Publisher: D3 Publisher
Developer: Infinite Interactive
Release Date: February 24, 2009
The original Puzzle Quest was a cross-genre hit for D3, so it wasn't surprising when the publisher announced a sequel. With Puzzle Quest: Galactrix nearing completion, we managed to sneak a look and see how it is shaping up.
Much like the original, Galactrix mashes up RPG elements with a puzzle game center, resulting in a title that can appeal to both hardcore and casual players. You start off by creating a character and then heading out into the futuristic sci-fi world to collect missions, fight off pirates and conquer the galaxy.
Unlike the Bejeweled-inspired game board of the original, Galactrix mixes things up by using a board that can shift in any direction. How the puzzle pieces fall isn't determined by gravity, but rather by how you clear the current set. For example, if you match a group of tiles by shifting the last piece down, all of the new tiles will fall down. If you match a group by shifting the last piece to the left, all the new tiles will fall to the left. It's a simple tweak, but one that completely changes the matching mechanic.
Because the new matching style opens up a number of possibilities, you have to be doubly careful when setting up chains because a simple flip in the wrong direction can completely wreck your entire setup. During combat, it serves as a wild card since unknown blocks can appear from all sides. This makes random chains more likely to occur than in the original title.
As before, your character starts out as a basic adventurer with little in the way of special abilities. After the first few missions, however, you start to gain special abilities in the form of parts for your spaceship. Special abilities can be used by collecting the appropriate amounts of red, yellow and green mana and then casting them during battle. Mana is obtained by matching the same color tiles on the puzzle board.
In addition to standard health points, each ship has a shield bar, which is powered by blue mana. Shields can be repaired on the fly by collecting blue mana, adding another element of strategy to the game. Sometimes it's better to go for a shield recharge than attempt a low-damage attack on your foe.
Outside standard combat encounters, variations on the puzzle board also show up during various activities such as crafting, hacking, haggling and mining. These variant boards typically follow the same matching rules as the combat board, but you don't have the benefit of special abilities.
The world map in Galactrix is quite large, with more than 70 different leapgate locations to explore. Each leapgate connects to a star system with a handful of worlds and asteroids. In short, it's going to take a good deal of time to master the world of Galactrix. The basic story line promises about 30 hours of gameplay, but if you explore every nook and cranny, the entire game could last for hundreds of hours.
One big change we noticed from the original is the elimination of random encounters. After playing for a few hours, we fought a number of foes, but they all seemed to be found at specific points in the story or guarding various star systems. We never ran into an enemy while out on an exploration jaunt, which is definitely a plus.
Where Galactrix appears to take a step back is in the visual design. Granted, much of the game is set in space, but the background environments all seemed to have a lot in common. Moving from one solar system to another simply resulted in a change in tint for the star field. Compared to the original outing, the artwork used in the beginning segment of the game almost seems bland. It doesn't affect the gameplay in any way, though it can be a bit annoying when attempting a fetch quest and seeing the same repetitive design.
Multiplayer combat makes a welcome return in Galactrix, giving you the chance to test your mettle against human players. Competitive play is as enjoyable as ever, especially when playing a local head-to-head match. Like the prior title, multiplayer uses the same character that you've built up in the single-player portion so there's an incentive to hit the story mode before going headfirst into online competition.
With a good chunk of play time under our belt, it's safe to say that Galactrix is shaping up to be a worthy sequel. The revamped puzzle board brings a fresh challenge to experienced players without shunning those new to the series. We still have to puzzle our way through a few more challenges before rendering a final verdict, but so far, all of the pieces appear to be falling into place.
While you're waiting for our full review, be sure to check out the Galactrix demo right here on WorthPlaying.com.
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