Started: May 2008 probably, then continued in February 2009
Finished: March 2009
Playing time: no idea how many hours altogether, it’s not provided on the save file
Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords is available on all kinds of platforms. It also comes with different playing options: Single-player, Multiplayer, or Instant Action. Only the single player option follows a story line. It offers different types of heroes and heroines and you can gain companions who can give you bonuses in battles. There’s no animation and voice acting, relying on pictures and text to tell the story, so it’s far from what is standard in games today. Although there is a soundtrack at least.
Puzzle Quest: is a puzzle game using the well-known match-three formula and elements from role playing and strategy games, and combines them all with an ongoing good vs evil story. At the start of the game, the player’s character sets out with a small errand but soon it becomes clear that more is at stake: the evil Lord Bane is up to no good and it’s up to your character to save the world.
To achieve that, you fight battles in match-three (or more) games, using either spells or you match three skull icons to reduce your enemy’s hit points.
For each battle won, your character gains experience points, and with each level up, you’re able to improve skills. You also gain money from fights and either spend that on new items or on improving your skills.
In addition, various twists are added to this match-three formula for different tasks like capturing creatures, learning spells, level up your mount, or creating better weapons and armors.
What I liked
♦ I like match-three style games and so I was good with that. Where Puzzle Quest really shines is using this formula and adding to it.
when you want to capture an enemy, you have to clear the grid by matching three.
My favorite variation.
for researching spells (from the captured enemies), you have to match a certain quantity of icons and produce a certain quantity of scroll icons (by matching four or five other icons) to learn that spell. The higher the quantity, the more difficult it gets because when no more match-threes are possible, you fail to learn the spell and need to start anew.
I loved that but sometimes it also got rather frustrating and could be very time consuming the more icons you needed to match for a spell. (I still have two spells to learn. For one, I need to produce more than 40 scrolls!)
Then there are timed matches (you only have a few seconds to make decide on your move), and for creating items you need to find runes and forge three of them together by producing a certain quantity of hammer & anvil icons.
♦ I also like that you can play just for a few minutes or as long as you can take it.
♦ lots of sidequests
What I didn’t like
♦ auto-generated enemies on the map (between towns) could get tedious when you had to fight several battles to reach the town you wanted to go to. By the time I was there, I was sometimes fed up with playing and just quit. Some battles could take up to ten minutes…
♦ winning or – for example – learning a spell often depends on luck
♦ Because of the way it was presented, I didn’t follow the story line too closely.
Verdict: I like to play match-three games now and then and so this odd mixture of game genre elements was quite entertaining. IMO, Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords makes the best of the match-three formula and uses it rather well to incorporate elements of other game genres. So it’s a good game when you like these kind of puzzle games. Otherwise Puzzle Quest is not something that can compete with what games usually offer these days. (4/5)
[pictures: Xbox 360 edition, from the developer’s website]