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Genre: Puzzle & Trivia
Min OS X: 10.5.8    CPU: Intel    RAM: 999 MB    Hard Disk: 150 MB

Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords
April 8, 2008 | Charlie Fletcher

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Skull Blast
Picture this in your mindís eye: you are a young wizard on a battlefield. You wear armor so shiny that half of any damage directed at you is reflected back on your enemy. You have memorized a powerful set of spells that will rain down the most severe punishment on your enemies. As you sit astride your giant rat, you face off for a battle with a towering, flaming goblin.

But, as you prepare to strike the first blow with your powerful staff, a game board appears between you and the goblin, and the two of you sit down for a trial by puzzle.

Thatís the scenario for Infinite Interactiveís Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords. Itís a role-playing game (RPG) that combines the classic elements of wizards and sorcery with the puzzle solving aspects of games like Alchemy or Bejeweled.

Puzzle Quest has actually been around for about a year, having been released for consoles and Windows XP during the course of 2007. The Macintosh version of the game launched in March, using the Cider engine, which means that it only runs on an Intel-based Mac.

The game actually has its roots in another RPG series, Warlord, which has been around since the late 1980s and has seen many updates over the years. Nevertheless, Puzzle Quest is an interesting departure from the typical RPG or real-time strategy game because it uses puzzles for battles instead of swords or other weapons. The real battle takes place in your mind. In a way, this takes the gameplay back to its original roots, the tabletop RPG, and away from the more traditional fare of recent years, the ever more realistic video battle simulation.

The story is set in the Warlords universe, so as the game begins, you will find yourself in the fantasy world of Etheria. You assume the role of one of various sorts of characters, a druid, knight, warrior, or wizard, in either a female, or male gender. Each type of character has different strengths and weaknesses, and you can use your experiences and rewards collected during the game to augment your character to make him or her stronger.

However, donít expect the game to get progressively easier as you collect more skills. Instead, as you move through the story, the enemies you meet are progressively more difficult to defeat.

As with any RPG, you have a lot of freedom to choose what you are going to do. The gameplay is not exactly wide open to an infinite number of choices. However, there are many options. It is anything but linear.

For example, in an early part of my quest, as the young wizard, Ibrahim, I encountered a warrior who decided to join my party. Together we defeated a leader of the undead, and my warrior friend made me promise to take the prisoner to a certain town where he would be put into prison and interrogated. However, just as we reached the edge of town, the prisoner spoke up and proposed a bargain. If I would release him and bring him back to his home, he would give me a generous reward.

Which choice do I make? Should I release the prisoner and take the reward, or should I stick with my original promise? I was completely free to choose. Even the venerable Deus Ex, with all of its RPG elements, did not allow endless choices.


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