By incorporating many new features, Puzzle Quest 2 becomes a step in the right direction for the series.
The Puzzle Quest series has always been extremely innovating, mainly because it blends two distinctive genres: Puzzles and role playing games. The result of such weird marriage was one of the most compelling and addictive experiences of the past few years. The first Puzzle Quest, called Challenge of the Warlords, was really unique because it incorporated elements from Bejeweled and these were mixed with some role-playing elements. As a result of such novelty the game was critically acclaimed and was really well received by fans of both genres. A while later, a new iteration was released: Galactrix , which included a new setting, plot and group of characters. Also, its multiplayer mode, main gameplay and most puzzle types were completely redesigned but unfortunately, this cuasi-sequel wasn’t very good received as the game relied too heavily on luck and its gameplay wasn’t as polished as in the original Puzzle Quest. But finally, a true sequel to this game has been released and luckily it’s really good.
Puzzle Quest 2 goes back to basics, and even though the gameplay has remained pretty much the same, it should be noted that combat now feels smoother and much more polished. The single player mode is really good and quite long, at the beginning of this mode you are required to create a new hero and select its class, there are various classes to choose from and not only they affect the characters cosmetically, but also their basic stats are modified. The main classes are: assassin, barbarian, sorcerer and templar. Each one has its own advantages and disadvantages, so for example the Assassin, which was the character I chose, is really weak at the beginning of the game, but what he lacks in hit points, he makes up for in high damage combos and the possibility of using powerful potions. That is to say that each class has specific stats at the beginning of the game, but soon enough, and as you progress, you’ll be able to change these attributes.
Your main character needs to complete various quests. Furthermore he’ll have an inventory and a very useful spell book. Also, there are many main quests and side quests, the main ones being a part of the story and a requirement to progress with it. The plot is actually quite simple and most quests are really basic, like going into a particular dungeon to defeat a dragon, but before you get there you need to kill dozens of rats. Though the game has a tendency to rely heavily on repetition it never gets boring, mainly because the single-player campaign is so well designed. Different characters will give you different quests and some will offer some interesting rewards for some side-quests, these aren’t as engaging as the main quests but at least they offer a good change of pace when you need to level up your character, or when you want to get one of those shiny legendary weapons.
Moreover, every time you defeat an enemy you get items like stone, wood or leather and these are really useful when you want to upgrade your weapons. So instead of finding some of the legendary equipment, you can take basic weapons to specific characters and if you have enough materials you can end up creating some of the best equipment in the game.
Apart from all the quests and regular battles Puzzle Quest incorporates many more features, so for example your character seems to have a kind of sixth sense and every time he enters a room in which there’s something strange he’ll point it out. Your job is to “search” the room through a minigame, in each minigame you’ll need to highlight x number of tiles by aligning stones and once you do this successfully something will appear, it could be either a trap or loot. Traps can be disabled and you’ll have to do it through yet another minigame, the same happens with certain doors or when you open certain chests. Each type of minigame is different and these are extremely fun and make the game much better because playing them is completely different than fighting against regular opponents.
As in previous games in the series once you engage in combat, you need to match at least three stones of the same color to either attack the opponent or get enough mana to be able to cast a powerful spell. Usually, mana comes in the form of blue, red, yellow, purple and green stones. Attacking the opponent requires you to either match skull stones or to attack him with an equipped weapon. Soon enough you’ll stop caring about skulls as they don’t make nearly as much damage as some legendary weapons but still, getting one of these takes some time and dedication. Casting spells is also easy, though some of the strongest ones require lots of mana points. At the beginning of the game you’ll probably have one or two spells, but as your character levels up you’ll acquire many more. When this happens you are given a point you can assign to different attributes like morale, agility, intelligence, strength and stamina. At the same time, each attribute directly affects other sub-characteristics like mana, the damage you make or the possibility of dealing critical hits.
In addition to this, what’s really good about this sequel is that even though some of the gameplay elements proper of older games of the series have been retained all the other ones have been completely redesigned. Now, every time you complete key quests you’ll see some really beautiful sequences, these use really inspired hand-drawn art and the voice of the narrator creates a really unique effect. Most loading times are really short even considering that you constantly switch between planes, that’s to say between the game’s world map and the actual board. Enemy and character design is simply superb and even though most monsters look alike you’ll see that some of the bosses are really dissimilar and pretty inimitable.
Also, the learning curve is actually really gentle and the game offers three difficulty modes: easy, normal and hard. Unfortunately, the game seems to have been developed for more causal players and some of the RPG elements are quite simple, mainly because you only equip weapons and every time you level up you can assign points to various attributes, but that’s pretty much it. Additionally, the single-player mode is really long and should take you about 15 hours to complete it, without taking any of the various side-quests into consideration. In fact, this eventually becomes a problem as after a few hours of making the same thing over and over the game starts feeling repetitive.
The game looks simply gorgeous. All the hand-drawn art is outstanding and really unique. Most environments and characters are really well-designed. Overall this approach is really original and innovative. Aurally, the game is also quite good. Every time a sequence starts the narrator does a great job of engaging you in the story. Most of the music plays in a loop and it’s enjoyable enough.
Puzzle Quest 2 is an amazing game. It only has some minor problems with repetition and the fact that its RPG elements have been dumbed down a little bit so everyone can enjoy it. In any way, the new features are superb and the graphics and sound make it even more distinctively refreshing. In conclusion, Puzzle Quest 2 is one of the best games in the genre and is also much more than the sum of its parts.