'Puzzle Quest 2' Hands-on Preview - Back To Basics

Puzzle Quest 2

The last "Puzzle Quest" installment, "Galactrix," was a bit of a let down. Instead of sticking to the roots of the franchise, the developers tried to layer on too much complexity to the basic gameplay, resulting in an intensely difficult, often frustrating experience. The complaints were heard, though, and "Puzzle Quest 2" is definitely a return to form.

Fantasy With Focus

"Puzzle Quest 2" ditches the sci-fi theme, returning to fantasy-based tropes like orcs, elves and magic. You'll be able to pick from four unique character classes, ranging from a barbarian to a sorcerer, as they attempt to save the world from another undescribable evil.

The developers have shifted the focus of the game, though. Instead of a world map where you march your character's icon around like a piece on a game board, you'll actually be zoomed in much closer. All of the game's action takes place in and around a castle, and you'll be moving your character through rooms, dungeons and towns. The point of view is very reminiscent to "Diablo," and it gives the journey a much more personal, understandable feel than the top-level, abstract view of the first game.

Gameplay Changes

There have also been a few tweaks to the gameplay, most notably the removal of gold and experience gems from the game board. In their place are action gems, which look like metal gauntlets. Matching three action gems will earn you action points, which let you use equipment.

So, for example, you may have a broadsword equipped which requires 10 action points to perform a swipe. Once you earn those points you can deal the damage at any time. It works for shields, as well. The idea was to make equipment in the game a more meaningful experience by letting you control it directly (instead of it just providing passive boosts).

Other than those tweaks, this is "Puzzle Quest," just as you remember it. The developers are definitely trying to make a more approachable game, being very careful about how many complex systems they're implementing. That said, you can still expect a 30 to 40 hour adventure, depending on your willingness to explore and complete side quests.

Currently "Puzzle Quest 2" is planned for a spring release on 360 and Nintendo DS, but more platforms are likely after those two are out the door.