When I saw a demo station for Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords, I thought bejeweled in a strategy RPG? I’m never going to like that! However, I like to give everything a fair chance so I sat down and played the DS version and got hooked on the game. The premise in Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords is simple you and an opponent share a gem matching board. To attack you match three or more skull pieces together to cause 5 HP of damage. Skulls are the direct way of attacking, but they are uncommon on the board. Instead colored mana pieces are much more common. Matching three red pieces increases your fire mana and three blue pieces raises your water mana. Once you raise enough mana you can cast offensive spells or heal yourself. The battle continues until one player is out of HP. It sounds simple, but Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords is fairly deep.
One big difference between Puzzle Quest and playing Bejeweled is you alternate turns on the game board with your opponent. If you plan to set up a chain of skulls as your next move the other player can easily turn around and chain the skulls to attack you. You also have to think about what mana you want to gain. Since each spell takes different combinations of mana you need to make sure you horde the mana you need to cast your next spell. Spells like fire bolt are good for attacking, but some of the more useful spells penalize your opponent for matching certain mana or give you a mana boost. There are also some other tricky rules like if you match four pieces together you earn a second turn and using up spells ends your turn.
Head to head battles are only part of Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords. Once you are out of battle you can move around and pick which places you want to capture. If you plan your targets right you can gain extra allies and make your mark in Etheria. Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords isn’t as deep as Fire Emblem, it’s a bridge between casual gaming and SRPGs. To ease the transition Puzzle Quest is forgiving. If you lose a battle no sweat, you earn experience points for the time you fought and you can replay the battle.
Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords comes out for the DS and the PSP in March 2007. The DS version has the game grid on the bottom screen with the status indicators on the top. You can use the stylus to match pieces together and select spells by tapping them on the left hand side. Since the PSP only has one screen, the game board is in the middle and it divides the warring players. Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords looks slightly better on the PSP, but both games are pretty much the same. Both of them even have wireless play. See some screenshots of Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords and look for more coverage on D3’s title in the future.