Modojo Roundtable - Puzzle Quest
A gigantic love festival ensues when the Knights of the Modojo Roundtable take on a Puzzle Quest and what exactly makes it The Awesome.
[b][NOTE: The Modojo staff recently sat down to try and pinpoint, specifically, what makes PQ... The Awesome(tm). These are the shenanigans that resulted]:[/b]
Justin Davis: There's a couple things that make Puzzle Quest The Awesome(tm) for me, but probably the biggest thing turned out to be just how deep the RPG elements are. That really caught me off guard. Before I picked the game up all I really knew was that instead of normal RPG battles, in PQ encounters played out on a Bejeweled board, and that matching some gems would deal damage, matching others would give Mana to cast spells, etc.
I expected it to be cool, but ultimately somewhat shallow. I expected a puzzle game with a twist.
But there's more RPG depth in here than actual, full-fledged RPGs I've played recently. You'll siege towns to capture them to earn more gold. You'll capture monsters and make them teach you their spells. You'll capture mounts and then train those mounts, to help you get around the map faster. You'll unlock & find hidden runes that are used to synthesize new items. All of this was a surprise to me, and has me hopelessly addicted.
Robert Falcon: What strikes me about Puzzle Quest is its ability to take a concept that we're all used to and how it turns it completely on its ear. A lot of us are familiar with Bejeweled in a number of different forms. Playing it on our cell phones, downloading it for Xbox Live Arcade, trying to put up with it as it's bastardized by the likes of Paris Hilton (and say what you want, it WAS bastardized by Paris Hilton- she couldn't even get the name of her own product down for crying out loud). But to take such a familiar concept and add so much to it...it's really an amazing thing.
It gives the game some purpose. Anyone can play the game in its form and have fun with it. But to really soak in deeper elements changes the way we look at it entirely. I may never look at Bejeweled 2 the same way again after playing the likes of Puzzle Quest. The way you have to earn gems, cash, and damage to your opponent really is spellbinding...and it can really leave the door open for whatever other hybrids we may have missed.
I was thrown off by Puzzle Quest at first. Like I mentioned in my review, I completely started off with it the wrong way. I jumped into it like I would have just playing Bejeweled, not regarding the instruction booklet and, not surprisingly, getting killed in advanced training time after time. Only after reading through it and understanding the deeper elements of the game did I really become good at it...and I've been killing bats, zombies and ogres ever since.
That's probably going to be something that throws a few people off- how to approach the gameplay. If someone goes in expecting the basics then they might be pretty miserable. To have to look deeper in a puzzle game...it's something not everyone's used to. But I think it's a brilliant concept, and it'll be interesting to see what 1st Playable does next.
That's what Puzzle Quest The Awesome does for me- takes the familiar and does something surprising with it. Sometime creativity wins out in the end in this industry. Sometimes.
Cody Musser: I definitely noticed more RPG than I was expecting. Actually, it felt a lot like Heroes of Might and Magic. More than a lot, a TON like Heroes of Might and Magic. I'd have to imagine that was the mold they were facing when they chose to go down this design path. Of course, they removed the battle elements and replaced them with puzzly ones, which is why the game is so damn unique.
I noticed how ridiculously robust the game was when I was building my town up and using the structures (stables, mage tower, etc.) to gain abilities. Starting there, and moving onward, I just kept saying, "Jesus, this is in here too?"
Justin Davis: Robert's right about the game really being able to make your imagination go wild. It's games like this that make me excited to be a gamer. Games like, I dunno, Final Fantasy III or After Burner: Black Falcon are a ton of fun, and are good purchases, but they don't have the ability to literally excite me the way Puzzle Quest does. It makes me wonder what else is now possible, which isn't something games make me think about very often.
I want a sequel that is set against the backdrop of a space opera instead of high fantasy, with ship-building elements. I want minigames that are OTHER puzzle games, instead of just Bejeweled. I hope PQ opens up a whole new genre of puzzle-infused titles.
Elmer Concepcion: I completely agree with everyone that I too was surprised at how deep the RPG part goes. And I'll also go on the record and say that some of these battles were some of the most intense battles I've ever encountered from any RPG, period. I'm talking edge of my seat, feet to the fire, teeth grounded to nubs kind of intensity that I just plain didn't expect from this weird mutated Bejweled. These are freaking battles to the death, and the enemy is every bit as relentless as you will be!
But victory, oh sweet addictive victory. I level up, I reflect on what worked and what didn't work, change spells and shop accordingly. So when the story provides me with the next quest, an ever greater challenger than the last, I say, "Yeah, I can take him." And proceed to kick ass and take names.
Elmer Concepcion: Galactrix!
Looks like they're already on that space opera thing
Robert Falcon: Personally, I think the possibilities are endless for this developer. They don't have to just stick to fusing puzzle games with role-playing elements. They can try their hands at other things.
