Thursday, July 15, 2010
Right off the bat, I'll say that the game is absolutely a worthy sequel, and it erases the bitter taste left by the disaster that was Puzzle Quest Galactrix.
This game takes it back to the original style grid and battle system, takes it out of space and brings it back to the medieval fantasy setting (removing all of the bullshit that came along with that), and basically takes PQ1 and builds upon it. It's a very satisfying sequel, at least thus far, with a few unfortunate changes/omissions, but some truly great additions/refinements that remove any and all little doubts I may have had going into it.
For those not familiar with Puzzle Quest, I'll sum it up, but briefly (this is not a review). Take a fantasy, turn based rpg, and make the battles take place in the form of Bejeweled style puzzles. You take turn matching gems to either deal damage to your opponent or to add to your mana reserves (each color representing a mana type). Fill up the reserves to set levels, and you can unleash class specific spells which either deal direct damage, manipulate the board, fortify your defenses, add status effects to either you, your opponent, or both, etc. Out of battles, you traverse a world map (Puzzle Quest 1) or a town and specific dungeons (Puzzle Quest 2) and do the typical rpg stuff. Attain quests, shop, upgrade, engage in side activities, etc etc
Anyways, for the people familiar with PQ1, this game takes your out of the overarching world map and places you in dungeons which you can explore. All of the exploration is done in the same method as PQ1, so no actual character movement. It's still the point and click interface, which I like but some may have an issue with. It seems to work just fine for this game, and serves to keep things focused and on track. The battles are back to form, with the addition of the action points (AP) which are black fists on the board. Rather than do damage (skulls still do that) they, when matched, give you AP, which are what allow you to use another new addition to the formula: weapons. For example, you may have an axe that requires 6 action points to use. You match the fists until you get 6 AP, and then you can wield your axe. Simple select it as you would a spell, and bingo blamo, a set amount of damage is done to the enemy.
Gone are the sieges, mounts, and, at least I have not seen them thus far, the ability to abscond spells from the enemy via a puzzle minigame (although I think my wife may have mentioned something about this actually being in, so I could easily be wrong on this point). In the dungeons you will come across chests which can be looted, doors to be unlocked, bashed open, or opened with magic, and traps to disarm, lest you fall victim to them. These activities are all done via specific puzzle variants, and none are frustrating like those found in PQ: Galactrix. Looting in particular is rather fun, as you work to attain rare items and feel quite vindicated upon successfully doing so.
The classes a re a bit different this time. The classes in PQ2 are the Sorcerer, the Assassin, the Templar, and the Barbarian. I went with the hardest class, the Sorcerer. They are weak as shit in terms of defense, and they have the lowest HP. Battles take a bit more strategy and cunning, and you'll often find yourself cursing your inability to deal easy, quick, direct damage. But the feeling of working the board and playing around your opponents strengths/weaknesses, and building up your mana reserves and casting a few spells in succession in order to finally unleash that oh so satisfying hugely damaging attack that you had to work so hard for is just awesome. Until of course you reach level 15. Then you unlock the spell Chasm and turn into a damage dealing badass with awesome defense thanks to the ice shield spell, which transfers damage taken from your HP to your blue mana. Combine that with spells and potions to keep that blue mana up and the Sorcerer is suddenly a forced to be reckoned with.
The great thing, however, is that the classes, at least so far, seem to be really well balanced. That Sorcerer might be a badass, but pair him up against a Templar with a tremendous amount of HP and fantastic defense, and suddenly things aren't so simple. Or put him up against a barbarian with the ability to drain his defense and then deliver devastating weapon attacks, and you've got a challenge on your hands. The classes are not totally broken like they were in the DS version of Puzzle Quest 1, nor are they somewhat broken like they were in the XBLA version of PQ1.
I don't know what happens when everyone is at level 50, as there might be some broken spells/strategies to be uncovered then, but as of now, things seem fair. So that's a great positive for the sequel. My wife is a level 32 Barbarian, and she's enjoying the combination of quick damage and defensive tricks that you can play on your opponent. The Templar is the defensive beast, and the Assassin s the master of sneak attacks and poisons, from what I gather, although I have not used one, so I could be off there.
Well, this is turning out longer than I wanted it to be. It is supposed to be some brief thoughts, not a review. So, let me finish by saying that the game is at least as good as Puzzle Quest 1 is, if not better. Some will lament the loss of the more "epic" feel of the first (overworld, sieges, mounts, etc) while others will love the dungeon crawling. The battles are great, the music is good, the price is way cheaper than it could be, despite what some people think (seriously, it's 15 bucks and it's dozens of hours of gameplay, wtf people), and it's got the same addictive quality as the first. Deceptively simple, fairly deep, always fun.
Puzzle Quest 2 kicks fucking ass, and I am so glad it does. Galactrix was a disaster. If you liked Puzzle Quest 1, you'll like this. If you didn't, you won't change your mind. If you haven't played Puzzle Quest, and you like rpg's and puzzle games, what the fuck are you waiting for?