Review By: Tami Quiring
Okay now that I have beat Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords  from Infinite, here are my thoughts on it.
The controls work well – it’s about 99% stylus controlled. The music is annoying – but it’s one of the few games I can play without the sound turned on, so that’s good.
For a DS game, the map is quite large with lots of cities to get quests from and to lay siege to. The more cities you “own” the faster you can easily get a lot of money, as the residents have to pay a tithe each month. Of course they can also stage a rebellion so you have to go back and siege the city again. Battles are waged against opponents following the Bejeweled model – drop down gems which increase your mana when you match three, four or five sets. You can also get wildcards, which multiply the mana you gain. You attack your opponents by matching skulls. Some skulls have higher power and do more damage. You can also use spells to heal, protect and do damage.
Once you battle various enemies and animals a certain number of times – usually three, you have the option of beating them in battle and capturing them if you win. The animals, such as the Giant Rat, Giant Spider, Griffon, etc. can become pets which also give you a specialized spell – for example, the Griffon adds the spell Death Dive to your list of talents. You can also get around the map faster by riding a fast pet such as the Griffon. In order to capture an enemy or pet, you have to beat a puzzle – you match the gems until you’ve cleared the screen. As with other activities in this game, the puzzles range from very easy to almost unsolvable.
You can visit your Citadel from either the main city of Bartonia or from any city which you’ve captured. You can buy improvements for your citadel, such as a dungeon. You can’t capture any enemies until you build a dungeon. You can also build the equivalent of a library, where you can go to learn spells from the enemies you’ve captured. In order to obtain pets, you need to build a stable. You can also purchase skill levels to improve either areas of magic (air, earth, water, fire), your battle strength, your cunning (spell smarts), and morale (health). As you gain experience, you can level up to a cap of 50. This also increases the amount of health points you have.
You can shop from any city, buying bits of armour, weapons and other mystical charms. You can also visit the tavern and listen to rumours. Some are free, some you have to pay for. They give both background on the story line or give you important clues on how to defeat enemies.
Also throughout the game you meet companions. They all have quests which you need to complete in order to get them to join your party. Each companion has a special skill to assist you in your battles. For example Drong the Orc has a huge appetite and will bite your opponent. Another companion will shoot a bunch of arrows into your enemy, and the dragon companion will distract any enemies which can fly.
I like games with quests, and I like games with the drop down gem matching, so we’re good to go in that area. When researching skills, you’re given a set number of gems you need to obtain by matching them. You also need to obtain and match scrolls. In order to get a scroll, you have to match sets of 4 or 5 gems. Matching 5 gems gives you two scrolls. You then need to move them together so that they match like the gems do. Some spells are very easy to learn, some are moderate while others are hard or very hard. The harder the spell is rated to “learn” the harder it is to make it through the gem screen without running out of moves. If you run out of moves, you fail to learn the spell and have to start over again. During regular enemy battles if you run out of moves, all mana is drained (yours and your enemy’s) and you have to start rebuilding it.
Another area of challenge for you is to search for runes at various locations around the map. You do this by challenging the resident Rune Master. If you defeat the Master then you gain a rune which has a specific power. These runes can be used to forge weapons and armour – but only if you’ve built a forge in your Citadel.
There wasn’t really anything about the game I didn’t like, except that some enemies seemed to build up their mana awfully fast, as well as have some pretty incredible match runs. It was a real trial and error method for finding which combination of spells worked best, as well as which armour provided adequate protection while ideally reflecting damage back at the enemy (mirror armour). Overall, for anyone who likes Bejeweled style games, I would say give it a go.
Well — now that I’ve beat this on the DS, it must be time to try it on the 360, seeing as it’s available for download in the Xbox Arcade. 😉