Puzzle Quest: The Legend Returns Review – Nintendo Switch
October 10, 2019
Developed By: Infinite Interactive
Published By: D3GO
Reviewed By: Tyler Higgs
Thank you so much to D3GO for providing a review code
The widely acclaimed Puzzle Quest series has finally made its way to Nintendo Switch as an exclusive remaster of the original title. This brand new package brings some of the game’s DLC packages along with some nice new visuals. Puzzle Quest has aged quite a bit and it made me wonder how the game would still hold up today. Now it’s time to check it out and see if Puzzle Quest is still the classic we all know and love.
Puzzle Quest stays true to the RPG plotline for better and for worse. The game takes place across a world that’s come straight out of a classic fantasy book. You work as an agent of the queen of a city called Bartonia and it’s through her that you will receive missions that let you explore the land. As an agent of the queen, you’ll take part in battles, diplomatic addresses and keeping your land safe from the rise of evil. It’s not a very unique story, but it’s pretty fitting considering this is an RPG.
Puzzle Quest is a combination of a Match 3 puzzle game and a turn-based RPG. Match 3 puzzle style games are not always the most intricate, but Puzzle Quest is different. There are many aspects to the combat system that will take some time to learn.
Upon starting Puzzle Quest you’ll be asked to choose a class. Classes are marked each with their own usability difficulty and also come with their own unique abilities. The class you choose helps determine what your playstyle will be like. There’s a large variety of classes that come from the original game and its expansion. You can choose from classes like a warrior, paladin, bard, or even a blood mage.
When you enter combat you and your enemy will match pieces on the same board. To attack you must match 3 or more skulls, causing you to launch a basic attack. Along with basic attacks are spells that you can use to do damage or give yourself buffs. As you proceed through the game your character will unlock spells to use. Your equipped spells are located in the bottom left, below your character portrait. Each one has colored gems associated with it and corresponding numbers to go along with these gems. Before you can cast a spell you’ll have to match enough of these colored pieces on the board. These colored pieces act as mana and each one’s associated with an element. Red is for fire, blue is for water, green is for the earth and finally yellow is for air.
Through the use of spells and attacks you and your opponent will whittle away at each other’s health, but what else can you do? There are also EXP symbols and gold symbols that you can match together to gain extra of each after a battle. I’ll explain a bit later what the purpose is for both of those. You have to be crafty in your strategy, because if you’re not careful you may make a move that leaves the enemy with perfect matches. The AI is punishing and even on normal difficulty I still fought some pretty tough battles. An important note to remember is if you match 4 or more pieces together you’ll gain an extra turn. There’s also a wildcard that you can match with two or more of any color to gain extra mana. So that’s all about Puzzle Quests’ combat, but what else makes this game unique?
Puzzle Quest offers an expansive overworld where you can move your character across different points on a map. Each point marks a location or a city you can visit. You can travel all around the map to different to take on quests, learn about rumors, or even do a bit of shopping.
Quests come in two forms those that progress the main story and side quests. Often main story quests will start in the game’s main city, while sidequests can start anywhere. Quests usually require you to investigate a location fight an enemy or enemies and then return to the person who gave you the quest. Completing quest net you gold, EXP and sometimes items. Quest often come with bits of dialogue as well as choices that can affect you for the entire game.
Once you earn enough EXP you’ll level up and gain 4 skill points. Skill points can be allocated to each of your attributes to increase your bonuses. Every one of the 4 mana elements can be leveled up to increase how much you receive when you match a row of them. There are also 3 other attributes Morale, Cunning, and Battle. Morale increases your health, Cunning increases experience and gold that is earned form defeating enemies and Battle increases the damage done from matching skulls.
Your character also has 3 equipment slots that let you equip one weapon, one piece of armor and one accessory. I was blown away by how different each item is and the huge amount of variety among them. Equipment can give simple increases to an attribute or give actual passive abilities like doing extra damage in combat based on how many red mana pieces are on the board.
Puzzle Quest adds in a few city building elements as well just in case the game wasn’t already diverse enough. With your gold, you can choose from a few different building upgrades to buy for your citadel in the capital city. There’s quite a few each with their own function so I’ll list them below.
Jail: Let’s you capture enemies you’ve encountered more than three times. To capture them you play a matching minigame and try to match the correct pieces so you clear off the whole board. Some enemies will are captured to learn spells from while others can be used as mounts and give you stat buffs.
Mage Tower: Captured enemies come here so that you can learn spells from them. Once again you play a minigame, but this one task you with making as many matches as possible. You have to try to get the right number of color matches before you run out of options.
Temple: Allows you to spend gold to upgrade your attributes.
Statues: Provides you a bonus to your morale.
Forge: Once built you can go to spots all over the map and challenge Runekeepers. Defeating a Runekeeper gives you, you guessed it a rune. If you gather 3 different types of runes you can forge them together into equipment.
There’s also a building you can purchase called a Siege Workshop. Purchasing the workshop will give you the ability to siege and capture cities. Starting a siege against a city will bring you into combat against the city which has much more health than the average enemy. Should you come out victorious the city will be yours and will generate gold for you.
Puzzle Quest: The Legend Returns really offers the complete package. The original game’s extra content is all included here which means you have tons of classes, quests, and battles to take on. If you want to experience the game like the original entry on DS then you’ll be happy to know touch controls have been implemented. While the gameplay is fantastic there were a few things that held it back from being absolutely stellar.
The pacing of the combat for a fair portion of the game is quite slow. You really have to grind yourself to get stronger before battles start to take less time. You’re not going to be spending 20 minutes in every battle or anything, but they don’t go by fast. This is an issue as random encounters appear on the map and you must fight them to move past them. When battles take upwards of 3-5 minutes to complete this can get very tedious.
Another aspect of the game that doesn’t compliment the lengthy battles are the RNG mechanics. Match 3 games are constantly relying on RNG to make every level or every attempt feel different. However, this takes away a certain level of tactic that comes with most RPG’s. Don’t get me wrong there’s still a heavy degree of skill that comes along planning your moves and working with what you got, but sometimes you got nothing. So if the RNG gods were not in your favors this time around, you may have to restart the entire battle.
Puzzle Quest: The Legend Returns boasts a beautiful visual design that’s been much improved over the game’s previously dated visuals. The map looks great along with the environments you set foot in. The character models look sharp and are very fitting with the game’s fantasy setting. One area I did feel the presentation was lacking in was with the enemy designs. I felt the designs and enemy types were very simplistic and traditional. I’ve seen giant spiders, orcs, and goblins all before and I would have enjoyed more unique design ideas. The sound design was good and suit the fantasy style setting.
For the most part, my time with Puzzle Quest was smooth, though there was one reoccurring issue. During combat sometimes after making a match the game would freeze for a few seconds and then continues. This wasn’t a glaring technical issue, but it did happen quite frequently.
Puzzle Quest: The Legend Returns is the RPG that I didn’t know how badly I needed it on Nintendo Switch until now. The match 3 gameplay mixed with RPG elements is superbly done and with the diversity among classes and skills, you really get to customize your character how you want to. Visually, the game looks fantastic and while some of the enemy designs do feel plain that doesn’t stop the rest of the game from looking gorgeous. The RNG elements along with the lengthy battles do hold Puzzle Quest back from being the perfect RPG, but nevertheless, this is definitely worth picking up for any RPG fans collection. There are hours upon hours of content here and I know I’ll be coming back to Puzzle Quest for quite some time.