The Basics: Ever wonder what would happen if you fused a turn-based RPG with Bejeweled? Well, Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords will give you a chance to find out.
What we think: Puzzle Quest turns the gameplay of Bejeweled, where players have to swap pieces on a grid to make rows or columns of at least three of the same color, into a turn-based RPG. There are several different kinds of tiles on the grid, each one affecting success in a different way. Gold coin and purple star tiles give cash and exp. bonuses, respectively. They're always nice to have, if nothing more important is available, like skull tiles. Clearing a line of skulls is the most common way of attacking an enemy, although by no means the only method available. Some skulls also have a +5 mark on them, meaning that they'll cause extra enemy damage, and also explode to destroy all surrounding tiles. Whether it's blown up by skulls, removed in the usual three-in-a-row fashion, or destroyed in any number of magical ways, if a tile disappears from the board during your turn, you get its full effect.
The most common kind of tile available, though, is mana, and it comes in four different colors. Each gem starts out worth one point, but as the character levels up and applies skill points to mastering the various kinds of mana, they can not only be worth more but also gain an increased chance of granting an extra turn when collected. Extra turns are automatically granted when getting four of anything in a row, and getting a rare five gems at once also puts a wild card mana on the board that not only works for every color but also grants an extra bonus for the move.
Mana is important because it fuels the spells and abilities of your chosen character. The main character can be one of four different classes, with the usual array of different skills available for druid, wizard, warrior, or knight. Wizards and warriors are direct characters, whose skills generally deal with straightforward damage dealing, while druids and knights offer more strategic abilities. The druid has a spell called Evaporate that changes all blue mana on the board to yellow, for example, which can set up some truly stunning combos with the right timing.
There's a lot more to the game beyond the basic Bejeweled gameplay, of course. There's an epic story about a kingdom that was practically begging for an invasion from the forces of evil by being at peace for a few hundred years, and some tricky choices to make that don't appear to have a “right” answer. Fight a monster three times and you can play a mini-game to capture it, sending it to the jail you can buy for your fortress. Each monster has special skills that can be learned through a different mini-game once another building is completed, and construction costs aren't cheap. Bejeweled + RPG seems like a weird formula, but Puzzle Quest looks to be turning this oddball idea into a deep, engaging gaming experience.