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Review & Tips: Marvel Puzzle Quest By Demiurge

Posted by Yogizilla on November 15, 2013

Marvel Puzzle Quest: Dark Reign Preview Version

Marvel Puzzle Quest: Dark Reign is a puzzle fighting game much akin to Puzzle Figher. At first glance, people will think you are playing that horrribad, spammy game on Facebook called Candy Crush.. Or PopCap’s own Columns rip-off, Bejeweled. While this is another three-match puzzle game at heart, it’s differences are what make it truly shine.

First, here is the stuff that should be familiar or expected to most. Puzzle Quest is free to play but they monetize via the usual “pay to win”/”speed up your progression” value proposition. It is a social media enhanced game so sharing with and inviting friends does get you some loot. Paying players have an edge but the game is very balanced.

Now for the good stuff!

Puzzle Quest Virtual Economy And Core Mechanics

The standard format in Puzzle Quest is 3v3 but sometimes you will face one or two buffed-up opponents, like Venom, who can literally eat you whole if you are not careful. Damage is dealt by matching colors with higher values. The value or damage hits depend upon your team. If you assemble bruisers in your squad, color matches do more damage.

Color matches collect the tiles for AP (action/ability points) of the respective color. Typically, you need 6 or more of ay given color to really execute anything worthwhile. You will find that some heroes and villains have reduced AP costs the more you train those powers. For example, Venom’s stun, the Symbote Snare, costs 6 AP or less at higher levels.

To train powers, you can use matching covers or Hero Points. I do not recommend the latter as those points are best used for expanding your team size and cover storage (same thing). Hero Points are also hard to come by and ultimately cost money if you are in a pinch. You can only level up characters once their powers are trained. Each power level and rarity has it’s own level cap. The elusive isotope, ISO-8, is what you will typically use to level up your toons.

Sometimes, players will find themselves stuck. Fortunately, you can replay old missions to earn additional rewards. Some missions offer four distinct rewards but distribution is random. This means you will have to do some grinding.

Now, back to how damage is dealt.. Matching four of a color clears a lane and collects all AP in it. matching five or more earns you an extra move and massive opponent damage. Five-tile matches usually produce a critical tile, which increases damage dealt by 10-20% and serves as a wildcard.

As you can see, there is lots of depth here but there’s much more…

A Taste Of What’s To Come

Puzzle Quest is in an alpha stage they have branded as thw “Preview Version”. It’s also a licensed game from an experienced developer. This means the updates are frequent. More importantly, it’s a safe bet the game will not go anywhere. If they are investing this much now, we can expect much better things in the future.

Marvel Puzzle Quest Campaign Mission Map

Campaign in Puzzle Quest is very satisfying. On it’s own, the game is fantastic. Each mission introduces new characters, plot developments, witty (or corny) dialogue, and game mechanics. It’s a great way to grind for some rewards, develop your toons, and hone your skills.

As I will say often in this review, the free rewards are generous and I hope they stay that way. The Daily Resupply gives you better rewards the more you log on. These are not the cheap Rage of Bahamut style rewards. You can score health packs, ISO-8, Hero Points, and high-rarity covers/characters. Of course, this may just be a scenario of bait-and-switch.

From what I can tell, there are three rarities and around five to eight characters at each level. It’s a very nice stable of heroes and villains. I have found that most standard toons have two abilities, not three. Exceptions include Iron Man Model 35, Astonishing X-Men Wolverine, and Modern Storm, both of which are solid team members.

Marvel Heroes And Villains

I would love to see Psylocke, Rogue, Jean Grey, and Kingpin up in the mix, just to name a few. Can you imagine what they could do! I imagine a Psylocke having damage-penetrating psionic blades that ignore enemy protect tiles. Jean Grey could use her telekinesis to move tiles around or off the board completely. Imagine that!

Demiurge, take notes.

Multiplayer And Special Events

As I write this, the Thor Versus Event is coming to a close and the new Black Widow Versus event is up for the weekend. Puzzle Quest has tons of events going on hourly and weekly, with the main events over the weekend. It’s an awesome gimmick as you keep coming back to amass as much epic loot as possible.. The sexy, sassy Marvel girls are also nice gimmicks.. Just sayin.

Black Widow Okay Tiger Cut Scene

Marvel Puzzle Quest: Marvel Girl Busts In!

The online multiplayer here is much akin to SolForge’s offline friend battle feature and Bad Blood. You play against the last three-character team players fielded and the AI does the rest. This can suck because the AI is much smarter than most human players. I would say this is an asynchronous online PvP game in that aspect.

Events typically have tiers with preset rewards. If you win tons of battles in your first attempt, the rewards are very generous. In the PvP events, you have three attempts to beat each player before he or she is swapped out with a new adversary.

It gets particularly sticky when other players attack you as you lose your rankings and points. This makes fieldins your best teams particularly important. On the other hand, there are counters for every team though I find the color-stealing combo of Storm and Black Widow is particularly annoying, especially when you throw in Iron Man, Thor, Juggernaut, or any heavy hitter as your lead/bruiser.

