September 19th, 2010
I’ve just tucked a few hours into Puzzle Quest and wanted to lay down a few preliminary thoughts.
Puzzle Quest is quite addictive due to the overlaying of statistical and RPG elements to the already addictive simple match-3 puzzle gameplay of Bejewelled. The statistics send a ripple of randomness through the basic puzzling, while the spells inject a tactical dimension. Tying the matching of colours to respective mana types and attacking further introduce tactical play.
There are seven “colours” of blocks to match, each of which is tied to mana, experience points, health and attack, various spells require different amounts of various colours of mana, weapons and armour alter the player’s stats and have properties in game, companions also have their own automated properties which affect the playing field and enemies have their own list of spells and properties. With all these statistical features, the level of abstraction is far beyond the player’s reach in the minute-to-minute gameplay of deciding which gems to match. It’s better to not even bother trying to keep track of all this.
When you do match gems, the screen splashes with text and colour to signify certain effects coming into play. The animation is too quick to track and the variables are too numerous to comprhend. This is particularly tricky when the AI makes their moves in rapid succession.
The trick to beating Puzzle Quest is to think one to two moves ahead, thereby disallowing your opponent to gain the advantage. Yet, it’s difficult to visualise the formation of blocks when pondering a move (and subsequently any further matches that can be made after that move). Nevermind factoring in the abstract elements. Often times you’ll accidentally give the opposition a free stab at you.
Some enemies are too heavily supported by abstract mechanics, such as automated healing. Just before, I was fighting an orc. It was a slow match and due to his regeneration properties, he gained an insurmountable upper hand. This feels cheap and unfair.
The abstract mechanics are so tricky to follow in-game that they’re effectively random, which, as mentioned, forms the game’s addictive quality.
More as play develops.