some exceptions. One of the first runes you have access to is protected by a thief. This thief has an ability “Sneak Attack” which lets him hurt you without losing his turn, and he gains the mana for it VERY quickly. Later on there are sandworms that have 2 abilities that work with each other. One of them doubles its opponent’s green mana (meaning your green mana) and halves the others, and the second ability does damage to you based on how much green mana you have. It’s like a one-two punch and is devastating. Even further on there are minotaurs with a special Great Axe that gives them a 50% chance to get an extra turn every time they do over 5 damage, which is every time they attack. I have almost pulled my hair out against some of these enemies.

I’d recommend this game to anyone who loves a good challenge, loves RPGs, loves puzzle games, and loves little details. So many little added details to this game make it as great as reviewers make it out to be. If it was just Bejeweled with some random abilities (including the ability to die), it’d be crap. But all the RPG elements really let you feel like your decisions help you win each fight, as opposed to just the luck of having the right gems spawn.

Images borrowed from the official Puzzle Quest website.

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