by A.J. Coltrane
Marvel Puzzle Quest: Dark Reign uses Bejeweled-style tile matching and skins it as a superhero combat game.
To put it another way, you match (say) red tiles. After you’ve matched enough red tiles you can power a superhero ability, such as Iron Man’s Repulsor Blast — doing a great deal of damage to one target. Match a bunch of blue tiles and Black Widow will be able to heal allies. Spider Man can stun the opponent for a few turns given enough green matches. Other abilities include things like board manipulation, or placing counters on the field that blow up after a few turns, or… it’s a long list.
And it’s fairly addictive.
Heroes can get more powerful over time. Most of the loot rewards are either ISO-8 (experience points, basically), which is spent to level up the heroes,
“Covers”, which grant new heroes, or improve existing hero abilities. Naturally, the better covers are also more rare. Basic Iron Man is common, but somebody like Spider Man is pretty rare. To some degree you have to do the best that you can with what you have.
There’s a fairly long “story quest”, and each story “node” offers 3 or 4 potential loot drops, so to maximize the payout it’s a good idea to replay the nodes with the phat loot (or those that reward good covers). There also seems to be a never-ending deluge of new PvE and PvP content — In contrast to many other forms of online PvP, Marvel Puzzle Quest has you fight another player’s team, but not the players themselves. This is nice because you don’t have to wait on your opponent to move, and there’s none of the usual smacktalk. I can always do without the waiting and the smacktalk, so I like the way they’ve implemented PvP.
This was an “automatic download” for me. We’d gotten a ton of hours out of the original Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords and Puzzle Quest: Galactrix on the PSP. Challenge of the Warlords worked much the same way, except that it was skinned as a high-fantasy (swords and sorcery) questing game. Puzzle Quest: Galactrix was hexigonal, and featured starship combat.
I threw a little bit of money at this one to unlock additional slots for heroes ($20). It’s possible to pay without playing, but it will take a while to unlock a bunch of slots and have a good stable of heroes. I decided I liked the game enough that the devs deserved some money for a product that I enjoy. I’m ok with that on a limited basis.
Having said that here are two tips if you’re dead-set on not spending a dime:
1) ONLY spend Hero Points (coins) on additional hero slots. Important tip!
2) In Bold — Heroes I’d Keep If I Didn’t Want To Spend Money And Roster Space Is Tight:
1-Star Heroes (common): Iron Man, Storm, Black Widow. I got good mileage out of Juggernaut too. Every 1-star hero will get outgrown eventually. After a month of frequent gameplay I’m only using 2-stars.
2-Star Heroes (uncommon): Thor, Storm, Black Widow. (Storm and Black Widow are more powerful versions than the 1-stars.) If you have extra room then Ares, Wolverine, and Magneto are supposed to be solid. I think most casual players are using some combination of these six 2-star heroes.
3-Star Heroes (rare): Ragnarok is supposed to be good, as are Spider Man, Thor, Black Widow, and Magneto. I only have a couple of these covers, it’s going to be a while before they’re actually powerful enough to be playable.
4-Star Heroes: None, it’ll take too long to get the covers to be worthwhile.
Here’s a link I’m using for recommended builds. It predates the last big nerf, but a good starting point to minimize “wasted” covers.