Match 3 games will eat your soul. RPGs will eat your soul. And for a good while now, we’ve known what happens when match 3 games and RPGs collide, and in terms of your free time, the result is not pretty.
Now we’re faced with a startling reality: the insanity of Puzzle Quest is back to make its mark upon our personal lives once again, giving us yet another reason to do insane things like purchase three copies of the same game on different platforms.
D3Publisher gave me the opportunity to check out the upcoming sequel, Puzzle Quest 2, which promises more of what we loved about the original and, with any luck, plenty of reason to return to a formula that many of us are now intimately familiar with.
My time with Puzzle Quest 2 consisted of a twenty-minute demo that took players through an introductory tutorial. Of course, it was a tutorial that no one who played the original will actually need.
That’s because, at its core, Puzzle Quest 2 is extremely similar to its predecessor. Unlike Galactrix, Puzzle Quest 2 uses the same match three formula that made the original so addictive, though the game does come with a number of changes that the developer hopes will streamline the experience for puzzle fans without detracting from the game’s depth.
One of the most major changes is the weapon and weapon upgrade system. Players will now find multiple weapons throughout the game, each one being upgradable using crafting items that are collected from enemies after each battle. The full extent of the upgrade system wasn’t revealed in the demo, but the developer promises robust options and plenty of room for weapon stat improvement, especially when the character reaches higher levels.
There are also some unfamiliar gems on the board, though they don’t serve any drastically different functions from those in the original. Players will immediately notice the gauntlet on the board, which is directly tied to the new weapon system. As players match gauntlets, they gather up point which are then used to attack with the player’s weapon, which works extremely similarly to a spell. However, these can be powerful attacks that give certain characters a definite advantage in battle.
Some brand new additions have also been made, such as six minigames that are integrated into the story mode as well as being available from the main menu. These include exclusively non-timed challenges, though they keep up the variety with a diverse set of objectives. For instance, the demo asks players to put out a fire by matching blue gems, while avoiding matching red gems. Fire! Water! It’s so very appropriate.
Otherwise, the developers are stressing that streamlining is the name of the game. Character stats and attributes are now easier to manage, and the inventory system is much improved, using visual representations for your backpack and equipped items. Furthermore, there’s no longer a world map; all movement takes place in a Diablo-style isometric perspective, where the character can visit shops, speak to townspeople, and, of course, attack monsters.
Streamlining, of course, always means some amount of sacrifice. You’ll now no longer capture monsters and gain new spells that way. Sidekicks are still a part of the game, but they’re a smaller part of the action than in the original. You also won’t see any gold or exp gems on the board; they have been taken out entirely.
In all, Puzzle Quest 2 feels extremely similar to the original, which, after Galactrix, is really good news. The developer is confident that even those who spent countless hours matching gems in the original will have plenty of reason to come back for the sequel, and based on the promise of the crafting system, an all-new story, and streamlined experience, I have no reason to doubt that. We’ll find out for sure when the game releases late this spring for both XBLA and Nintendo DS (which, apart from some obvious superficial differences, should be nearly identical). No price point has yet been announced.