Puzzle Quest: Galactrix Review

Eschalon: Book II

Developer:Infinite Interactive
Release Date:2009-02-24
  • Puzzle-Solving,Role-Playing
Platforms: Theme: Perspective:
  • Top-Down
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Puzzle Quest: Galactrix is the sequel to 2007's Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords. It is roughly the same sort of game: you battle opponents using match-3 games, you explore numerous locations looking for quests to complete and companions to recruit, and you build up your character so you can save humanity from a terrible threat. It's the details that are different. In Challenge of the Warlords, developer Infinite Interactive took great care to create a charming and playable game. But in Galactrix, they just threw stuff out there, with little regard for what's fun and what isn't, and the result isn't pretty.

Galactrix takes place in space. You're the captain of a spaceship, and you travel between star systems. Each star system contains planets (where you pick up quests), space ports (where you shop and craft new items), asteroids (where you mine resources), and LeapGates (which you have to hack to travel to other star systems). Early on in the campaign, you learn of a group of clones who plan to take over the universe, and you spend the rest of the campaign tracking them down and putting a stop to their evil ways.

The heart of Galactrix should be the ship-versus-ship battles. These are played using match-3 games, but unlike the standard grid used in Challenge of the Warlords, Galactrix uses a hexagonal grid, where you have to make your matches diagonally. This makes it tougher to see matches and to figure out what the result of your moves will be, and while that's not necessarily a bad thing, it's not exactly playing to the casual game crowd that supported the first game.

Otherwise the battles go about how you'd expect. There are seven types of symbols, and they each have a particular meaning. For example, if you match blue symbols, then you replenish your shields. If you match red symbols, then you power up your weapons systems. There are also white symbols, which give you experience points, and purple symbols, which give you psi points (which allow you to avoid ship battles). But the most important symbols are the mine symbols. These symbols each have a number from 1 to 10, and if you match them, then you damage your opponent by their sum.

Unfortunately, the ship battles are relatively dull. There aren't a lot of unique weapons for the ships, and so each battle plays about the same. The only difference is the class of the ship, which controls more than anything (including the level of the captain) how powerful the ship is. Once you gain control of a dreadnaught or better, every battle against a lesser ship turns into a joke, just because of how outmatched the smaller ship is. The enemy AI is also fairly bad, but the enemies are extremely (lucky.) Early battles hinge quite a bit on this (luck) (which usually involves handing enemies easy mine matches), and they tend to be frustrating, but eventually the weak AI dominates, and the later battles get tediously easy.

Also included in Galactrix are several mini-games. They're all match-3 games, just like the battles, but they have different rules than the battles. For example, when hacking a LeapGate, you have to make a certain number of matches of a certain type, and the game is timed. This mini-game gets tougher the farther away you get from your starting point, and it's interesting to note that Challenge of the Warlords had a timed mini-game, too, but it was for increasing the level of your mount, which was optional. In Galactrix, hacking LeapGates is required to get anywhere, and if you're not quick enough to beat them, then you won't be able to complete the campaign. This is just another example of Infinite Interactive moving away from its target audience.

Finally, the campaign in Galactrix is just sad. Most of the quests are FedEx specials, with little rhyme or reason to them, and they're just there to pad the playing time. For example, in one star system you're asked to fetch a bottle of wine. You go to another star system to pick it up -- only the planet with the wine refuses to relinquish it, and so you have to defeat them in battle to get it. Well, aside from the fact that the quest adds absolutely nothing to the campaign, it's just plain dumb. Why would I want to take time out from defending the universe from an evil group of clones just to make a dopey delivery? Similarly, your companions don't add much, except for a few token side quests about as involving as the wine one. And to add insult to injury, you also don't get to make any decisions in the campaign, so even if you somehow like it, there's little reason to play it again.

On the plus side, it takes somewhere around 30-40 hours to complete the campaign, which is a decent enough deal given Galactrix's under-$20 price tag, but that's about it. Nothing in the game is fun or involving, unless you really like match-3 games, and even then there are probably better options out there. Sort of ironically, your opponent in the campaign is called the Soulless, and that word sums up Galactrix to a T. So avoid the game at all costs, and if the premise of the game sounds interesting, then play the original Puzzle Quest instead.

Note: Right after I completed this review, Infinite Interactive released the 1.01 patch for the PC version of Galactrix. Among other things, it allows you to use psi points to avoid the hacking mini-game, which is a definite plus. I still expect that most people will find the campaign to be dull, but at least now it should be more playable.