I'd forgotten until tonight we'd redone the network to lock out our bandwidth thievin' upstairs neighbors, but a few changes and a MAC address later, the 360 was once again online, hurrah! I'd received some points as a gift for my birthday and never got around to using them.
After playing Galactrix at PAX, I wanted to go back and hone my Puzzling skills before it came out, so I grabbed both the regular game and the expansion. I had the DS version before, but never managed to finish it.
Let's see if I've remembered how to play!
I originally chose a Bard, one of the expansion classes, gained level 2, then decided to play some multiplayer locally to see how the Bard fared. My opponent chose a warlock, who proceeded to whomp on me thanks to having a direct damage spell (Bards don't start with one). Maybe I'll play with the Bard later, but I grabbed a Rogue and began my quest with her.
Level 10, equipped with an item for all four slots, acquired my first companion, and I head back to the main town to continue with the main storyline quest.
At this point, I'm able to access my Citadel for the first time -- I can do so at any city I've captured (more on this later.) I've saved up a bunch of gold doing quests around this part of the country, so I build a dungeon (can capture enemies I beat 3 times), a mage tower (can learn abilities from captured enemies), and a stable (can use some captured enemies as mounts).
Played a multiplayer round with Jeffrey, who at 6 levels higher pulled ahead about halfway through the match; he only had about 1/4 of his health when I finally succumbed though, so I put up a good fight. If anyone's interested in a match, just send one my way on Live (username: pawsrpg)
I'm somewhat of a completionist, so I finished up all the quests and continued ont the main story at level 15. Wolf Mount, learned three spells, expecting more soon. Tried the boss out, but he's 18 and he damages me faster then I can damage him.
Time to talk about game play. I know the thing that frustrated me when playing on the DS was the computer's seeming ability to cheat -- it's as if the computer knows what's coming next, allowing them to chain off of what's not visible on the screen yet. There's luck, and then there'd ridiculous luck. This is coupled with a move-suggestor that more often then not suggests the dumbest moves -- often suggesting a move which will set up the enemy for a large combo or some skullls.
At level 16, I now have a variety of abilities at my disposal, including several potent attacks. One simply stabs the enemy for 3-4 damage, and does not end my turn; this is great for combating enemy buffs which end when damage is taken, such as submerge/hide. I also have an ability which removes all coins from the board and deals damage based on those. This is a fantastic way to combo and though it takes a bit of effort to set up, it's definitely worth it.
The story as far as I can see has changed very little from the original game; I believe most of the changes come after what was the ending previously, similar to Fable.
Level 18, time to face the boss; in the last two levels I played around with the difficulty and realized I'd forgotten how broken the settings were. While Difficult is noticeably harder, easy is definitely not easier. On top of that, easier nets the player a 25% exp penalty (hard is a 25% exp bonus) which makes me wonder why easy has a penalty in the first place. The game certainly seems to have a lot of functions that seem good on the surface but are rather broken when you try to use them.
That being said, the game is still very good and incredibly addictive. I just sort of wish the full package was shiny.
With the boss out of the road, it's time to open Chapter 2. There seems to be some new content (I don't recall the city to the south of my capital, nor do I recall the hungry Ogre in the DS version...) and I'll dive into that since I've completed the second chapter up to the last encounter, I believe. Also scored two gears from the Machine. Level 28, but expect to be at least 30 before I take on the storyline boss.
With the level cap at 50 previously (doubt it changed) will I be max level long before I meet the final boss? I guess I'll have to wait and see.
I was 32 by the time I finished up the extra content the expansion added and tidied up chapter 2. It feels like I've blinked and suddenly I'm 42 now, and nearly done chapter 3. I see a grey exclamation mark down in the south area; I'm guessing those quests require 45+ or perhaps even 50 to begin.
I have several new compaions -- some are new to the expansion content, some are just ones I didn't pick up previously in the DS version through various choices. They're incredibly handy to have around. I often felt like in the DS version I only had one companion (the first you ever get) that was useful. Now they all are.
Despite the game's inherent repetitiveness, I don't feel bored or overwhelmed by the amount of puzzling I have to do. I did take a break from advancing the storyline to do some spell learning, and that's a nice break because it's an entirely different challenge.
Level 48, and my..."building" task is complete. I believe I'm now in the final chapter, assuming nothing was added post-Bane with the expansion. I detoured south to finish off the expansion area, picking up two additional achievements (Stormfriend, and Master of Plague) before swinging north to Lord Bane's hideout. The Doomknight has stymied me a couple times, but I'll persevere and battle my way through him.
Imagine my delight when I continued to gain experience past 50; I remember thinking how worthless it was to continue questing in the DS version once I'd reached it.
I was ready to face my final opponent at level 53, and though it took me more then a dozen tries, he finally went down -- I had 20 HP left to my name. Drong sat down for a tasty meal of God arm, and so the story of Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords.