The game that kicked off the match-three/RPG genre in 2007 is back for a third go with Puzzle Quest 3. An early preview of the Android version of the threequel reveals a somewhat more dynamic take on the genre mash-up. Giving players two seconds to map out their moves makes a big difference.
The basic idea of Puzzle Quest is that players match gems to gather mana to cast spells or directly damage the enemy. For example, my Assassin—one of Puzzle Quest 3’s five playable classes along with Paladin,
Necromancer, Berzerker, and Shaman—requires 100 purple mana to cast Night Blade, a skill that does a certain amount of damage plus five percent for every purple gem on the board. At my Assassin’s current level, matching a purple gem nets me 12 mana. Once I gather 100 purple mana I can cast my spell, the enemy takes damage, and my purple mana is spent. It’s a simple, elegant system that’s kept me coming back to the first two games and various spin-offs for 14 years.
Puzzle Quest 3 changes things up in several ways. For one, computer-controlled enemies don’t get a turn matching gems. Instead they have automatic abilities that fire off each round. The goblin in the screenshot atop this post removes two random gems from the board every turn, which can drastically change the board layout, but there’s no worrying about missing a big match and having the enemy swoop in to take advantage.
The most drastic change, however, is how you take a turn. Rather than performing a single gem swap each turn, you’re given two seconds to make as many matches on the board as possible. Gems can be swapped up and down, side to side, and diagonally, so there’s a lot of room to maneuver. With some skill and a bit of luck you can clear most of the screen in a single turn.
The extra time to move adds an all-new layer of depth to the game’s strategy. Though most of my time spent with the preview build has seen me facing off against easily dispatched fodder, I can see where my character is going and how important gem movement is going to be as I get up in level.
I’m looking forward to diving deeper into Puzzle Quest 3’s core gameplay, unlocking new skills and abilities and trying new classes. What I am not looking forward to getting caught up in all the free-to-play fluffery that’s been tacked on to the experience. There are multiple bits of equipment that can be evolved and leveled up with resources. Resources earned through chests can either be unlocked with keys either rewarded or purchased with in-game currency. Chests can also be unlocked over time using collectible minions, but the minions are on a timer, the chests are on a timer, timer, timer, timer. I really hate arbitrary timers.
But I love Puzzle Quest, so I will stick with Puzzle Quest 3 for a bit. Good news is, if you’re an Android user, you can get in on the early access for free via Google Play right now. Join me as I pummel spiders, orcs, and goblins with my mad Bejeweled skills and gripe loudly about stupid chest timers.