Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords
|Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords|
PlayStation Portable Europe box art.
1st Playable Productions (DS)
Xbox 360, Mac OS X, PlayStation 2, Wii, PlayStation 3
Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords is a game developed by Australian company Infinite Interactive and published by D3 Publisher. The game combines role-playing with strategy and puzzle elements. It uses a competitive Bejeweled-style playfield to simulate combat and other activities common to role-playing games.
The game was first published simultaneously for the Nintendo DS and PlayStation Portable in early 2007, and several ports to other systems were subsequently announced. The Xbox Live Arcade version was released on 10 October 2007. The Wii version came out on 29 November 2007. The retail version for Windows came out on 22 October 2007, although the downloadable PC version was available as of 10 October 2007. A version for PlayStation 2 was released on 13 November 2007, and was followed by a mobile version for cell phones in early 2008. It was released for PlayStation 3 on 9 October 2008 through the PlayStation Network, and for the iPhone OS through the App Store on 23 December 2008.
On 16 November 2007, at Game Connect, a conference for Australian game developers, lead designer Steve Fawkner announced that Infinite Interactive is working on a free, web-based game that will tie-in with Puzzle Quest and the developer's future titles.
In a D3 Publisher press release regarding the hiring of Adam Roberts as VP of Europe, a sequel was announced for Puzzle Quest with a 2008 release date. At the 2008 Game Developers Conference, the sequel became publicly known as Puzzle Quest: Galactrix.
The story of Puzzle Quest is based in the Warlords game universe. Players assume the role of a character with various statistics such as combat ability, morale, and magical affinity. A character's predisposition toward individual attributes and spells is determined by the selection of one of four professions at the start of the game. During play, the player takes on quests as part of the main storyline, as well as accepting side quests in order to gain items, experience and gold. Gold can be used to buy equipment that offers bonuses in combat, or it can be used to build up a citadel that unlocks additional content and customization for the character.
The game uses a simple map, and as players accept quests, new towns, cities, and other points of interest appear as available destinations. Each location is connected together by roads, and foes periodically appear between locations, blocking movement until they are defeated. Key quest locations are also marked on the map, and completing quests typically involves visiting such locations in order to defeat one or more opponents in one-on-one battles.
Combat in the title is conducted entirely via turn-based puzzle action similar to Bejeweled or Zoo Keeper. The player and the computer-controlled opponent take turns swapping the position of two horizontally or vertically adjacent tiles on a grid to make a row or column of at least 3 like tiles; these tiles are removed with various effects as listed below, and all tiles above them fall to fill in the spaces, with new tiles created at the top of the board. If, by this action, a new row or column of three or more like tiles is formed, this is also removed and the chain can continue indefinitely. An extremely long chain can earn the player additional bonuses.
Once either the player or computer opponent runs out of life, the battle is over. Most battles can be re-fought if the player loses, although only those which are part of the main quest need be completed in order to advance the game plot.
Tiles have 5 basic forms:
- Colored tiles (red/fire, yellow/air, green/earth, blue/water) represent mana; for each tile removed, the character gains one mana of that color. Or more depending on the player's level, and or magic items.
- Experience tiles (purple stars) grant the player additional experience after the battle is completed.
- Gold tiles which earn money for the player.
- Skull tiles that directly damage the other player. Some skulls will glow red; these are "+5 skulls", and will then cause more damage as well as destroying adjacent tiles when removed.
- Wildcards, which appear as a multiplier and a number, such as "x5". When wildcards are matched with two or more gems of the same color, the matcher acquires the mana for those gems, multiplied by the given number.
Advanced Tiles (Minigames):
As the game progresses, players can engage in multiple style minigames aside from main quest and battle formats. These include the collection of runes, mounts, or capturing enemies. Some of these minigames introduce new tiles:
- Scroll tiles are revealed when players make a column of 4 or more tiles in some minigames. The collection of scroll tiles to a predetermined amount helps satisfy minigame quest requirements.
- Hammer/Anvil tiles are also available in select minigames and the player is required to rid the board of them to complete a specialized quest.
Four in a Row: When a player gets a row or column of 4 or more tiles, they will be granted an extra turn.
Five in a Row: A row or column of 5 will additionally make a wildcard tile appear.
Six, Seven, Eight in a Row: It is possible to do Puzzle Quest 6, 7 and 8 in a Row, but no extra rewards are registered.
As the player gains levels and distributes skill points, they can alter the benefits received when clearing tiles, such as receiving additional mana when a certain color tile is cleared. Similar effects are provided by armor, weapons, and accessories the player can purchase, manufacture, or obtain through quests.
A player that makes an illegal move suffers self-inflicted damage, the move is ignored, and the player must choose a different move. Should no legal move be possible, the board is reset/cleared, and both players lose all accumulated mana.
As players gain mana, they can opt to cast a spell instead of swapping tiles, but only if they have enough of the appropriately colored mana. Spell effects include direct offensive damage to the other player, defensive spells, ones that affect certain tiles on the board, ones that make the other player skip a turn, and many more. Certain spells are more powerful, but require more mana. Additionally, in the PC, PlayStation 2, Xbox 360, iPhone, and Wii ports, certain spells have a "cool-off" time before they can be cast again. Players select which spells to bring into a battle ahead of time, and may only cast spells from this limited repertoire. A player may also have an "extra" spell provided by a monster that they have captured and used as a mount. This "mount" spell is only filled when a mount is used, and is not available to hold another spell if no mount is used.
