Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords

Review

posted 5/30/2007 by Cyril Lachel
other articles by Cyril Lachel
One Page Platforms: DS
When it comes right down to it most of us play games for the exact same reason: They're fun. I don't care if you're into sports games, heavy role-playing games, or one on one fighting, if you're a gamer chances are it's because you think it's a fun way to spend an afternoon. But while most games out there are fun, it takes a very special kind of experience to make something really addictive; the kind of addictive that makes you not want to put it down regardless of how many days, weeks or months you've been at it. D3's newest Nintendo DS game, Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords, is that kind of addictive. Despite the fact that I've had the game on both the PSP and DS for several months now, I find myself looking forward to getting up everyday just to continue playing it.
 
Puzzle Quest is not an easy game to describe; it's the wacky combination of the puzzle game Bejeweled and a traditional turn-based role-playing game. That's right; this is a role-playing puzzle game, perhaps the strangest pairing since Final Lap Twin (the role-playing racing game). But while it may sound strange (and maybe not even appealing), Puzzle Quest manages to get every element just right and provides one of the very best video game experiences of the year. Forget Halo 3 and Grand Theft Auto IV, there will be no game this year that is more original and exciting than Puzzle Quest.
 
For the most part Puzzle Quest is played like a traditional role-playing game; you have a little guy who you must navigate through a large map and go from city to city talking to townspeople and accepting various quests. As you peruse the local castle you'll be able to stock up on items, upgrade your stats, buy new weapons/armor, and learn a little more about who you are and what you're doing there. It's not until you leave the castle, mission in hand, that you discover that this is no ordinary role-playing game ... this is something altogether different, something MUCH better.
 
Instead of traditional RPG battles, all of the combat is done using a Bejeweled-like puzzle game. When you enter a battle you will see a large board made up of 64 spaces (8 tall by 8 wide). In those 64 spaces you will see a number of different icons, including four different colored "mana" pieces, gold coins, purple experience point pieces, and human skulls. It's your job to find a way of connecting these pieces so that you can combine three of the same object. Each player takes turns connecting the items until somebody has lost all of their health.
 
The trick to Puzzle Quest is that all of the objects do something different. Early on the most important piece to connect are the skulls, because connecting three skulls together takes health away from your enemy. You can also connect the coins to earn more money or match the purple experience point pieces, both of which allow you to keep what you match even if you lose the battle.
 
Perhaps the most important items on the board are the mana pieces, four colored pieces that can be used to cast spells against your opponent. The idea is to collect a lot of these mana pieces so that you can unleash the powerful spells you've earned. What is really cool about Puzzle Quest is how many unique magic spells there are, all of which you have to learn how to use to your advantage. For example, some spells will take one hit point off of your enemy for every red piece that is on the board, other's will turn blue mana pieces into green pieces, another spell will restore your health, while some other spell may poison your enemy and let you take several turns in a row. Learning to use these spells can mean the difference between winning and losing a match, and they really add a lot to the strategies you use.
 
Of course, it's not just you using the magic spells. Just about every enemy you go up against will have their own special magic spells, so it's important that you not only match the best pieces but you also make sure your opponent isn't able to connect the colors he needs in order to deal you a mighty death blow. What's cool is that you can capture all of the enemies you go up against and then play a special mini-game to learn their magic. So not only are you able to earn new spells from just leveling up your character, but you can learn all of the enemy's magic just by capturing them and playing a short (but sometimes difficult) mini-game.
 
The problem with a written review like this is that it's difficult to convey just how exciting and original the battles are in Puzzle Quest. The brilliance of a game like this is that you can learn how to play in only a matter of minutes; it's actually an extremely easy game to learn. But just because it's easy to learn that doesn't mean that it's easy to master. The more you play the game the more you'll realize that there's a lot of strategy at play, it's all about balancing your spells and making sure you don't leave a good turn open for the bad guy. It's all about matching four or five pieces together so that you can earn an extra turn. It's all about making sure you don't leave yourself open for a devastating barrage of magic. There's a lot of depth to this game, a lot more than most people will initially give it credit for.
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