As I was sitting around, playing Puzzle Quest for this review, I mentioned to someone that the game was addictive.
“Is it Tetris addictive or MMO addictive?,” he asked.
My answer: “Both.”
1st Playable Productions and Engine Software’s Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords is one of those genre-breaking games, combining a RPG structure with a Bejeweled-style puzzler. Battles consist of players taking turns moving gems, using the colored mana gained to cast damaging spells. Also, gold and experience appear on the playfield, making an interesting dynamic where players only do as much damage as they believe is necessary.
Admittedly, this game uses stereotypical RPG elements. Players choose one of four classes, each with their own play style and spells. Then they are put in the position of mercenary, taking on tasks and earning gold and experience as rewards. The quests aren’t well-connected, but it doesn’t seem to matter, as it’s just a vehicle for presenting new enemies with their own spells and advantages. Some quests are too strong to be completed when you get them, but the game allows four uncompleted tasks at once, so you can train up and come back later. The game lasts a long time, and playing again with a different class makes the experience fresh again, so there’s no need to put this one down.
The game seems simple on the surface, but more time put into it reveals a multitude of gaming experiences. “Capturing” defeated opponents requires clearing a specific screen of gems, “seizing” castles is a test of endurance, and choosing weapons and armor is much deeper than just saving up for the “good” ones.
For those who want to jump in to a battle immediately, there is an Instant Action mode that brings a random, similarly leveled opponent to play against you, and the gold and experience gained can be used in the main game. However, those looking to avoid the RPG experience completely will be disappointed, as this is really what holds the game together.
For those who can find someone else with this rare title, Puzzle Quest offers a two-player mode, allowing you to take your built-up character and beat down on your friends. This game is made for two-player, and this mode is as much fun as a good board game.
This title does have a few elements that are unpolished. Those looking for intriguing dialogue or an original story will be disappointed, but the one that’s there does provide enough framework to have it make sense. The game’s four classes beg for four save slots, and the two available are somewhat limiting. The sound is repetitive, and the AI seems to almost always make the right moves.
But wow, this game is addictive. Crazy addictive.