I’ve been a massive Puzzle Quest fan ever since Challenge of the Warlords was released for Xbox, so when Puzzle Quest 3 became playable, I was very excited. However, as the many, many negative reviews about the game show, the game that we’ve gotten has a lot of flaws. The devs are working to create a better game though, which is much appreciated. Underneath all of the frustrating mechanics, the game is actually quite enjoyable. Hopefully with enough changes, this game can be a great one. Lots of feedback will be required though, I know, so with that in mind, I’m going to be doing a series of feedback posts covering all of the aspects of the game, and the ways that they can be improved.
This game is quite different in style compared to others in the series. It’s designed as a freemium mobile game, as opposed to a one time purchase console game. This comes with a lot of changes, some of them good, and some of them not so good.
First of all, this should have never been a freemium game, not for a main game in the series. Mobile games are good additions to a main series, to give people something to play while waiting between entries or give them an additional thing to do that’s based on a series they already love. However, mobile games should never be a replacement for main series console games, especially not for rpgs. The format for freemium is designed around being brief and easy to play in short chunks, which goes against the long, sit-down, extended exploration and play that console games are designed around. Because of the format, and the space limitations, if a game is a mobile game, then it almost always lacks a lot of the depth that console games have. That’s not always a bad thing: mobile games are like a hamburger and fries versus a fancy dinner, and no one would say you should never want a hamburger and fries. But it’s important to recognize the strengths and weaknesses of each format when you consider what you’re going for. And the mobile freemium format works against a lot of the strengths, not for it.
Puzzle Quest is an established series, and people have proven willing to pay for the games. A spin-off game would have been far better to test out new ideas in and earn money from the freemium format, and the main series could have continued to be the expansive, in-depth complex games that the series is known for. Barring that, the game could have at least been a purchase-to-play mobile game (with or without additional purchases) instead of freemium, negating the need to spam players with purchase offers. We’re stuck with this model now, so PQ 3 will just have to be the best free-to-play mobile game that it can possibly be. But hopefully the next game can take a different track. And for this one, the freemium elements improved, so that the game still makes money, but the players have a much better experience.
With the move to mobile, the gameplay received several changes. The opponent no longer makes matches on the board, players’ turns consist of making as many matches as possible in a set time limit instead of just one match a turn, and spells each have a unique mana pool and take only one type of mana. Unfortunately, I can’t help but miss the in-depth nature of strategies allowed by the old style of gameplay. The new one feels simplified, and much more about spamming the board full of matches. That said, at the same time, I did enjoy the chance to try out a new system, and do very much like certain elements of it. The new diagonal matching is great and the turns themselves being time limited but the time between them not being so allows for an almost perfect balance between quick action and slower, more thoughtful gameplay.
Overall, I think the game play is good as it is. Its benefits and flaws stand as testament of an attempt to try out something new and different, an attempt that succeeded in many ways. There is only one change that I would make if I could: having spells take multiple types of mana again. I think the spells being mono-mana is what causes the simplified and spammy feel of the game, so I think this change would bring back a lot of the missing strategic depth. This would make the gameplay less focused on flooding the board with one type of element and put the focus much more on making actual gem matches. It would be a big change, but one well worth it, and one that would help make PQ3 stand out in quality of gameplay as much as other games in the series do.