Game Review

Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Ron DelVillano

All of the pieces fit

In many cases, the idea of combining two unlike video game genres into one game can be very off-putting. The result usually consists of clunky controls, confusing gameplay, overbearing tedium, or any combination of these factors. Sometimes, however, a game comes along that finds a way to balance out the genre differences and stand above the rest. Fortunately for DSi owners, Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords does exactly that.

Combining aspects of both turn-based RPGs and classic match 3 puzzle games, Puzzle Quest’s ground breaking gameplay is something that truly needs to be experienced. If you’ve ever played bejeweled, then you know exactly what to expect from the puzzle aspect of the game. And fortunately for bejeweled fans, Puzzle Quest sticks to the classic piece shifting formula rather than the new gameplay style that we saw in Bejeweled Twist.

When first starting a new game you will be given the choice to play as a Druid, Knight, Warrior or Wizard. Each of these character classes are more adapt in certain areas of battle, such as using different colored Mana or dealing more damage with physical attacks. After choosing your character, you will be immediately thrown into the story, where you can visit towns on the world map and get quests. The only quests that are available at first are those based on the story, but very soon you will be able to start taking side quests that allow for more experience building and money grabbing rather than just continuing through the plot.

The gameplay may seem a bit overwhelming at first glance, but it becomes very simple once you’ve figured out what you’re doing. The actual battles take place on an 8x8 grid of different coloured spheres. You and your opponent will take turns shifting pieces and making matches of at least three consecutive coloured spheres, and making matches will increase the amount of Mana that you have in each colour. You can also use one of your turns in order to use an attack rather than playing on the puzzle grid, with all of your available attacks listed on the left side of the screen and each requiring different amounts of Mana to perform. Making sure that you use your turns wisely in determining whether you should attack or find matches on the grid is all essential to a winning strategy.

Other pieces are also featured in the grid, including skulls that damage your opponent when matched up, purple spike balls that give you extra experience points and gold coins that increase the amount of money that you have. Experience points are used to level up your character, and at each level you are allotted a certain amount of skill points to set to different attributes of your character. The money earned in battle or by completing missions can be used to purchase new items that upgrade your stats, or you can use money to build onto your citadel. Building new additions to your citadel, such as a mage tower or a stable, allow you to forge new weapons and spells or capture and train beasts to help you fight.

Beyond the main quest, there are several other modes of play available. The first, known as Instant Action, sees you fighting against a randomly selected enemy, with the second option being very similar but with the ability to choose your opponent. This can be useful for testing out different battle strategies against different types of enemies. While neither of these two modes advance the main quest, the money and experience that you gain in them is retained by your character. Also available is a multiplayer mode that allows you to play against opponents over a wireless connection, though regrettably there's no Download Play available. It should also be noted this mode is via local wireless only, despite the official press release claiming it's playable online.

Because the entire game is played using the DSi’s touch screen, the face buttons are mostly unused. While some gamers prefer to play puzzle games like this using physical buttons rather than a touch screen, it is fortunate that the controls are sharp and precise enough to not cause problems. Accurate controls are always very important, especially when it comes to puzzle games that require precise action.

As far as visuals go, especially in the case of downloadable software, Puzzle Quest is impressive. Though the majority of gameplay takes place on the puzzle board, the world map and character sprites are all very detailed and have a hand-drawn look to them. There are no actual CGI scenes in this game — the story is told through still images of characters and blocks of dialogue — but this aesthetic fits the mood of the game and effectively adds to the whole experience. The sound quality, on the other hand, is a completely different story. The music in the game is beautiful and also perfectly fits the overall mood of the game, but everything sounds very tinny and crackles out of the DSi’s speakers. After playing for a bit, it can get somewhat distracting, and unfortunately headphones don't alleviate the problem at all.

While Puzzle Quest may be a lot of fun, it can also prove to be quite a challenge. Mastering the puzzle grid and levelling up your character is essential to playing well, but the difficulty goes beyond that. After playing only a few battles, it becomes apparent that your AI opponent is well aware of what is going to drop down once Mana spheres are removed. Not only is the AI difficult, but a lot of the time it is cheating. If you’re fine with accepting the fact that the computer will always know what’s coming next, then embracing the challenge is simply another essence of gameplay.


