If you’ve ever played the Puzzle Quest games, you will be aware just how ridiculously addictive they can be. Games like Candy Crush capitalized on this and turned the gem-matching genre into a huge money spinner. I still love Puzzle Quest and was deeply fond of its RPG elements that truly placed it on a higher pedestal than other gem-matching abominations (such as the aforementioned!).
Magic: The Gathering is one of our favorite games, so when we learned that these two epic game franchises would be coming together in a (some would say unholy) union — well, we just had to check it out!
Is Magic: The Gathering Puzzle Quest a cheap money spinner, or a clever mix of genres? Read on to find out…
Magic: The Gathering Puzzle Quest is quite the mouthful when it comes to titles. The game has content to match its long title and the gameplay is as addictive as ever, when you compare it to other Puzzle Quest games. The two things that unite all Puzzle Quest games are their addictive gameplay and fantastic fantasy stories. You usually take the lead role as a character who is on a quest to save the world — it’s a clichéd story, but one that feels familiar to RPGs.
The Puzzle Quest element of the game has been given a new lease on life thanks to the help of the Magic: The Gathering franchise. Now you not only get to save the world, but you can do so as a Planeswalker – a being that can move through the various planes of existence and wield powerful magics.
You would expect one of the two games to take a back seat to the other, but in fact they both work so well in tandem with one another that it greatly enhances the overall gameplay. There are five colored gems that stand for the appropriate Magic: The Gathering mana symbol (plus an extra Planeswalker power gem). In order to play the cards contained in your hand, you will need to match a minimum of 3 colors to gain the mana needed to play them. All of the cards have a mana cost that can be met by using any of the mana colors.
Your Planeswalker will give benefits to particular colors that will speed up your mana-gathering from gem matches. For example, playing as Nissa (the starting Planeswalker) and matching Green gems will get you a +1 to your mana-gathering of that color. The bonuses you get increase as your Planeswalker level increases, too.
In addition to benefits awarded for matching colors, your Planeswalker also comes with their own innate abilities that get more powerful as you level up. There are several ways to accumulate the loyalty points needed to trigger these abilities, with the most common being to match the special Planeswalker gems on the board.
Cards are drawn at one per turn, and with a starting hand of two (with additional draws offered from card effects). What’s great about this is that just like in an actual game of Magic, you can arrange the cards in your hand to any order you desire. This is important because when the gems are matched, it will start charging their mana onto the foremost card in hand.
There are plenty of strategies that you can apply during the course of a match thanks to being able to rearrange your hand order. The most common would be to have your Spell or Support cards ready for after you’ve played a Creature card, so you can buff it or trigger some other cool effects.
You may only control 3 Creature cards at any one time and they are played straight from your hand when their mana cost is met (unless you want to “pause” a card, which will stop it from being cast but still maintain its mana amount for whenever you want to turn it back on again). If you end up with another readied Creature in your hand, you don’t have to play it and can save it for later if you think another may die soon. The same choice is given to ready Spells that can target a Creature on the field.
Creatures in play will attack the opponent’s life points directly each turn unless they have a Defender card or your Creatures have the Berserk ability (which causes them to attack enemy Creatures first before the enemy Planeswalker). Reducing the opponent’s life points to zero is your main objective in order to win the match. Playing a second copy of a Creature already in play will simply increase the Power and Toughness of the copy in play. Unlike in Magic, Toughness will not refresh at the end of the turn, so be aware that damage is persistent.
Support cards stay in play and will be played to the board directly, binding itself to a gem. It is given its own “life” that, when depleted through matches, will be destroyed. These add a whole new dimension to the ongoing strategy of the game.
Sadly there is a hidden energy system within Magic: The Gathering Puzzle Quest, but it does have a more natural feel to it. Your life is your energy and if you lose any in a fight, you will take this loss into the next fight if you choose to do so. There is a potion you can drink to restore lost life, but these are limited and take time to recharge.
MODES AND FEATURES
This is where Magic: The Gathering Puzzle Quest shines a little brighter – if the excellent gameplay wasn’t enough for you. There are a few modes available here. Firstly, there is a basic campaign mode that comes equipped with an introductory tutorial. Each round, you will play against famous characters from the Magic: The Gathering universe and after defeating them, you can progress to the next. There are several chapters, with each one containing many missions.
