I don’t recall exactly how I came to find Puzzle & Dragons. I know it wasn’t on any web site or even through Twitter. I think it was just in the App Store and I saw the words “puzzle” and “dragon” and that’s all it took. I guess I’m sucker like that.
My hunch was that Puzzle & Dragons (P&D) was going to be a Puzzle Quest clone, and it sort of is, but there’s a lot more depth to P&D than Puzzle Quest…and depth in a good way.
Puzzle Quest was one of my favorite games a few years ago, so much so that I had it on damn well near every platform I owned. It’s mix of RPG and classic puzzle matching felt fresh while not requiring to learn something entirely new. Puzzle & Dragons takes that type of formula and extends it into a “collect em all” mentality. Yes, P&D has you matching colored gems and tracking character stats but there’s a lot more there if you want it.
Puzzle & Dragons
When I first played P&D I thought I understood it. Match 3 colored gems and repeat, but P&D lets you move any gem anywhere. That’s right, no rules or limits. You don’t even have to match gems during a move. In fact, it’s probably better if you don’t because then you cause place gems in locations that let combo moves rain from the heavens, shattering your opponent in one move. I haven’t quite mastered the plan-ahead strategy in P&D but hopefully one day I’ll care enough to get there.
Like other matching games, the gems are colored and in P&D relate to elements…earth, water, fire, etc. And as you would expect, certain colors are better and fighting other colors…water beats fire, fire beats earth…nothing too new there. You can match hearts to heal and the more gems you match in a turn the more damage you do. Again, all pretty standard, but that’s just the gameplay. The real hook in Puzzle & Dragons is the dragons part.
More than just dragons
Okay, so saying “dragons” is really incorrect as the game revolves around “monsters” and characters in general. Yeah, there are dragons but there are more slimes, orcs, fluffy bird things and knights than there are dragons. Whatever.
As you play through puzzles you collect magic eggs and coins. The eggs will hatch and add new monsters to your collection. Coins let you upgrade your monsters. Monsters come in colors that match the elements and the classes have their own strengths and weaknesses. Again, nothing too earth-shattering here but P&D combines all these aspects well.
As you collect monsters you can assemble teams of five. You select which monsters you want together so you can have a balanced team with every color or a team of all red monsters, particularly helpful when you’re fighting in dungeons that favor a single element. As I mentioned, you can upgrade your monsters and you do so by “fusing” them together. Your collection is limited so at some point you’ll have no choice but to combine monsters. Combining monsters upgrades their stats and if you get lucky, you might get some bonus numbers and skills as well. It’s probably best to not get too attached to many of your monsters, all of them will probably get melded into a single ass beater before you’re done.
Progression in Puzzle & Dragons is pretty quick but you’ll hit a wall after the first several dungeons. The game is free but relies on your in-app purchases to make money so it’s only natural that there will be a point where you’ll feel the need to buy…but resist! Currently, my monsters aren’t very beefy but thankfully P&D lets you add other players to your team for a single dungeon crawl. You’ll pick five of your monsters and then get to select some other player for a sixth spot. I have to admit that this sixth player has often made it possible for me to complete a dungeon. Combined my monsters may have 1000 attack points but if you get a good draw that sixth player might have 1000 attack points itself.
An unpolished import
If there’s any place where Puzzle & Dragons suffers its in production. The visual quality and design of the game is pretty poor. It feels very unpolished and doesn’t communicate very well either. The tutorial is good to have but after that the help screens are virtually useless. It looks and feels like a game that has been poorly translated from some Japanese game…and it is. Thankfully I’ve discovered a few web sites that shed some light on the game, it’s strategy and possibilities.
I’m a gamer that doesn’t mind a crapper exterior if the meat is worth it and right now Puzzle & Dragons meets that criteria. It’s the sort of game that lets you be as serious as you want. Play casually (like me) or go hardcore and become a master monster wrangler. I’m a slow player when it comes to these types of games but I still feel like I’m in the “figuring it out” stages despite playing for a week or so. I really feel like there’s a few things that haven’t clicked yet and once they do I’ll become a better player. I think there’s some hidden secrets to P&D and maybe once I get there I’ll stop but for now I’m happy collecting my monsters and magic eggs.