Originally released back in 2007 for the Nintendo DS, Puzzle Quest was something of a surprise hit. Expertly blending the tile-matching mechanics of Bejeweled with more traditional RPG mechanics like turn-based battles, you could almost argue that it pioneered a completely new sub-genre. Of course, in the years following its release, the genre has evolved thanks to multiple spin-off titles and an avalanche of mobile games presenting their own take on the ‘match-three RPG’ premise.
So how does the original hold up in 2019? Quite well, as a matter of fact. Relaunching in remastered form as Puzzle Quest: The Legend Returns, the game has mostly stood the test of time as far as gameplay is concerned, with all special abilities and chain combos present and correct – though there are a few concerns as far as its overall presentation goes.
If you’re completely new to the franchise, there’s no better place to start than right at the beginning. Puzzle Quest: The Legend Returns initially gives you the option to choose between 13 classes, each of which offers several characters to choose from, and your choice ultimately determines what kind of abilities you’ll be endowed with, along with the game's overall difficulty. It’s not massively important which class you go for here, but it’s important to take note that if you do wish to change at any point, the quest will effectively reset.
The game kicks off in the city of Bartonia, where you can visit the shop to purchase armour and upgrades, discover rumours at the local tavern (at a price), and even fortify the city with statues, towers and stables. When you’re ready to proceed with the adventure, you can take on new quests and head out into the world. All of this is presented in a kind of ‘visual novel’ format that works well enough for the most part, but the visuals – particularly character models and backgrounds – are slightly lacking in some areas (having said that though, anyone worried about the text looking too small on the Switch Lite’s screen needn’t worry – it’s more than functional on both members of the Switch family of consoles).
Of course, the meat of the game is in the battle system itself. Laid out in a typical ‘match-three’ grid format, there are multiple different tiles to target depending on what your strategy is. If you want to deal direct damage to your opponent, you’ll want to hone in on the skulls scattered amongst the grid. Matching 3 together will knock 4 HP off your enemy’s health bar, though focusing on this method alone is long-winded and not particularly effective. The coloured tiles contribute energy that can be used toward your special abilities, some of which can damage your opponent, and others granting you various defensive capabilities and buffs. Combining both the direct attacks via the skulls alongside your special abilities is key to winning each battle, but of course, you’ll also need to study the board and plan your moves in order to score effective chain combos.
It may all sound a bit dull on paper, but once you get into it, the battles in Puzzle Quest are engaging and – at times – genuinely thrilling. There’s a real sense of tension as you work out how best to arm yourself with the best resources whilst simultaneously dealing damage to your opponent. Similarly, the feeling of crushing disappointment as your enemy manages to chain together a massive combo that you somehow missed is devastating. Although, of course, you’ll often have no idea of which tiles will appear on the screen next, so luck will quite frequently play a big part.
Despite the obvious drawbacks regarding the game’s overall presentation, having a match-three game in 2019 that isn’t completely riddled with microtransactions and limitations is remarkably refreshing. So many modern games in the genre rely far too much on keeping the player invested with rewards and incentives, but Puzzle Quest lets the gameplay speak for itself, which is wonderful. Much like on the DS, it feels like it was made for the Switch, with its battle system perfectly curated for on-the-go play. We wish the accompanying storyline was perhaps a bit more involving, as it’s tempting to skip right past it in order to get to the next battle, but it holds up relatively well regardless.
More than a decade after its initial release, Puzzle Quest: The Legend Returns is a worthy upgrade of a solid match-three RPG. It adds new quests and new classes for both veterans and newcomers to enjoy, and manages to resist the ‘freemium’ business model that plagues a lot of games in the genre these days. It falls down a bit on graphics and presentation, with the artwork particularly showing its age, but if you’re after a surprisingly deep puzzle adventure to get lost in, then look no further.
Do you use the touchscreen in handheld mode?
I lightly skimmed the article a few times, and I’m wondering what the control scheme is. Does it use the D Pad or the stick? Does it have touch screen controls in handheld? Thanks!
Nope! Still waiting for Puzzle and Dragons Gold! I didn't get my stylus for nothing...😛
Any performance problems? I was listening to IGN’s Game Scoop Podcast at work today and they mentioned in one of the episodes that it Puzzle Quest had some slow down.
They were talking about performance issues in games in general while comparing the stuttering of Google Stadia. Puzzle Quest was briefly mentioned and joked about a bit although they said they love the game.
They just mentioned how it’s crazy that the Switch can have a game like BotW, but a 12 year old game like Puzzle Quest has issues.
Hey NL, You don't know that there is a big bug if you don't have the switch with English language: I have it in Italian and I found 90% of enemies with 2000hp and more...and I have less than 100hp. If I reboot the switch in English language, I can battle enemies with normal hp. But I'm tired to reboot the switch before and after to play puzzle quest for change language
@Mr_Muscle the game controls fully with touch and buttons. I find it most comfortable to select gems with the left stick and flick them in the desired direction with the right, but touch works very well too.
The game does have some glitches I've encountered. One time I decided not to fight an encounter in the middle of a road, and when I exited out, my character avatar skipped around it walking on an invisible path. Often times I find regular enemies, or enemies in other quests having 'Runekeeper' gear, normally reserved for extra-hard monsters that guard runes (that you can win and use for equipment crafting).
