Gaming Gems: Puzzle Quest (Challenge of the Warlords)

Not quite Skyrim meets Bejeweled, but still the best Match 3 RPG.

There are some games that are just so good, you can play them forever. Or, at least, will stay on your game device/library of choice indefinitely. This choice collection of titles for me includes the original Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords. Again, not a new game at all… it’s probably been ported to every console and gaming platform out there by now… but I just happened to look at my iPad and seeing the app icon I just began to wax nostalgic.

One of the first Match-3 RPG hybrids, Puzzle Quest took the Bejeweled style of gameplay and made it the fighting arena of choice between your chosen hero/heroine and various enemies in a pretty sizable fantasy realm. Various spells and powers came into play to affect matching gems and skulls in the field, and the battle would rage until one side was obliterated. Though there have been many, MANY Match-3 RPG titles since, I think none have ever surpassed the original PQ… not even its own sequel, Puzzle Quest 2.

Puzzle Quest’s long adventure is no LOTR, but it was loads of fun and had many a colorful character to encounter along the way.

My favorite aspect of PQ was the story, which followed your character throughout their illustrious adventuring career- from being just the son/daughter or a noble running errands for dear ol’ dad to managing a vast empire of captured cities and holds. Yep, in Puzzle Quest you can pretty much eventually take over the world as a benevolent conqueror, so that cities will pay you tribute like the badass fantasy capo don you are. While the story stays mostly the same (though choices probably vary depending on your character), you do have a choice in choosing your hero/heroine’s class, and this will affect gameplay. Fighters will have powers that directly assault the enemy, while mages have spells that affect the field and gems. There are quite a few classes and I’ve really only played ONE (a Wizard), so there’s tons of gameplay I can still get from PQ simply by starting another game as another class (and different gender).

Sadly, Puzzle Quest’s sequel took a different route, eschewing the more epic scale of the original for a more personal, smaller quest. While Puzzle Quest 2 has it’s appeal and is more intimate in the duels, I miss the anime style art, the huge map to explore, the empire-building and tinkering in my citadel, and general epic feel of the original.

At present, while the game has been ported to many platforms, Puzzle Quest is apparently unavailable on the Apple appstore (not sure if they’ll re-release it), which is just too bad.

Luckily I bought the game years ago from the appstore and still have it on my iPad right now (the iOS version is one of the best ports, I think), so I can always revisit this world anytime I want to. If you somehow missed this gem of a Bejeweled spinoff, try to find it. And once you do, grab it and don’t let go!

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