Rewards are given upon completion of the mission, with several sub-goals available for extra rewards. I found that the game is quite generous in handing out both of its currencies that are used to purchase booster packs and level-up the Planeswalkers.
Runes are the basic currency that cannot be purchased for real money, and these are usually earned by defeating missions or online opponents. The second currency is the premium Mana Shards that are used for purchasing booster packs and unlocking new Planeswalkers.
The Vault contains booster packs that you can purchase to add cards to your collection. The more packs you purchase at once, the higher chance you will have of obtaining Rare or Mythic cards. You can also unlock more Planeswalkers by spending Mana Shards, and they’re actually very cheap to unlock!
Online gameplay is accessed via the Quick Match option. The gameplay is exactly the same as if you were playing against the A.I. in the campaign. The only difference is that you will be up against a real player’s deck, but the real downside here is that it will be entirely controlled by A.I. It seems real PvP (player versus player) matches are yet to be implemented into the game. This is the one thing I really want to see in this game, because without it, it feels a bit like you’re playing by yourself inside of a sandbox.
DECKBUILDING AND STRATEGY
As your collection of cards in Magic: The Gathering Puzzle Quest grows, you will want to edit your deck to make it more powerful. The quickest way is to allow the game to suggest the best cards to be placed in your deck. It will show you what it is taking out and what it is putting in. This method will ensure you have your rarest and most powerful cards in the deck. It does not however, take into account any strategies and combos that could arise from other cards. If having a synergistic deck is your thing, then you’ll want to edit the deck yourself and ignore the suggestions the game makes.
You really do need to make the most of matching the right gems for your Planeswalker as much as you possibly can, while denying your opponent theirs. When you make a match, you will want the remaining gems to fall in a way that will create more matches and thus resulting in a chain. This builds your mana much faster than matching only three gems per turn, and as such will give you a significant advantage.
Another great way to use the board to your advantage is to match four or more gems in a single hit. This will eliminate an entire row or column of gems that should, in most instances, result in a chain of more matching. You will also earn the mana from all of the gems removed in this way.
Creating the right deck is the real key to victory though. Filling your deck with too many high-mana cost cards will mean you will hardly have a Creature on the board in order to hit your opponent. Use cards that can manipulate the colors on the board as well as those that increase your mana without having to match gems. Cards that buff attack and defense are a lot more useful here than the original card game, so don’t ignore them. Also, generate as much card advantage for yourself as possible and control the board rather than ignoring their Creatures.
I’ll leave it to you to find your most optimal strategies, as there are so many to find. This may look like a simple game, but trust me when I say it has one of the deepest strategies available in a gem-matching game thanks to the Magic: The Gathering influence!
You should have already ascertained that at this point I am very fond of this game! Magic: The Gathering Puzzle Quest has managed to maintain the addictive gameplay of Puzzle Quest whilst also injecting the deep and rewarding strategic gameplay of Magic: The Gathering.
The graphics are amazing, if a little simplistic — but the card artwork is, as always, spectacular. The interface is clean and easy to use, but there are some minor delays when switching between menus that can hold up the speed of the game a little.
I also noticed that the game suffers a significant slowdown on the iPad when compared to an Android device. I would have assumed the optimization would have had a preference for Apple, but in this instance it appears to favor Android. These minor issues do let the game down slightly and that is a shame. However, bugs seem to be commonplace for games that carry the Magic: The Gathering logo. Let’s hope they fix these issues soon.
The game is by no means unplayable however, as the bugs are very minor. If you can deal with slightly longer than usual load times, then this game is a blast. If you’re nostalgic for the Puzzle Quest games, or are new to gem-matching games and love Magic, then this should fit the bill.
There is no loss of addictive gameplay from the original Puzzle Quest franchise by pairing it with Magic: The Gathering, and in fact the addition of the cards and Creatures adds a whole new strategic dynamic to the game that makes it, hands down, the best Puzzle Quest game to date. You will be hooked within minutes, and the real quest will be to try and put it down!
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