Reviewed: November 21, 2007
Released: October 10, 2007
Infinite Interactive was founded in January of 2003 and are the people behind the critically acclaimed Warlords series. Well they have released another gem this year with Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords for Xbox Live Arcade. Now unlike the Warlords series, Puzzle Quest brings a new type of gameplay to the world of gaming. They have seamlessly blended a puzzle game with an RPG to make a highly addictive game.
Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords takes place in the Warlords universe, and you are tasked with saving the world of Etheria from the evil Lord Bane. Puzzle Quest is totally different in some regards than the puzzle games most people are used to. While Puzzle Quest resembles games like Bejeweled in gameplay style that is about all they have in common. Strategy and role-playing are blended together with the puzzle gameboard in such a way that it is a match made in heaven.
There really is no other game out there like Puzzle Quest, so my experience with this type of game is limited. I play RPGs all the time and I do like some puzzle games so I found Puzzle Quest very intriguing. In case you’re wondering, yes this is the exact same game released on the PSP and Nintendo DS earlier this year. As it is now an Xbox Live Arcade game they’ve thrown in a few extra features this time around.
The Interface of Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords as far as the puzzle screen is concerned is very much like that of games like Bejeweled. During the “battles”, you face an opponent instead of just trying to get to that next level. Since Puzzle Quest is half RPG, you follow a highly engrossing storyline about a young prospective guard to the Queen. You venture forth using a world map to venture from town to town or to your next mission.
You navigate the world map by simply moving your cursor to the desired location on the map. The cursor system operates on what I call a “Snap-to” system, so you aim the cursor in the general location of where you want to go and the circular cursor will lock on to that place. But if the multiple places to choose you must target it more precisely. At each location you press the “A” Button to access a list of options that you do. If you are at your home city of Bartonia, you have access to Your Citadel, Get Quests, Tavern, Shop and Hero Inventory.
Your Citadel is basically your personal space inside the world of Etheria. Here you can build various buildings such as forges, dungeons, mage towers and so on. The only thing you have available at the start is your castle. Everything else is earned as you progress in your adventure, but you must pay with your hard earned cash to acquire these. Each building has a unique purpose to aid you in your quest. The dungeons are used to hold creatures that you capture. These creatures in turn can be used as mounts (or rides) and leveled up.
To do both of these, you have to complete puzzle with a time limit on each turn. To capture a creature you must clear a puzzle of all gems. These puzzles require a bit more thought so Puzzle Quest is by no means easy. The Get Quests option is pretty much self explanatory as is the Shop Option. The one thing that I will note about the Quests option is that all major story arc missions are marked in red. The hero inventory shows everything about your character. You can see your characters’ class, level, skills and experience on the left side of the screen, while the right side shows individual specs. The different tabs each represent a different area varying from Magic Items, Spells, Mounts, and Victories. Infinite Interactive really put a lot of thought into Puzzle Quest, and it shows with flying colors.
The combat system of Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords is one of the most unique one that I have seen in some time. Instead of dueling it out with swords, you duel with gems. The object is to line up 3 like gems in a row and gain that gems characteristics. That’s right the gems actually serve a purpose other than being eye candy. The red, green, yellow and blue gems are you source of Mana, which in turn is used to perform one of the 6 spells that you have available during battle. The four gems represent the four elements and each character class uses two of the gems more than the others.
There are 12+ spells available for each class but you are restricted to only 6 during fights. So you must choose the spells that you like or are the most effective in a given situation. The purple star shaped gems are your source of experience (or XP) during fights. Now you gain XP simply by winning fights, but any XP you accrue during the fight is kept regardless if you win or lose. I was particular happy to find this out, because I hate losing my hard earned experience by dying. Any money that you earn by matching coins together is also kept regardless as well. Like in Bejeweled, the objective is to match up at least like gem. However if you match up 4 you gain an extra turn and if you match up 5 you not only get another turn but a wild card is activated in the center of that match up. Wild cards simply multiply the amount each gem is worth by various amounts.
With all that said, the most important items on the board are the skulls. These are your damage dealers and by matching these up you inflict damage on the enemy. But you must play smart as to avoid taking damage by allowing the enemy to match up skulls against you. This is where the Role playing part of Puzzle quest really kicks in. The first person to lose all of their health points (or HP) loses the fight. Most of the fights can be redone if you fail but some of them are a one-time deal, so again you must smart to win.
You are allowed up to 4 pieces of equipment to bring in battle. These comprise of a helm or crown, armor, weapon and a miscellaneous item. You can purchase for advanced weaponry and armor with your hard earned cash, and occasionally your foe will drop a particularly nice piece of equipment that may aid you greatly later on. As RPGs go you level your character by gaining experience and Puzzle Quest is no exception. There is also a skill building system in place. Every time you level up you are rewarded with 4 skill points and these are used to increase particular stats. This is also another critical aspect during battle. What you do as far as skills are concerned will directly affect your effectiveness in battle. So if you are a warrior or wizard you want to concentrate on maxing out your Fire Mastery, Battle and Morale skills to gain your fighter’s true potential.
The Non-Playable Characters (or NPCs) have a rather interesting role in Puzzle Quest. In most towns and cities there is a Tavern. The Tavern like many RPGs is a source of information or “Rumors” as they are called here. Some “rumors” are free of charge but most of the good stuff will rob you of your coin. The information giving is used to basically suck you in and reveal the goings on in Etheria.
The graphics of Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords are gorgeous for a mainly 2D game. There is the 3D mini-you that can be seen on the world map that resembles you character to a tee. There are little details such are waving flags and smoke rolling out of defeated areas, which I really liked. The animations during battle are quite good and blend seamlessly into the gameplay without being overdone. For an Xbox Live Arcade title, Puzzle Quest is one of the most beautifully done titles that I Have seen so far.
Since all information is given in text form there is no voice acting, but I don’t think Puzzle Quest really needs it. The menu title music grabs your attention right off the bat and it follow throughout your experience. There are two main music pieces that play when you are in battle and at times the can get old, but honestly I rarely noticed as my attention was mainly on the enemies that were periodically giving me a beating.
Puzzle Quest takes full advantage of Xbox Live by offering both Player Matches and Ranked Player Matches. So if you think you have what it takes to be the best, then you can duel it out with people for all over the world. You also have a local multiplayer option as well, so you and your buddies can see who the better fighter is. You can also have the option to do a system link setup as well.
So like I said, Infinite Interactive took Puzzle Quest and ran with it. I prefer the shiny eye candy games like Eternal Sonata and Call of Duty 4, but when I got my hands on this puzzle title…well let’s just say… I had a lot of late nights. Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords will run you 1200 Microsoft Points or about $15 dollars and it is worth every point.
Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords is a game that grabs you and doesn’t let go. It is one of the most addicting arcade games that I have ever played. If you like games like Bejeweled then you will like this game, and that goes double for you RPG fans out there too. I know I’m one of them. Xbox Live Arcade offers a trial version of Puzzle Quest to mess around with, but honestly it’s well worth it to just buy it. If you’re not sure that Puzzle Quest is your cup of tea, then I recommend giving the trial a whirl.