Yeah, I play PUZZLE QUEST: CHALLENGE OF THE WARLORDS. Don't @ me.
At first glance, Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords doesn’t seem like a game that would encourage cooperative gameplay. For those who aren’t familiar with the game, Puzzle Quest takes the gameplay mechanics of Bejeweled and combines it with a fantasy setting and a Magic: The Gathering-lite spell system. The ensuing result is addictive, and in the fall of 2007, my college friends and I were obsessed with this game. We were so obsessed that we developed our own playstyle and created a gameplay experience that was wholly our own.
I had never played Bejeweled or any similar game, so Puzzle Quest introduced me to an entirely new genre of games. There was a simplicity to the gameplay that had me hooked from the moment I started. At its core, the game is about matching symbols. Some symbols give you mana, others give you experience or gold, and still others deal damage to your opponent. It didn’t take long for me to realize that you always have to think a few turns ahead. While the core gameplay loop was fun and challenging, it was the rest of the game that had me coming back for more.
Puzzle Quest features a fairly generic fantasy setting and story that’s enhanced by charming companion characters, a complex progression system, and music that oddly reminds me of the X-Men movie series. Like any great fantasy story, Puzzle Quest is all about the journey, specifically the journey to defeat the evil Lord Bane. Along the way, you battle myriad enemies that grow increasingly difficult, tame wild mounts to increase your mobility, research spells to help you in battle, and capture cities to earn resources and upgrades. Put simply, there’s a depth to the mechanics that’s not present in similar games like Candy Crush or Bejeweled.
Once introduced, Puzzle Quest spread like a virus among my close friends. We spent countless hours huddled around my computer screen to watch each other play. At first, we would take turns playing with the game, rotating after every battle. Over time, we realized the benefit of having someone to keep an eye on things like mana reserves which were necessary for using spells. Eventually, we added roles for strategy management and symbol-matching or combo management. What started as a single-player game had now became a four-player game. While the idea might seem chaotic in theory, in practice we were ruthlessly efficient.
Battles that once took half an hour would now take a few minutes. Cities that once seemed impossible to capture fell before our might. For more difficult battles, we would develop strategies beforehand, carefully selecting which spells we would use. Aside from battles, we sometimes would split duties for the more tedious parts of character upgrades. For instance, one person might handle spell development, another mount training, and yet another might handle the forging of items. Besides the obvious thrill of playing as a team, focusing on one particular aspect of the game at a time allowed us to master the game more quickly. We even created our own shorthand for certain spells, commands, or concepts. Some might call that obsession, but I call it immersion.
While my friends and I never defeated Lord Bane, we did engage in some spectacular battles that required communication, strategy, and nerves of steel. Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords created some of my favorite multiplayer experiences despite the fact it was designed for a single player. Of course, I’m not suggesting that just any single-player game can be transformed into a fun multiplayer experience. I’m simply stating that with the right friends and the right game, anything is possible.
Hailing from Baltimore, Maryland, Allen Brasch is an aspiring writer who loves good science fiction, fantasy, and horror. When Allen's not writing or gaming, he's talking about all things geeky on his podcast, Devil May Play.