Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords Review
Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords is a game in the quite underrepresented hybrid genre of Puzzle-RPG games. This combination might sound a little strange, but it’s not really that odd if you think about it. In fact, detractors of both genres think of them both as type of game in which you spend long hours repeating the same basic actions. If you just happen to be one of those who enjoy games in which you repeat the same basic actions for long hours, then hop for joy in one spot until two hours past your bedtime because Puzzle Quest is one enjoyable game.
Puzzle Quest’s setting will be familiar to anyone who’s played RPG games before, but I’m a little hard-pressed to remember any puzzle games featuring orcs, elves, and dwarves. Starting off in the game is pretty much the same as it is in most RPGs – you select a character class, read through some background story text, and accept your first quest. Once you’re in the game, though, things start to divert from the norm. There’s no exploration in the game or long treks across large maps screens. Active locations are shown on the overview map and you simply tap the location to which you’d like to travel and you’re there. Another tap reveals the actions available at that location which includes activities like obtaining a new quest, buying new gear, and fighting an enemy or monster, and it’s in the latter activity that Puzzle Quest really shines.
Battles in Puzzle Quest are fought on a game board that resembles that in games such as Bejeweled. A grid is populated with jewels of various colors that represent four types of mana, gold, experience points, and special skulls that deal damage to your enemy and your goal is to swap two adjacent jewels in order to match three or more similar types in a row. When you match a row of mana jewels, mana of the corresponding type is added to your mana pool. Matching gold or experience icons adds these to your character’s totals, and as mentioned previously skulls deal damage. Play alternates between you and your opponent, with bonus turns given for matches of four or more jewels in a row. Since this is a puzzle-RPG, there’s more than just matching jewels involved in the duels. Each of the four character classes as well as the various monsters and enemies you’ll face have their own set of unique spells powered by the mana that you collect. These spells are pretty varied and are used to deal additional damage to your opponent or to manipulate the game board.
The puzzles are surprisingly addicting and there’s an element of strategy to them that you don’t find in your typical puzzle game. Before you make a move you’ll need to weigh a number of factors such as what color mana you’re in need of for your spells, your need to eliminate your enemy’s hit points, and to make sure that you’re not setting your opponent up for a good move. There’s no time limit on your move, so you can think about it as long as you’d like. The game takes pauses from you to indicate that you’re stuck, so it will pop up a little arrow showing you a possible move. The arrow pops up a little too quickly and tends to point out the first move the computer finds, which is not necessarily the best move to make. I would have preferred it if the game only gave these hints when they were asked for. When your opponent moves things move really fast. The computer makes its moves very quickly and never misses a “four-in-a-row” move on the board. Since scoring a four jewel combo awards a bonus move, sometimes you’ll see jewels cascading all over the place as the computer rips off three or four moves in a row. This makes things a little difficult on you for a couple of reasons. The first is that the computer always takes the best moves available and is a tough opponent to beat. The second is that after the jewels fly and its your turn again you’re essentially facing a brand new board and have to start scanning for moves from scratch.