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DS retrospective:Puzzle Quest

October 18, 2007

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With the release of Puzzle Quest for the PC and XBLA, I figured this would be a good time to go back and take a look at one of my favorite DS games from a few months ago, Puzzle Quest : Challenge of the Warlords.

At its heart Puzzle Quest is just as Puzzley as its title suggests, being a “match-3” game typified by the insanely popular bejewelled and all its casual game clones. The difference here is that the “Quest” part of the title involves all the standard fare in an RPG : Leveling up, buying weapons and armor, side quests, and an “epic” battle between good and evil. The potent mix of the two elements created a game that was ultimately satisfying to me, despite the rather anticlimactic ending.

At the beginning of the game you’re given a few different job classes to choose from: Warrior, Knight, Druid, etc. I settled on Warrior because it fit my play style, that being overly aggressive and relying more on sheer strength than silly spells. Plus, dude had an ax.

Anyway, as soon as you pick your character, you’re sent to training, where you learn about mana and attacks and such in the puzzle battle. In short, matching skulls achieves an attack against your enemy, matching colored gems adds that specific color to your mana pool, matching purple stars gets you extra experience, and matching gold coins earns you money. To go into too much detail regarding the battle system would take far more time than I have on my hands, but suffice it to say that your goal is to get your enemy’s life to 0, which you can do by matching skulls or using spells (provided you have enough mana in your pool) that directly attack the enemy.

Money can be used to buy items, which augment your character’s skills. In fact, once you get a set of items together that complements your character’s abilities and spells, you can make a dominant character that can wipe out an enemy in 2 or 3 turns, like my late game Warrior.

You can also use money to buy buildings in towns that you own, allowing you to craft new items, train mounts, or interrogate captured enemies. Training mounts, crafting items, and interrogations are really just variations on the puzzle battles, but give the game much more depth than you’d expect. What was disappointing to me however, was the rather half-assed siege system. The game allows you to lay siege to any town or castle that you come across, letting you use it as a base of operations. You’ll be travelling pretty extensively in the Warlords universe, so this can save you a lot of time travelling back and forth. However, while the game warns you that laying siege to a castle may have consequences such as a revolts or broken alliances no such thing ever happened to me.

This is the fundamental weakness of the game, that nothing you ever do feels like it has an effect on the universe, and you’re merely unlocking a predetermined path for you to walk on. There is one part of the game where you’re asked to make a choice, essentially you’re choosing between the light and dark side, but since I automatically chose the “light” side I’m not entirely sure whether or not the decision had real repercussions.

Now to the good stuff. The beautiful thing about the game is that the battle system latches on to that “one more move” syndrome, wherein you keep saying to yourself “ok I’ll play just one more battle then go to bed” until it’s around 3am in the morning and you have only a few hours of sleep before you get to work. It’s really suited to the nature of the DS, which is gaming on the go. I had just enough time to have a single battle while waiting for a train or while taking bathroom breaks (people at work always wondered why I took so long in there). There’s also one-on-one battles over wifi, which were fun until my coworkers started bitching that my character was overpowered. A handicapping system would be a nice addition for the inevitable sequel.

Puzzle Quest DS is definitely a great game to pick up for the DS, and can hook even the non-RPG playing populace. I have a friend who loves bejewelled and would constantly kick my ass in the game despite not knowing anything about casting spells or equipping items because she was just that good at the match-3 genre. It’s been around long enough that you just might find it used or in the bargain bin section, and you definitely shouldn’t pass up on it.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. October 24, 2007 12:06 pm

    I’ve been thinking about picking this one up for a long time, since I am in an RPG binge this year… but I’ve never figured out how the RPG elements are implemented by the gameplay here…

    You say that you can level up weapons and skills and whatnot… how do you use them? Do you battle in other ways other than by playing bejeweled? Are the superior weapons and skills applied in an actual match of bejeweled? How does that work? That is the part that all reviews of this game seem to skip!

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