If you love classic puzzle action and wouldn’t mind changing things up a bit by including a fun and engaging storyline along with it, then there’s no reason not to get Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords. Boasting over 150 different missions to complete and the available multiplayer, there’s no doubt that you’ll be getting your money’s worth out of this title. With its interesting and innovative combination of puzzle and RPG elements, Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords is an experience that shouldn’t be missed.

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User Comments (23)



KeeperBvK said:

@ uel: That's exactly the one and only question I was looking for in this review, yet didn't see being adressed.



ElReminator said:

It is the retail release. I downloaded it and I see no difference. This is the full game, folks.




IF its the same as the full retail release, it deserves a 9. Great game. Hope it comes to EU soon. I'll sell my cart to boost paypal account.



Aviator said:

@LEGEND_MARIOID The retail version got a 8 on the NL review.

Most of the Puzzle Quest games have one main issue when you get deeper into the action, the CPU. Hopefully they have tried to fix them knowing where all the blocks are gonna fall.



Dodger said:

I used to play a puzzle quest game on my cell phone all the time. It's a pretty great game. May get this when the E-shop comes out.



sfog said:

"How does this compare to the retail release?"

As others have noted, it effectively is the retail release in terms of content, only with slightly lower quality sound and missing voice clips.



Morpheel said:

Heh, the spanish translation lists the game dificulty levels as "Easy, Hard, Hard" i'm not sure if that's an error though, even a simple rat can do multiple chains several times while i watch astonished.



argus said:

If this is the same as the retail game, then $8 is a steal. Puzzle Quest is one of the best games on DS. It's unfortunate if they had to lower the audio quality to fit it into DSiWare, because it has one of the best soundtracks. It's understandable, though.

I've never had any problems with the AI in the retail release. The developer has confirmed that the AI doesn't "see ahead" or anything like that, but many players still claim it cheats anyway. The problem is that players tend to notice the times when the AI pulls off a great combo by luck, and they immediately claim it is proof that the AI is cheating. But if you are a skilled player, then you will pull off these "luck" combos with the same frequency! In fact, these top-of-the-screen combos are a mix of skill and luck, because you want to optimize the top of the board, make smart decisions about which pieces to swap, and then hope for the best. The AI knows how to do this.

I got around 30 hours of gameplay out of the retail version. Since this one is said to be the same as the retail release, but with lower audio quality, I'd say it's a great deal. But, if you can find a cheap copy of the retail release, then you should opt for that one instead - because the soundtrack is really a joy to listen to.



EdEN said:

Have the retail release and have to agree that at $8 this is a mustbuy. Sure, the AI gets a bit crazy later on but you can outsmart it with enough practice.



deftheman said:

This game really sucked me in, great combination of 3 elements.
If its the full game for 8$ i would say it deserve a 9.5, if not only because its the best in the genre and the cheapest also.



slidecage said:

im still glad i got the cart based verison for 5 bucks instead of buying a download for 8... still tempted later on to get it downloaded if you can transfer all of your games to a new ysstem

So the download verison has all 4 different people to pick from



SwerdMurd said:

no thanks. Never dug the "battle system" or the "strategy" - Might and Magic: Clash of Heroes or bust, imo.



sfog said:

"So the download verison has all 4 different people to pick from"

Yep. All 4 classes are there, and there's 2 save files.



KeeperBvK said:

@ SKTTR: I despise the Wii version's controls. I couldn't stand playing it for more than 5 minutes, despite having spent endless nights and days on the PSP version, so, yeah, I wouldn't want to see another terrible version (WiiWare) of this.



dcoughler said:

It is an evil, EVIL game, that is costing me much sleep! Way too addictive! I wonder if 1st Playable will hire me as a software tester once I get fired from my current testing job for falling asleep at my desk after too many late nights playing "just one more battle"....



spamineggs said:

so if this is the same as the retail release is it compatible with the retail game for VS?

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