Computerized opponents can also cast spells during their turn, with the available spells depending on the type of foe. For example, a fire elemental opponent might specialize in spells which make heavy use of red mana. Players can use this knowledge to try and plan their own strategy, e.g., attempting to deny access to chains of gems of a given color.
Spells also are associated with one or more of the four elements of mana - air, earth, water, and fire. Equipment, abilities, and spells used by both the player and his/her opponents can provide resistance to one or more of these elements. This is expressed as a percentage chance that a spell that uses the color of that mana failing when an opponent uses it. As most spells use more than one color of mana, resistances can have wide-ranging effects.
The main character receives companions during the game. These companions provide various bonuses in battle, such as damaging enemies or providing bonuses to the main character's attributes. Some companions are fixed to join the player as the game progresses, while others may be obtained via choices that the player makes. The presence of certain Companions unlock various subplots and extra quests. Companions may also be left behind and picked up again at specific locations, as well as leave the player permanently due to conflicting interests. Companions may interact with each other in subplots.
With the money earned from combat and questing, players can either purchase items to provide benefits in battle, or can spend the money to build up their citadel. With an appropriately augmented citadel, players can "capture" enemies they have defeated multiple times in order to learn spells from them, store & train mounts and receive various other benefits. In many cases, actions at the citadel require completing a single-player challenge based on modified game rules. For example, to forge a new item, the player must clear at least one "hammer and anvil" symbol from the board by either matching at least 3 of them in a row or column, or having one in a row or column of a 4 or 5-length match, before the board has no more legal moves.
Once the citadel has received certain upgrades, gold can also be spent at the citadel in order to directly improve player statistics (through donations to the gods). The cost for such upgrades increases as the current value of the statistic increases.
A player's citadel is initially accessible only from a single city, but players can gain access to the citadel screen from other cities by successfully laying siege to these locations. After defeating the city itself in combat, the city is captured and citadel management becomes available from the new location.
Puzzle Quest was primarily the brainchild of Steve Fawkner, the original designer of the Warlords game series which merged typical RPG elements with turn-based strategy games. The series was successful enough for Fawkner to form Infinite Interactive, which were the primary developers of the first three titles for the series, and did some of the work on the fourth title in 2004 before full development was taken over by Strategic Studies Group (SSG), the publisher for the first three games, due to declining budgets for video games at that time. Fawkner opted to reduce his staffing to three people and use the time to refine their game engines, not releasing any games through 2007.
During this time, Fawkner became hooked on Bejeweled, often playing the game into the late hours of the night. He realized that he could wrap the core match-3 concept into a game with Magic: The Gathering elements and create a story mode in the vein of Final Fantasy Tactics, forming the basis for Puzzle Quest. Fawkner found difficulty in finding a publisher for the title, as they did not have an idea of how many units the game would sell and thus could not estimate a budget for the title. Fawkner eventually was able to gain D3 Publisher that dealt primarily in low-volume Japanese titles, though there still had difficulties with estimating budgets.
The first release of the game in North America consisted of 40,000 units of the Nintendo DS version; according to Fawkner these sold out within a week of shipment, in part due to the game's mention and difficulty to acquire by the popular webcomic Penny Arcade. D3 raced to publish more to meet demand, though at the time were limited by Nintendo's ability to provide black DS cartridges. With the success of the game, Fawkner was able to expand Infinite Interactive to eventually 70 employees to work on the various ports of Puzzle Quest and subsequent sequels.
A side-by-side comparison of the DS and PSP versions by Kotaku noted that the PSP version has a much more challenging artificial intelligence along with a larger screen and more in-game effects. However, the PSP version also has a bug relating to in-game companions that is not present in the DS version; the companions' stated special abilities do not work. While game designer Steve Fawkner has acknowledged this bug, he claims that only Vicious Cycle, the port developer, has the ability to produce a patch. The PSN and European version of the game do not have the bug.
Xbox Live release
In addition to releases for the PlayStation 2 and Wii consoles, the game was ported to Xbox Live Arcade, using the service's built-in networking to allow players to compete online similar to the player matches available in the DS and PSP versions.
An expansion for the game, Revenge of the Plague Lord, was released on 23 July, 2008 for the Xbox Live Arcade and was included in the 9 October 2008 release on the PlayStation Network. It was also released as a free update for the iPhone OS version. The expansion features 4 new character classes (Bard, Rogue, Ranger and Warlock), and an expansive new area on the Southern Map containing more than 25 challenging quests, 50 new spells, 40 new magical items and new monsters to combat, as part of the story of Antharg, the Lord of Plague and brother to Lord Bane.
Puzzle Quest was a giant surprise hit, receiving very positive reviews from the gaming community. IGN stated that the PSP version of the game, "managed to combine the best aspects of both [puzzle and RPG] genres into one nice little package." Hyper's Maurice Branscombe commends the game for being a "fantastic puzzle game, mixed with simple, yet compelling, RPG elements". However, he criticises it for having a "cookie cutter RPG story".
MTV Networks' GameTrailers awarded Puzzle Quest the title of "Best Puzzle/Parlor Game" of 2007. Future's Next Generation online ranked it as the 17th best game released in 2007. GameSpy awarded it "Best Xbox Live Arcade Game" of 2007. The Xbox Live Arcade version was listed as the 6th best title of all time for that platform by the IGN staff in a September 2010 compilation.
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