One of the main reasons we started playing games on computers was to lessen the need for complex maintenance tasks in board wargames. Somebody looked at the computer and said, “Hey, that thing can move chits around faster than me, and calculate these dice rolls and hit tables a lot easier too!”
One of those developers that was well known for chit pushing was Strategic Studies Group (SSG). Their games are representative of early era computer gaming in the same way Space Invaders is representative of early era arcade gaming. Wargamers didn’t need graphics to be pretty, they just needed someone to play against when no people were around. Solitaire rules for wargames are ok, but nothing beats having a human opponent. The computer comes somewhere in between, but in the absence of humans, we’ll take it.
Fortunately for us, though wargames have faded out at retail, the developers of them have gone on to do some pretty amazing things. One part of the old SSG helped found Infinite Interactive, and these designers of the Warlords series of games for PC produced the best puzzle game of the year.
Click through for number eight on my list of the best games of 2007…
8. Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords
If you’ve ever played Bejeweled, you have an idea what to expect from Puzzle Quest. The main part of gameplay revolves around clearing colored jewels from a board in groups of three or more. The twist comes in who you’re taking turns with to remove those jewels. A cavalcade of the Warlords games’ foes will come calling incluing everything from lowly skeletons and rats to some of the biggest baddies in the series historic past. They all have their own special abilities, spells and equipment, throwing a unique twist into what seemed like a tired formula for puzzle games before this one came along.
I found this game through the PC demo that didn’t turn into a full-fledged PC game until close to the end of the year. Infinite Interactive had an easier time selling the DS and PSP versions of the game, so I played the full version on the DS. Personally, I find touch screen or mouse control to be the “right way” to play this one, and I while gamepads are ok for it, they’re not ideal. I’m also a big fan of the fiction that Infinite Interactive based the game around so it was very cool to go to familiar places from the Warlords universe. It even made me go back and install Warlords III: Darklords Rising all over again to revisit the strategy realm this puzzle game is based on.
The game has a super addictive quality that only sucks you in deeper the longer you play. Your character keeps getting stronger as more spells are discovered and the twists and turns during the battles that come from these spells and abilites provide superior entertainment. Travelling from town to town in the role-playing setting between fights gives the game a steady pace of exploration that makes for one tight package. While I have my own preference for where I want to play it, Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords should be on your list if you haven’t yet tried it. It’s the “casual” game for hardcore gamers.