There are certain games that have left an impact on genres. These are craters so deep that, years later, others attempt to do similar things. Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords was among the first games to do something more with match-3 puzzles. It took a concept that was accessible, then fused in RPG elements that made each grid a harrowing fight against a foe. It’s been 12 years since its Nintendo DS and PlayStation Portable debut, and now Puzzle Quest: The Legend Returns has brought it back with the sort of respect it deserves.
Puzzle Quest: The Legend Returns offers a traditional sort of RPG storyline, only every encounter means matching coins, gems, and skulls to succeed. It is set in Etheria, the same setting for the Warlords RPG series that has existed on PCs since 1990. Depending on the class you choose and quests you take, your adventure and experience can change. Plus, even though some quests can be finished in minutes, there are now 240 available here.
While HD support in a game such as this might seem like a relatively minor inclusion, given that it’s an entirely 2D game about matching gems, it is more practical than people might think. This is a game about being able to immediately identify the colored pieces you need and clearly reading the text for attacks and health. It is easy to identify and move through the game. Plus, there is touch screen support so, if someone is playing in handheld mode, you have that option.
But, what makes this version of Puzzle Quest the definitive one is having both expansions included in it. Revenge of the Plague Lord is the expansion that appeared once the game was ported to platforms that, well, supported adding extra content after the fact. It ended up giving people two new Medium difficulty classes, the Ranger and Rogue, and the Bard and Warlock Hard difficulty classes. People also had 25 more quests, a new storyline and area, and new spells and equipment. If people somehow missed the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and Apple iOS versions, they never caught these extra adventures and opportunities. Here, they’re incorporated immediately and feel like, well, they’ve always been there.
For the Nintendo Switch release, Attack of the Golem Lord was created. Like Revenge of the Plague Lord, there’s a new place, a new story, new classes, more quests, and more skills. Etrianus, the Golem Lord, and his golems have brought new horrors to the world. Even better is knowing that this expansion doesn’t just add new activities for people who intend to do everything and are experienced adventurers. Its new options vary in difficulty. The Paladin is another Easy option, just like the Warrior and Wizard. The Monk offers a Medium difficulty level, the Elementalist and Priest are for those who want to take on a Hard challenge, and the Blood Mage is the only Very Hard option in the game. It’s what takes Puzzle Quest: The Legend Returns from a simple HD remaster and port to something more.
Puzzle Quest was the one of the most notable examples of taking match-3 games to another level. It took something that seemed casual and added this depth to it by making people think more about the gems they were matching and decisions they were making. We wouldn’t have games like Gyromancer and Puzzle & Dragons without it. While it is now over a decade old, it has aged relatively well. The simple designs remain effective, the gameplay is still compelling, and this new version is a love letter to a classic title.
Puzzle Quest: The Legend Returns is available on the Nintendo Switch.