I have something of a love/hate relationship with D3's Puzzle Quest franchise. It was love at first sight when I played the 2007 original, raving about it to friends and naming it my Game of the Year. But as much as I loved that game, I hate what Infinite Interactive did with the concept after that. They milked that concept with one terrible spin-off after another, from Neopets Puzzle Adventure to Puzzle Kingdoms to Puzzle Chronicles to the dreadful Puzzle Quest: Galactrix. Let's face it; Puzzle Quest was one misfire away from being the next great industry joke.
Now here comes Puzzle Quest 2, the proper sequel that attempts to right the ship and correct course. It introduces a brand new visual style, board changes, enemy types, combat rules and more, giving fans more than enough reason to suit up for the adventure. This is the kind of sequel that more than makes up for all the crummy spin-offs, even if it's not nearly as innovative the second time around.
At first glance Puzzle Quest 2 doesn't feel that new or original, you're still going on a puzzle-filled adventure as a character/class of your choice -- including assassins, barbarians, sorcerers and templar in both sexes. Much like the first game, these four classes have unique attributes that will affect the way you progress through the game. From there you're whisked off on your grand adventure.
The most immediate change is the visual style. Instead of traveling over a boring old world map like the first game, Puzzle Quest 2 actually has you on an adventure through different dungeons and castles. While you don't get to control your character directly (instead you point and click your way to victory), this new style gives you a greater sense that you're playing a real adventure game. You have to deal with locked doors, secret passages, treasure boxes and huge boss battles at the end of the road. This brand new perspective has an unexpected consequence, I find myself actually interested in the game's high fantasy narrative.
An even bigger improvement comes from the wide variety of puzzles you get to play while hacking your way through dark and spooky dungeons. From looting treasure chests to opening locked doors to using spells, just about everything has its own puzzle to master. They don't stray far from the Bejeweled-style gameplay found in the original game, but they add to the concept in exciting ways.
Better still; the actual combat has been improved in ways I had never even considered. In Puzzle Quest 2 the boards aren't required to be a set size, so you'll run into puzzles of all sizes. You'll also discover that sometimes a board will have pieces missing, requiring you to work around them (or blow them up). There are enough changes made to the board alone to keep you interested long after you've defeated the final boss.
On top of the changes to the board, the developers have gone back and changed a few fundamental things about how you fight. For the most part the basics have been retained -- you still match three (or more) colored icons that allow you to use magic spells to defeat your opponent. This time around you will also be matching a brand new fist icon, which allows you to use your items in combat. This means that you can pull out a dagger when you don't have a move and knock five or ten points off their life.
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