But those occurrences are thankfully few and far between, and I still find the game addictive and difficult to put down, especially with the new character classes. Except Elementalist--that class is garbage.
And as a personal critique, the artwork for many of the new class avatars is pretty bad...I was especially disgusted at what was supposed to be the black female Paladin avatar. Very hard to look at.
@Kang81 yeah, there are some minor performance issues too. I find the game hangs for a second after gem matches (for both player and AI) but I never found it to be game breaking. Once in the many hours I've already played it did the game crash to the home screen on me. I own other games with more problems, but PQ for Switch is definitely not perfect.
Was this series also on psp? I remember playing puzzlr quest on psp, you played as some barbarian character I think.
I've got some pretty fond memories of Puzzle Quest, I poured a LOT of time into this one years ago. Sounds like it might not hold up quite as well as I remember, but I think I'll go ahead and spring for it again since the asking price is more than reasonable considering how many potential hours of fun there are to be had here. Hopefully the devs can iron out some of the kinks I've read about, but it doesn't sound like anything too game-breaking is holding it back.
I wonder if the AI still cheats by magically getting the pieces it needs at critical times. I remember that happening a lot as the game progressed when I first played the series.
@OmegaDestroyer yes, yes it does. It's quite frustrating sometimes. I can almost predict with 99% accuracy when a move is going to give the AI a 4-match or an overwhelming amount of mana from conveniently "random" wildcards. Fortunately, adjusting the difficulty to easy helps get past some of the more annoying battles--the AI tends to skip the best matches more often on easy.
Considering it had similar issues back on its original release, I can deal with it. Thanks for letting me know.
Yeah, going to be a pass from me then. I don't mind AIs getting advantages (Civ6 is my favorite game after all), but I hate it when it straight-up cheats.
Never owned the original DS & am tempted. I tried out Gems of War on Switch, with reading this must have been inspired by this game, though I had never heard of this original. Really enjoyed the match 3 + RPG gameplay but quit playing when it reached the point where making progress in a reasonable amount of time was impossible without paying money. A game with similar gameplay for a flat price sounds nice. Don't like the sound of the buggy gameplay people are mentioning though.
@Kang81 Not sure about docked mode but in handheld mode the game freezes up for a second here and there quite frequently. It's not game breaking but is slightly annoying. I did notice that my game updated yesterday though and I haven't played it since so maybe that addressed the issue. There's really no reason that this game should have any performance problems on the Switch.
i havent encountered any bugs or crashes in my gameplay so far, the only thing that i noticed was a slight pause when theres a big explosion of gems, usually against me as the cpu usually has better luck than me and is the same way i remember it back when i played it on the DS. love the addition of the new characters and new added missions. having a blast and plays just as i remember it before.
Loved the original. Didn't care for the sequel or the spin-off for some reason. Does this one feel like the original?
@Ninja44X try to reboot the switch with other language and play it. I can't play with my Italian switch. I have to reboot it in English. With no English switches, you found every monster with 1500-2000hp
I found the PQ series with Puzzle Quest 2 on the iPad. Is this one too much of a step back for me?
Always room on the old wishlist 😅
@amishpyrate if you mean the original Puzzle Quest, it's a decent replica of the original. It's very different from Gems of War if that's what you're referring to.
@Amishpyrate I played the original on the DS and the basic structure of the game is intact. The big thing they added is the castle building aspect of the game. The game still has that addictive gameplay feel but the animation speed during combat is really slow. However that may be due to me getting used to 4x speed on Gems of War
The only problem with this game is that it's a 'Return' not 'Remastered'. They reuse the old assets, they are all low res and looks blurry on today's high res screen.
I just played the game after the update, and while I don't know what was specifically patched, I didn't notice any of the lag I experienced before, and haven't seen any out of place Runekeeper gear either. Maybe it's a little better now.
I played this quite a bit on the PC back in the day. I really love this game now as much as back then. I don't know if you can really say that the AI "cheats". Considering the incredible number of turns that are played in the course of a session, having a few instances where it "seems" like the game magically got the gems it needs is likely more attributed to coincidence and mathematical probability than anything programmed. I'm sure the probabilities vary depending on the foe, to present more or less challenge, but purposely manufacturing of a draw to produce gems needed is unlikely.
The one thing I really don't like is that as you level up and grind, opponents that have been on the map (missions) at one level, raise their levels as you do - just because you have raised in level. This defeats the purpose of grinding and doing every side quest. People who like to grind do so to be a monster in boss battles and key encounters. This artificial leveling of foes completely defeats that purpose. I could be wrong, but I don't recall this in the original PC release.
But I still like it a bunch and have already sunk at least 30 hours into the game!
Never played this one, buti spend hundreds hours on pq2, match 3 rpg & space opera...
Will get both as soon is possible!!!
The first game is honestly better then PQ2.
@darkswabber yes, you're correct. But NINTENDOlife decides to constantly omit the fact that the original was simultaneously released for both psp and ds. Understandable but still a bit annoying
Did you re-do this review? I could have sworn there was an 8/10 review up on this site. I replied to it saying I still had the dsiware game downloaded on my New 3DS, I think.
@darkswabber It certainly was. The ds and psp versions were original versions of the game and ports followed.
"A Match-3 game with absolutely no microtransactions"
They sadly had to mention this as a pro, seeing as most match 3 games nowadays are microtransaction-traps.
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