Like a hybrid action/driving game with people kicking out of the car and able to power up with different abilities. Wait, that may be too simple...
As for Galactrix...ohh, that looks nice. Now it just needs space battles.
Philip: Not being a fan of RPG's, but being a fan of puzzle games, I wasn't quite sure what to expect of this. I played Bejeweled a fair amount on my phone, so got into the initial training OK when suddenly everything went great as I started to battle properly. It totally changes the way you would normally play a game like Bejeweled! I just keep lining things up for later then crying as the enemy goes "ooh that'll do me nicely thank you very much!" and I end up sitting in a puddle of despair of my own making... You don't just have to think ahead, you have to think... Ahead ahead. If you know what i mean.
The whole quest thing gives you a reason to keep on playing, instead of being a quick blast like puzzlers usually are. I've only got the PC demo version at the moment, so when the message "This quest continues in the full game" flashed up on screen, you could say i was more than a little upset. MORE purchases! Damn it!
Elmer Concepcion: Totally, I can't remember how many times I set up a nice row of +5 skulls when the bad guy pulls out a devastating combo smash to the crotch from underneath you. I've made many careful plans and careless moves which were twisted into my undoing.
In later levels though, the incredible power of the spells began to shine through. They provided those ever invaluable chances to manipulate the board to your liking, wreak your own personal brand of chaos, or even abstain a turn to allow the AI to make the mistake you could have made.
Cody Musser: Anything you guys can think of that Puzzle Quest got wrong? Elements that just didn't mesh into the gameplay, or where things could have used some extra work?
I'd have to say the story definitely could have been given some extra effort. As it stood, it was pretty derivative. In so many RPG's I'm trying to make it through the fight to get more story, in the case of Puzzle Quest it was the exact opposite. I suppose that's good and bad, but even still, in an RPG setting, with puzzle elements or not, I'd like a good story.
Ryan Morgan: If there's anything that can attest to the brilliance of this game, it's the fact that I've scoured the city for a copy but still find myself empty-handed. Fortunately, the demo gives a nice glance at the full product, and I started with much the same problem that many of you ran into. I love Meteos and Tetris, but Zoo Keeper is the puzzle game that you'll usually find in my DS. I play almost every night before I go to bed, so I'm completely used to standard Bejeweled gameplay. Adjusting to the fact that TWO people are playing on the board really adds a tremendous amount of depth to the proceedings.
That's not the best part of Puzzle Quest, though, as the one thing about RPG's I usually can't stand is the combat. Even in terrific games like the FF series, the combat can get really tedious when all you do is hit "fight, target, cast spell, target..." An RPG where battles are turn-based, have tons of spell casting options, and actually require you to earn the win by out-thinking your opponent? Sign me up.
The only other RPG series I can think of that really has this level of ingenuity is the Paper Mario games. With Super Paper Mario already looking great, I really hope we see more [unique game type here]/RPG crossovers soon! Imagine, for example, a DS version of Bookworm Adventures.
Anthony Gallegos: What makes Puzzle Quest The Awesome is that it fluidly combines casual gaming (Bejewled) with a strong RPG element. Unlike a lot of RPGs where you really start just going through the motions, puzzle quest has quest specific battles that are engaging time after time. Yes, you do fight mobs to level up, but you also fight them because they are pertinent to your characters current quest line.
The battles are also very intense, as someone said earlier. Often times I am defeated more than once, but the magic awesomeness of Puzzle Quest keeps me coming back for another computer induced beating. Unlike a lot of other RPGs this one gives you a sense of accomplishment after almost every battle. You earn those damn exp. points.
I have to agree with Cody though that the story line is a little weak. Because the battle system is so incredibly engaging I find myself glossing over the very vague story elements just so I can move on and try out a new spell or ability.
Elmer Concepcion: Actually I agree with Cody that the story is a frank weakness that keeps the game clearly in the casual. Transparently the developers used the story merely as a vehicle to get to the next battle, again and again. Though there were a couple entertaining quips and curious moral decisions that popped up now and again, they were few and far between. It's clear through these moments that they could tell an engaging story, and the threads are there for guiding your character along different moral routes. Though I'm no where through with beating the game a first time, there's at least enough here to make me think the dialog might appear different should I make different decisions. But in Challenge of the Warlords, it doesn't seem like any of the decisions made would result in anything other than slightly different battle conditions, if anything.
Should a sequel game which tells a branching player guided story with a world which amounts to more than menus with some Photoshop backgrounds not only be requested advancements, but required?
Cody Musser: Alright guys, I suppose we should probably wrap up this Puzzle Quest love festival. Any last words to contribute before we call it quits?
Robert Falcon: "If you don't own this game, something is seriously wrong with you...unless you can't find it."
Elmer Concepcion: It's more addictive than air. And I NEED air.