For those that prefer PvE, there are also events like Heroic Mode, where new missions pop up or you battle old enemies in buffed up forms. Heroic Mode is insane because AI opponents will be at two or three times their level and any toons you deploy below 1000 HP or level 20 will likely be stomped.

In any case, whatever your preference, I would say PQ has something for everyone!

It’s A Strategy Game

If you just mindlessly match colors, chances are you will lose lots, even if yout get good combos. I find that the core strategy in this game is starving opponents and getting the color matches you need to pull off special abilities and insane combos. Careful evaluation of the board and your opponent’s team composition is critical.

These considerations are what make the game so exciting for me. It is not merely a puzzle game. There are layers upon layers of strategy.

Each hero and villain brings new tactics into the mix. Really, there are no bad characters. Every one of them has their use. Even weaker, low-rarity toons provide excellent support and combo opportunities.

For me, this game is a breath of fresh air as Scrolls and SolForge have become rather stale. Here, you see a lot of variety in team compositions and each playthrough is a fresh experience. No two boards are alike so there are lots of variables in play here, making for deep gameplay.

Puzzle Quest Tips, Tricks, and Notes

Now for some tips, tricks, and random notes about Puzzle Quest’s nuances, exploits, and bugs.

Savant cycle in Puzzle Quest? In SolForge, one of the toughest things to deal with is two or more savant creatures out at once. PQ has it’s own version of this with Storm and Black Widow. These two both have abilities that can stun, steal AP, and/or clear the board. People on the other end of this will not be able to build up massive AP pools and sometimes not move at all. Very effective.. And highly annoying.

Another excellent combo for locking opponents is running Spider-Man with Venom and maybe Classic Storm and Black Widow (standard). This combo will set up lots of stuns, preventing big threats from attacking. Venom and Spider-Man both work well together since their abilities key off or produce special web tiles.

Force closing the game is a good way to jump out of a losing game before key characters get knocked out. Sometimes the game will glitch and you will be unable to use abilities. On top of this, damage indicators stay on the screen, making it hard to see anything. Beta is beta.

Puzzle Quest uses local time for most things so resetting your clock is a great way to get more action in without health packs or waiting hours at a time. Keep in mind that the more you do this, the longer you will have to wait for your toons to recuperate once you set the clock back. This trick is less effective for lightning rounds, where you only have a 90 minute window or so to go up the ranks.

Replaying missions is a smart way to strengthen your team. You can score covers and ISO-8 to buff your toons. It can be a bit of a grind but you will be more effective during events.

Marvel Puzzle Quest Covers And Gameplay Screenshots

Starving your opponents can turn a lop-sided battle into a victory. The trick is to employ characters that use the same colors and getting the matches before they do. When multiple plays are available, go for board clear or the highest risk. Be careful not to leave four or five-match plays on the board and take your time with each move until you can knock out the threats. I usually go for the weakest opponent first.

Bruisers really benefit from critical tiles. Bruiser is not an official designation so usually this means any toon that does high damage based off tile distruction like, say, Ragnarok or Juggernaut. Higher level characters increase the damage respective tiles do.

Should you overlap color abilities or balance them? This is a tricky question. If you have a unit get knocked out, it’s good to have other units that can use the stockpiled AP. On the other hand, having multiple units with the same color abilities means that the strongest one will usually be focused. The toon that goes in front is the one that last attacked or got a color match. Try rotating your toons so that the tanks can take the brunt of the damage.

Support characters are always a good choice for any team. The key to making support characters shine is giving them the right frontline. An all support team can win but it will be tedious without some damage dealers like Iron Man, Juggernaut, Wolverine, Thor, etc.

Ragnarok truly is impossible to beat. A over level 50, pretty much all his moves one-hit anyone you field. I have not given this a try yet but I reckon a team of Venom, Black Widow, and Storm could work. Disable him and steal his AP. Ragnarok seems to start off with full AP stacks so be warned!

Take advantage of the members that join your team for events and missions. If these toons get knocked out, they come back refreshed for any replays you do. I like to think of them as free pawns to tank most of the damage received. That said, these team member usually offer crucial counters and higher damage bonuses so don’t let them die for nothing!

My last tip is simple: don’t create teams with lots of high-cost abilities. More aggressive and tankt teams will demolish you. In general, aggressive teams tend to win more but the epic abilities are worth it for the big boys that are hard to take down with tile damage alone.

Final Thoughts On Puzzle Quest

Marvel Puzzle Quest is not just a rehash of an old game format. They have done a lot to boost the stickyness of this freemium game and make it stand out on it’s own. I am impressed by how much replay value and depth there is.. Marvel PQ is addictive!

I hope this game seems a web or Steam port. I would stream the crap out of it. That is how much I love it.

Speaking of which.. Check me and the NoF gang livestreaming at http://twitch.tv/yogizilla – come join us for LoL, Air Mech, SolForge, MTG, and more!

Marvel PQ Official Logo

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