Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords Review

Eschalon: Book II

Developer:Infinite Interactive
Release Date:2007-03-16
  • Puzzle-Solving,Role-Playing
Platforms: Theme: Perspective:
  • Top-Down
Buy this Game: Amazon ebay
If you go to a casual gaming web site (like, say, Big Fish Games), then you'll find a ton of (matching games) or (match-3 games.) These games come in a bunch of shapes and sizes -- and colors! -- but they all have the same basic premise. You're given a grid of symbols, and your goal is to slide the symbols either horizontally or vertically to create sequences of three or more. Typically, when you (match) the symbols in this way, they disappear from the board, and new symbols slide down to take their place, which allows you to repeat the process.

Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords is just such a matching game. However, unlike other games in this genre, which typically involve playing one puzzle board and then moving on to the next, with little or no (meat) to link the puzzle boards together, Puzzle Quest places you into a role-playing game landscape. You control a hero (who can be a druid, a knight, a warrior, or a wizard), and you have to explore your surroundings, battle monsters, collect equipment, and go on quests so you can save the world from a terrible threat.

The matching game part of the game comes up during battles. Each time you face off against an enemy, an 8x8 grid of symbols comes up, and you and your opponent have to take turns matching symbols until the issue is settled. If you lose the battle, you don't die, and you don't lose any experience or anything; you just have to try the battle again.

The symbols on the grid come in ten shapes. Four of the shapes are for the game's four mana types (red, green, blue, and yellow). When you match mana symbols together, you gain some mana, which allows you to cast spells during the battle. For example, if you're playing a knight then you get the stun spell, which (stuns) your opponent and allows you to take two turns in a row. But the spell requires six green mana and five red mana, so you have to gather some mana first before you can use it. There's also a cooldown for the spell, so you can't stun your opponent indefinitely.

There are also purple symbols, which when matched give you some experience points; gold coins, which give you some money; and skulls, which damage your opponent. There are also two rare symbols: (+5) skulls, which do extra damage, and wildcards, which not only match to any of the four mana types, but they also include a multiplier, so you can use them to fill up your mana bars very quickly.

Any time you match four or more symbols together, you get an extra turn, and so you have to carefully observe to the board to figure out what your best move is. Often the best move is obvious (you take a match-4 any time you can find it), but other times you have to make some decisions. Do you damage your opponent, go for mana so you can cast a spell, or try to match some gold or experience so that you're more powerful after the battle?

As matching games go, the one employed by Puzzle Quest isn't very complicated (since it doesn't evolve in any way). But fortunately, Puzzle Quest has a lot of things going on outside of the battles. For example, there is a world to explore, and as you visit different towns you pick up quests and companions, and between the quests and the ensuing battles, you gain experience and levels.

Each time you gain a level, you also gain four skill points. All four classes have the same skills available to them, so you can build up your character however you want, but the different skills have different costs depending on the class you're playing. For example, knights only have to spend one point to advance their (battle) skill (which increases how much damage they do when matching skulls), but wizards have to pay three points for the skill. However, these costs are reversed for the (earth mastery) skill (which influences how much mana you get for matching green symbols), and so the classes balance out.