While the developers behind the upcoming Puzzle Quest: Galactrix are quick to tell you that the new PQ game is a brand-new experience, there are a few things, we're delighted to report, that have barely changed at all. Like its predecessor, Challenge of the Warlords, Galactrix will have a sprawling story taking place across a huge universe, an in-depth RPG plot, and loads of depth. Best of all, the gem-busting puzzle game that is at the heart of Galactrix is just as monumentally addictive as it is in the original.
All of that said, Galactrix is still very much its own take on the PQ formula, and it has enough tweaks from Warlords to feel fresh. Of primary note is the sci-fi setting. While Challenge of the Warlords took place in a high-fantasy setting, this time around you'll be zipping around in spaceships in a galactic setting full of adventure and intrigue. It's that puzzle space that is perhaps the most important change in Galactrix; while the original game featured a rectangular puzzle space, the new game will feature a hexagonal space that looks to considerably change gameplay and strategy. Perhaps the most important aspect of the new puzzle space shape? The fact that new pieces will come in from all sides of the puzzle space, a considerable change from the top-down approach in Challenge of the Warlords.
Here's how it works: While the goal is still to match up like-colored gems, the direction in which you move a puzzle piece will determine the direction from which new gems appear. For instance, move a piece left and downward and new gems will appear from upper right-hand corner. This is true for most of the "open space" battles in the game; should you play a battle in orbit, however, the planet's gravitational field will cause the pieces to fall in the more traditional top-to-bottom manner.
In the original game, you controlled a character whose abilities you customized as you leveled him or her up. This time around, your character has been replaced by a spaceship (you can own up to three ships, in fact), complete with a full crew and ship upgrades that look to replace the spells and abilities you used in the previous game. Colored gems are tied to the various aspects of your ship--red are used for weapons upgrades, green will give you various buffs, yellow gems will affect the board itself, and blue will upgrade your ship's shield. If you want to sink all your available upgrade points into shields, playing the game turtle-style and looking to do all your damage on the puzzle board (and not with ship abilities), that will be a perfectly valid, if seemingly time-consuming, strategy. With three slots for ships in your inventory, you'll be able to customize your trio of ships (from a total of 30 available in the game) with specific build-outs that can be used in certain situations.
The space-faring plot in Galactrix looks to be just as involved as the previous game in the series; in our time with the game, we were searching a specific star system investigating an abandoned ship. As we played through the scenario, we met with various NPCs, including crew members who offered advice on our next course of action. Galactrix is a big game--there are dozens of systems to explore--and, while exploration is encouraged, you won't have to necessarily explore the farthest reaches of the galaxy in order to get from the beginning of the story to its end. That said, while the game does feel a bit more open-ended in terms of exploration this time around, some linearity is still imposed on the player in the form of jumpgates. These special portals are essentially your gateway to other parts of the Galactrix universe, and in order to access them, you'll need to solve a puzzle board challenge.
These minigames are nothing new for Puzzle Quest fans and they'll pop up in a number of situations in Galactrix. In addition to "hacking the jumpgate" (as it's known), you'll be playing minigames for things like crafting new items for your ship, collecting plans for such items, and mining asteroids for the raw materials needed to fashion new equipment. All of these are subtle variations on the standard combat puzzle system with varying levels of difficulty--in the mining minigame, for example, you simply have to line up ore gems in order to collect them for your ship. You can't fail here, but the timed mission gives you time to collect only so much ore, after which you have to move on to your next activity.
In the relatively wide-open universe of Galactrix, those activities run the gamut; moving from one plot point to the next, exploring the galaxy, or simply attacking random ships in whatever system you happen to be currently rolling through. Add to the mix a faction system that will let you earn (or lose) reputation among the various players in the Galactrix universe and you've got a game that is as deep as the PQ hardcore seem to be clamoring for. While attacking ships of a certain faction will be a surefire way of earning its enmity, you can always regain your standing--and earn some extra cash--by collecting and selling rare items in that system.
The numbers don't lie: With 130 items to collect or build, approximately 80 systems to travel between, and around 30 ships to choose from, Puzzle Quest: Galactrix is a big, ambitious take on the PQ formula. Best of all, the changes to the puzzle gameplay at the heart of the game seem like a logical extension of the diabolically addictive original. We can't wait to sink a good chunk of our free time into the game once it's released, and we'll be keeping you informed of its progress until then.