Puzzle Quest 2 is the latest game in the successful puzzle adventure series by Infinitive Interactive. Currently it’s available for PC via digital download only, but PC box release is coming soon.
Before we dive into the gameplay, you’ll need to select a character, There are 4 different character classes to choose from, each with different strengths and weaknesses. My personal favourite, Assassins, are fairly squishy in the beginning but are able to deal massive damage once they have sufficient mana, if they use the right combo of spells. They are also able to stealth to reduce damage taken, and can wield some very powerful poisoned weapons which deal damage over time. Barbarians are well rounded offensively and defensively. They are able to use powerful two handed weapons to deal massive damage, but at the penalty of not being able to use their offhand slot. Sorcerers, whilst they have few life points, have a spell for all occasions. Last but not least is the Templar, whose strength is in his high defense. He can wear plate armour and tower shields, but is not a character for those who like dealing masses of damage for he wears his opponents down slowly and steadily.
Evil Tactician Demonstrates the Gameplay of Puzzle Quest 2.
In the Puzzle Quest 2 battles, we’re taken back to the original gem-swapping principle of the first game. When you match a row of 3+ like gems, it will destroy those gems and give your character either mana or action points, or will deal direct damage based on the type of gem that was destroyed. A new addition in this game however is the ability to equip weapons, items and armour, and use them during the battle. The purple experience stars and gold coins icons of the first game have been scrapped, and instead replaced with additional purple mana spheres, and the all new gauntlet “action” icons which you can use to activate your equipped left and right hand items in battle, whether that may be a weapon, shield or another item such as mana or health potion. I’ve heard criticism of the large damage spells and attacks that feature in this game, as to some extent it feels like you don’t entirely have control over the outcome of the battles sometimes. However you can use your own protective abilities to lessen the damage, and as long as you manage to do so before the big damage starts rolling in you can mitigate those big numbers.
Although there have been some changes to the battlefield, where the game significantly differs from the original is outside of the battles. Whereas you traveled around a world map in the original, Puzzle Quest 2 is more of a quest based dungeon crawler and the camera is zoomed in closely to your surroundings, giving it a much more immersive, RPG feeling and keeping the game really interesting. Quest givers are denoted by WoW’s now widely adopted golden exclamation mark/question mark system, with the slight addendum of side-quests in silver. They’ll send you on quests to defeat various monsters in the dungeon beneath the town of Verloren.
The mini-games are extremely well integrated into the dungeon crawling adventure. There are doors to either bash down, lock pick or open with a spell, chests to loot, rooms to search for additional treasure, and traps to disarm. The mini-games all have quite different objectives to each other, and crop up just often enough to make a nice change from the regular battles. The variety really does keep things from getting dull. You are also able to play the mini-games outside of the main story to practice your skills on 5 different difficulty settings.
There are also several different game modes to enjoy, in addition to the single player story. Multiplayer VS battles are available and can be played online against randoms or friends. There’s an endurance mode which pits you against increasingly difficulty opponents, without restoring your health between fights. This uses your singleplayer character so obviously becomes easier as you progress through the game and level up, getting better equipment and abilities. It’s fun to keep coming back to this more periodically to see how you’ve improved. Tournament mode pits two teams of 4 increasingly difficult creatures against each other, again in an endurance style where the damage of the winner is carried over to the next round. You can either select your team and AI opponents, or let the computer select randomly.
So how does Puzzle Quest 2 gameplay stack up overall against the original? Well, the battles themselves have a more strategic element to them, in that it’s more important than ever to take note of your opponent’s special abilities if you want to stand a chance of success. Preventing them from collecting sufficient mana to cast their big damage spells, debuffs or weapon attacks can be as critical as dealing damage yourself. Switching gold and xp icons for the new gauntlet action point system was a great move, but there are some areas where Puzzle Quest 2 falls short of the original. Mounts have been done away with, and forget about learning enemy spells. The ability to forge your own relics has also disappeared, replaced instead with a simplistic item upgrade system which uses items you loot after battles as ingredients along with a hefty chunk of gold as payment. If the game would allow you to preview the upgrades to your item before you fork over your gold and items it would have been a much better system. In fact, the whole system for stats and armour is pretty simplistic, and for a game that wants to be RPG-like, more effort should really go into this area for any future releases.
The game is incredibly linear, and although you can deviate from the main quest to do side-quests, it feels rather like you’re a child being led around the dungeon by the hand of an adult. You can turn the guide off, but that doesn’t change the fundamentally linear nature of the game. The hints system is also pretty annoying, in that you can’t turn it off. Even on the “very long” delay, the hint arrows sometimes kick in immediately and I personally find that really annoying. It’s essentially like having someone standing over your shoulder telling you what your next move should be, and we all know how irritating that is.
Overall, I feel the game is a big improvement on the original title, but some of the key features of the first game really should have been carried over to Puzzle Quest 2. Although the mini-games feel much more integrated in the latest release, there could have been a citadel style element to the game up in the city which included all the features of the original. Progress has definitely been made, but there are still elements which are sorely lacking, which really need looking at in any followups that Infinitive Interactive are to release.