Saturday, October 20, 2007

XBLA review: Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords (10/10)

Crackdown, Forza 2, and the Orange Box are sitting on my entertainment center. Haven't played 'em since Tuesday.

Yeah, it's that good.

So what's got my attention? Well, it's a straightforward turn-based RPG, so you know it's going to score points with me, but it's also not heavy on the RPG stuff. (For an XBLA game, that's a good thing.)

To start up, you simply pick a class and play. You defeat monsters to win experience and gold so that you can increase your attributes and get better gear. You can make your own magic items with runes that you find in certain places (if you defeat the Runekeepers guarding them), capture enemies so that you can learn spells or even train them as mounts, and build a citadel where you can do all this.

The catch? You're playing Bejeweled to do it. Yep, lining up three or more gems in a row, alternating with your opponent. There are four colors of gems (to match the elements: earth, fire, air, water), plus coins for gold, stars for experience, and skulls to damage your opponents. As you progress, you learn more spells and have access to more items: in towns, you can buy items of certain types, but many have level or skill restrictions.

You can carry a weapon, a piece of armor, a helmet, and a miscellaneous item into battle with you. Items can have many different effects (more damage, more gain from gems you match, reflective effects), and between the store-bought items and crafted items, you'll have many different combinations you can choose.

Movement in the world is similar to Heroes of Might and Magic, except you move directly from town to town instead of a certain distance per turn. Some creatures will appear randomly on the map and block your path, forcing you to defeat or capture them. (Unlike combat, capture is a chess-type puzzle: you must remove all gems from the board. Succeed and capture, fail and try again or give up and fight.) Others are quest-related and are fought in towns and cities.

The storyline is well written and even has contemporary dialog: it feels like it's been translated into modern speech rather than stilted, ancient, by-the-book speech. You'll know what I mean when you play it.

It's very easy to get into and very easy to play for long periods of time - the "just one more battle" force is strong in this one.

I'd definitely recommend giving this one a try. It's $15 right now, but it's a great deal, and you can get all but one of the achievements offline. Go forth, young warrior, and puzzle.

zlionsfan's rating: 10 coins out of 10.

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