Extremely addicting puzzle adventure set in a fantasy world with swords and sorcery.

User Rating: 9 | Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords DS
You are a young hero living in the world of Etheria. Your father tells you about cultist activity in the vicinity, and you are set to investigate this. Your investigations quickly lead to what the kingdom feared the most; undead creatures have become a common sight, and they relentlessly attack people of the land. These monsters are linked to the cultists – could it be that Lord Bane has new sinister plans in the making?
You must gather friends and allies to take a stand against this growing threat of the land. Many challenges and dangers await – the world outside the castle walls is filled with monsters and dark magic!

Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords is a puzzle game that mixes a fantasy story with a rock solid puzzle game. To take two commonly seen elements and bake it into one product proves to be quite effective and fresh – giving this game the addicting qualities of a fun puzzle game and the deep storyline and character development of a fantasy roleplaying game.

This game starts just like any other typical fantasy roleplaying game. You get to create a character, choose class (there are four classes available; warrior, knight, druid and wizard) and then you enter the world of Etheria. If you have played some of the Warlords titles earlier you might recognize some names and places. It's quite fascinating to see a new type of game take place in a well known world like Etheria.

You will all the time be presented with dialogs that lead you further into the story of the game, like many other RPGs out there. However all battles in this game is resolved using this puzzle battle type of game where you take turns with your opponent to try to match different colored balls, skulls, money and stars with each other. Your aim is to get at least three of the same color or type in a row, either vertically or horizontally.
When you match balls you gain mana of that color, when you match skulls you deal damage to your opponent, when you match money you gain money and when you match stars you gain experience points.

You play this game entirely using the stylus, clicking your way easily through the options in towns, and even more easily drag the balls and items you want to move when it's your turn. Thanks to this, I think this game plays the best on the DS.

The game is very unpredictable because random objects enter the field from the top to fill up gaps when you match something together. Also your heroes skills affects the amount of mana you gain, the amount of damage you deal etc. When you gain enough experience points you will level up, and gain access to skills. These skills can be used by spending mana. There is a host of different skills you can learn – healing, damage dealing, entangling (forcing your opponent to skip a turn) and so on. Some skills affect the play field, and can for example clear an entire row, giving you all the mana, stars and money in that row. These skills can be very useful and can turn the tide of a battle.

Most opponents you will be battling will have their own set of skills and special abilities. Most of these you will learn about the hard way – like the thief stealing your money or the spiders poisoning you, making you lose hitpoints every turn. You will need to use the money you earn to buy weapons and armor to help your odds in these battles.

Other than your standard moves and skills you will get extra bonuses if you manage to line up four or more items of the same type. Your opponents surely won't let these opportunities pass by!
The AI in this game is very calculative – making you feel that it cheats, as it seems to have foreknowledge of what items will appear next, sometimes making impossible chains of matches that quickly could eat away your hitpoints and chances to win!

Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords clearly has an emphasis revolving around these puzzle battles, and it is rightly so. It's fun to play, easy to learn and very addicting. They have also done a good job at making the player feel quite okay even if he/she happens to lose a battle. You are still entitled to earn some experience and the money gained in the game, so no matter what your win/lose ratio is, you will still be making progress.

If you don't fancy playing the story mode, there is a game mode called "instant action", where you can select an opponent matching or being close to your level and battle against it. This is preferred if you don't have the time for epic stories and just want a quick match. The extra nice touch here is that your character improves through this, as you get to keep all the money and experience you earn. The same goes for the multiplayer mode!

You can save two different characters on one DS card. And to play multiplayer you both need a copy of the game, and it only supports local games. Apart from these limitations the multiplayer mode is extremely addicting and really makes time fly.

When you progress in your quest, you will earn enough money to start upgrading your citadel. This means that you gain access to even more abilities, like crafting unique items in the forge, learn spells from captured enemies, train mounts etc. As the campaign is huge you really will be busy for a long time with this game. We're talking hundreds of gameplay hours!
You could argue that the game is quite repetitive – but it always will be dynamic because of the constant changes that are going on – like your skills, the enemies skills, items and so on. There's also the chance that companions will offer to join you, which also adds a level of depth and replay value to an already massive puzzle game!

The graphics are very clear and lush – depicting the world of Etheria more glorious than ever before. There aren't any excessive animations, so in that aspect the game sure isn't flashy. Another negative point I should point out is that there are some minor frame rate drops some times. This generally occurs when there are lots of balls and numbers fading in and out at the same time. This doesn't affect the gameplay in anyway, but it doesn't look pretty all the time.
Also worth noting is that the graphics aren't as flashy on the DS as they are on the Wii, PS2, or PC version.

The musical score in this game is very appropriate – it's bombastic and epic, and absolutely helps in giving this game it's unique feel. I really enjoy the music, and the sound effects are quite good too.

Simply put: this is a massive game that has a lot stuff going on at the same time. One moment you will be puzzling the heck out of a monster, the next you will be browsing for new weapons at the local merchant in some town, later to be conversing with the baron of the land. There's no other way to put it; if you like puzzle games like Bejeweled and fancy an epic story, or wish that you could increase your odds in a Bejeweled-like game through items and skills – then this game is made for you!
I have had many exciting hours with this game, and I know that I will have many more!