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Sunday, November 30, 2008

Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords - Retrospective


I was first introduced to Puzzle Quest a year ago during my time working on The Spiderwick Chronicles at Vivendi Games. Some of us would play it on the testing consoles during lunch and breaks. I'd never seen anything like it before, but I was intrigued. I got the game as soon as I could spare the money from my paycheck.

Puzzle Quest is amazingly addictive, just like its forefather Bejeweled, but Puzzle Quest takes it to the next level and adds an amazing level of strategy to the game. The game really shines when you're low on life, planning every move several turns in advance, trying to prevent your opponent from matching those last few skulls it needs to kill you while simultaneously trying to gain enough mana to turn the tables.

Puzzle Quest is also a blast to play against friends. Unlike Pokemon, you can scale yourself to the level of your opponent, making combat less of a math problem and more of a fair measure of skill and strategy. My only regret is getting the DS version, which has no online play capabilities save for wi-fi battles against people in the same room as you. If I want to play against my friends from the comfort of my own home, I'm going to have to install the PC version and play through the game all over again. Not that that would be a bad thing.

Puzzle Quest is probably one of the most enjoyable games I've played in a long time. But it relies critically upon the backbone of the core bejeweled-like gameplay. If for some reason you can't stand match-3 puzzle games or RPGs, there's a chance you won't like Puzzle Quest. But for the rest of you who want something addictive that you can play for 10 minutes or 5 hours, Puzzle Quest is an absolute must own for any system you have.

The Good:
  • Amazingly addictive core match-3 puzzle gameplay.
  • Multiple classes and spells add high replay value even after completing the game.
  • Monster capture, spell research, and item forging puzzles add fun modifications to the main gameplay paradigm.
  • Memorable characters and dialog make the story worth continuing.
The Bad:
  • Level cap of 50 is too easy to reach before the end of the game, but experience uselessly continues to increase. Why not a more logical cap of 99 or 100?
  • If you set up your skills and equipment correctly, the enemies offer no challenge to completely annihilate. Not even the final boss is much of a challenge.
Defining Moment:
  • Buying the game for my mom, and discovering that she plays it even more than I do.
Burning Question:
  • Why the $#@^! is there an entire western continent that you never explore? What's the point?

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