Nov 27, 2013

[Games] Marvel Puzzle Quest Dark Reign (Android)

Match three games have been around for ages and at their most basic they're a classic time suck. It's a simple concept that pretty much everyone can pick up on the fly and makes for great casual gaming. The fundamental concept still works and is behind the success of mobile games like Candy Crush.

In 2007, the world was introduced to Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords. It was essentially another match three game, but this time married with fantasy RPG combat, in a manner of speaking. Thus you didn't just match tiles for the heck of it - each colored tile would now be used to trigger certain special abilities based on your selected Warlord. Thus the goal was not to reach a certain point level - the goal was to kill your opponent with the right sequence of matches that would make maximum use of your Warlord's powers.

Now D3 Publisher has come up with a new spin on the Puzzle Quest concept - this time working with the folks at Marvel for a retooling of their original game. And despite this being tagged as a "preview edition" based on the title screen, it's already proving to be quite an addicting way to kill time.

Marvel Puzzle Quest Dark Reign follows the spirit of the original Puzzle Quest but puts you in charge of various Marvel heroes and villains during the events of the Dark Reign story arc. It's available for iOS and Android and is currently free to play.

The game allows you to take three Marvel characters - primarily Avengers or Dark Avengers based on the characters that have come up so far. Each character is represented by a comic book cover with a listed power - collect more covers and you either add more powers to your existing characters or you have the potential to recruit even more heroes to your bench. Only three characters are active at any one time.

You will go through the story using your selected heroes and engage in a series of match three battles against different opponents. Each will have their own unique abilities that are powered by the tiles that they match and it becomes a question of skill and strategy to see who will win out. Your heroes have the potential to gain up to three abilities per character and each can be upgraded when you find the right covers.

Apart from collecting the right colors to trigger your various abilities, each colored token is marked with a symbol that corresponds with one of your characters. Thus the last match that you make in a round will also determine which hero is left to defend your team when it's the enemy's turn to attack. Thus it becomes a challenge of figuring out if you want to prioritize the tiles for a certain hero or make sure that you have one of your beefier guys prepared to take more damage.

Each hero has a limited number of life points - this increases as you increase their overall level, but you can only level up a hero after increasing their powers. Thus heroes can be downed during a match and become unavailable for a period of time. All hero damage heals over time or you can rush this process by using healing tokens that can either be found in-game or purchased outright. But it doesn't take all that much time for them to heal, so don't waste your money.

The game's primary currency is ISO-8, which you can use to buy random covers or increase the levels of your existing heroes. But if you don't have the patience to wait for the limited resources the game gives you, the in-app currency of Hero Points allows you to purchase better character covers (higher rarity ratings) or even additional roster slots so you can have more heroes on your bench.

Given the number of heroes (including variants of each character) and the wide diversity of powers available, there's a lot of variety and thus a lot of potential for strategy. You can't just keep making matches without a plan, otherwise you'll never get past the first chapter of the game. You're free to repeat each stage as much as you want in the hopes of getting additional rewards (each map location indicates how many rewards you've found in the stage) or maybe just more ISO-8 (even if only 20 units at a time). It helps you gather more resources to further level-up your characters.

As a preview edition, Marvel Puzzle Quest Dark Reign is a pretty decent game and a nice evolution of the classic Puzzle Quest franchise. Sure, there are times when the game seems unfair in terms of the tiles if gives you (stop forcing me to leave Black Widow as my defender all the time!) or the bosses seem way to powerful for their own good, but it's still a solid game concept and quite a bit of fun. At this stage, the game already rates a respectable 4 weird dialog trees for characters out of a possible 5.

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