Puzzle Quest 2 is a sequel to the 2007 downloadable and portable hit Puzzle Quest. Developed again by Infinite Interactive, Puzzle Quest 2 aims to provide a refreshing change of pace in the mundanely saturated RPG market, and for the most part it succeeds. Like the first game, the player battles monsters in a turn based combat system. Essentially grid based, you must earn mana by matching colored gems in either vertically or horizontally adjacent rows. This mana is then used to cast spells and curses, among other techniques. On the surface, PQ2 provides casual Bejeweled –esque puzzle fun. However, do not be mislead by this seemingly simple outset.
This is a full on RPG, in which you will need to equip the best weapons, armor and accessories, learn the strongest spells and techniques, and quest to earn gold and powerful equipment. For a downloadable/portable title, PQ2 offers surprisingly deep game play options. Without a doubt, this is a game for the hardcore and its casual appeal is only a mirage.
The combat is easy to pickup, but takes some extensive practice to become comfortable with. The first few battles are throwaways, but then things get intense quickly. I found the first few hours of the game to be perhaps the most daunting. You can choose from four different character types: a sorcerer, an assassin, a barbarian and a templar.
Each of these classes possesses a wealth of exclusive skills and equipment so that it is worth playing with a different character, though you will need to start a new game. A neat feature is the ability to reset your characters skill points after you reach a certain level. This allows you to use your character in more creative or strategic ways. Fore example, when my sorcerer reached this point, i reset the skills and allocated several points to the stamina attribute. The result was much higher HP and it made him a much more sturdy in battle.
There are certain intricacies and nuances to the combat that it will take time to fully understand. As seems to be a trend lately, Puzzle Quest 2 can be very difficult. For one thing, the AI is insane, even on normal mode. Expect your opponent to consistently make the best possible moves and break into chains so long your jaw will hit the ground.
What’s more is, nearly all enemies have some kind of technique that can be used without ending their turn. This feels very unfair as the only time you’ll get more than one move is if you make a chain of 4 or more gems. And therein lays another of the games flaws. Certain enemy types make the balancing seem poor. One foe that quickly comes to mind is the berserker.
On many occasions, this enemy defeated me without my ever taking a turn. These losses feel cheap and seem to have more to do with luck than skill. As time passes, new, more efficient strategies will emerge. You will get plenty of practice with your character, since about 75% of fights are mandatory. This design choice makes things get repetitive quick, and unless you simply adore the combat, you won’t be able to progress too much in a single sitting.
This is slightly remedied by the vast array of enemies in the game. There are several different enemies: goblins, ghouls, ghosts, witches, imps, at least two or so dozen. And while many of them possess similar techniques, the sheer variety available certainly deserves mention. The visuals are a little dated, if adequate for this outing.
Character and enemy portraits are delightfully detailed. The environments are a little underwhelming but they do well to keep things colorful. The nice thing about these areas is that they are very large and free to explore. Every place you visit will have an ample amount of unexplored territory that you aren’t required to traverse, but the option is there.
You will need to bash down doors, pick open locked chests, disarm traps and much more as you journey through the world. This gives the game an epic feel, a welcome surprise from a downloadable game. There are a number of quests that the player can engage in the event that the game feels to difficult (which it probably will). You don’t have to worry about falling to far behind though since so much of the combat is required.
Experience and gold can be farmed through these quests, giving the player an advantage. You will find items and components which can be used to upgrade weapons and armor, though the only blacksmith is in the main town Veloren. You will have to return to this town from the depths of whichever dungeon you were in, should you wish to sell or upgrade items. You are required to do this at least occasionally since there is a limit to the amount of equipment that can be carried at one time.
This forms little inconvenience though because of the ridiculously well designed portal system. You will uncover multiple portals that are all interconnected, meaning that you can use the last portal in the game to return back to the first one. This is an excellent design choice when you consider how frustrating navigation could have been.
The games narrative is fitting. Voice acting is used in moderation with text to convey the story of a wanderer who comes across a town in peril and must combat a growing evil. There are no cut scenes in the game, instead using the occasional voice acting to emphasize important events.
During the adventure, you will come across multiple characters who relate to the story in one way or the other, though summarily the cast seems quite weak. Even worse are the abrupt conclusion and the sudden appearance of the final boss. Because the final boss is only the plot focus for about thirty minutes before the end of the game, the story comes to a close with less than a wave. Still though, it is acceptable as long as one includes the conundrum ‘for a download/portable title’.
The music is suitably moody, although the battle themes add to the overtly repetitive nature of the game play. Combat sounds are pleasant, though with all the time spent battling, you’d think that two or three more battle themes where a must. Also, there is a multiplayer mode that can’t help but feel tacked on. While fun in the beginning, it quickly becomes clear that the online play is for the challenge thirsty, just like in any other online game.
In conclusion, Puzzle Quest 2 brings plenty to the table. The game succeeds at offering an innovative experience unlike anything else available, barring its prequel. While the addictive puzzle combat is the main draw, the game purposefully handles itself like a core RPG. It does not hold your hand, has tons of optional missions and content and will kick your ass if you don’t learn the ropes. With many hours of campaign and optional play, a time consuming multiplayer mode, loads of customization options and dozens of enemy types, I’d recommend Puzzle Quest 2 to puzzle fans and RPG fans alike. If you by chance enjoy both of these genres, then this one’s a no brainer.
- Game: Puzzle Quest 2
- Release Date: Available Now
- MSRP: $15.00
- Developer: Infinite Interactive
- Publisher: D3 Publisher
- Platform Reviewed: Xbox 360
- Review Copy Info: A code for this title was provided to DualShockers, Inc. by the publisher for purposes of this review.