Review: Puzzle Quest: Galactrix

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Review: Puzzle Quest: Galactrix

Does matching like-colored gems to shoot down spaceships make sense? Of course not, but who cares? It's Puzzle Quest!

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Sadly the fantastic puzzle gameplay is let down by massive problems in the RPG game.

The mistakes in the RPG game are numerous and are made worse by how easily they could have been avoided. These vary from UI blunders like your ship continuing to move while you are in menus and no system names on the mini-map. To graphical blunders like the fact that your ship is indistinguishable from enemy ships in everything except engine trail. To simply odd decisions, like not showing alien appearances on first encounters but at random times, I'm meeting new and interesting species,I want to see what they look like. And the list goes on and on.

Most unforgivable is the terrible writing, while the previous game "Challenge of the Warlords" never took itself too seriously, with an orc obsessed with eating everything and a dwarf creating a machine that no one know its purpouse, including the dwarf. Galactrix takes itself seriously, and sadly the writer can't pull it off, Churning out one the most horrendously written sci-fi junk stories I've seen in a long time.

As an RPG the previous game "Challenge of the Warlords" was superior by far. The puzzle aspects of Galactrix are marvelous, shame they are buried in such a badly executed RPG.

For the puzzle lovers and no-one else.

And most of the puzzle lovers avoid these games like the soul sucking vampires that they are.

They may look cute, but they're a brute.

I truly love the puzzle quest games.

asiepshtain:
Sadly the fantastic puzzle gameplay is let down by massive problems in the RPG game.

The mistakes in the RPG game are numerous and are made worse by how easily they could have been avoided. These vary from UI blunders like your ship continuing to move while you are in menus and no system names on the mini-map. To graphical blunders like the fact that your ship is indistinguishable from enemy ships in everything except engine trail. To simply odd decisions, like not showing alien appearances on first encounters but at random times, I'm meeting new and interesting species,I want to see what they look like. And the list goes on and on.

Most unforgivable is the terrible writing, while the previous game "Challenge of the Warlords" never took itself too seriously, with an orc obsessed with eating everything and a dwarf creating a machine that no one know its purpouse, including the dwarf. Galactrix takes itself seriously, and sadly the writer can't pull it off, Churning out one the most horrendously written sci-fi junk stories I've seen in a long time.

As an RPG the previous game "Challenge of the Warlords" was superior by far. The puzzle aspects of Galactrix are marvelous, shame they are buried in such a badly executed RPG.

For the puzzle lovers and no-one else.

While I agree about the writing, I actually liked the RPG elements. True, they're not the same stuff as Warlords, but I appreciated the flexibility of tricking out various ships with whatever armaments fit the current issue. Then again, I liked crafting stuff just for the sake of crafting stuff, so I may just be weird.

The_root_of_all_evil:
And most of the puzzle lovers avoid these games like the soul sucking vampires that they are.

They may look cute, but they're a brute.

Indeed! Puzzle games or Tower defence games consume your life day by day!

Susan Arendt:

While I agree about the writing, I actually liked the RPG elements. True, they're not the same stuff as Warlords, but I appreciated the flexibility of tricking out various ships with whatever armaments fit the current issue. Then again, I liked crafting stuff just for the sake of crafting stuff, so I may just be weird.

I also like the combination of RPG and Puzzle, I just think the RPG elements were badly executed. For example the crafting challenges for the harder ships and materials are completely imbalanced in difficulty to the rest of the game. And why only three ships? I can understand only having three "active" ones, but there is a real miss here of some Pokemon style "Catch them all" action. Also for some strange reason the rumor game gave huge amounts of XP.

It's a real shame too as all these issues can be easily addressed, maybe the limitations come from them writing to the DS, I don't know.

asiepshtain:

Susan Arendt:

While I agree about the writing, I actually liked the RPG elements. True, they're not the same stuff as Warlords, but I appreciated the flexibility of tricking out various ships with whatever armaments fit the current issue. Then again, I liked crafting stuff just for the sake of crafting stuff, so I may just be weird.

I also like the combination of RPG and Puzzle, I just think the RPG elements were badly executed. For example the crafting challenges for the harder ships and materials are completely imbalanced in difficulty to the rest of the game. And why only three ships? I can understand only having three "active" ones, but there is a real miss here of some Pokemon style "Catch them all" action. Also for some strange reason the rumor game gave huge amounts of XP.

It's a real shame too as all these issues can be easily addressed, maybe the limitations come from them writing to the DS, I don't know.

I would definitely agree that there many sorts of balance issues throughout the game. Stuff that's too easy in one part is punishingly difficult in another, and so on.

Doug:

The_root_of_all_evil:
And most of the puzzle lovers avoid these games like the soul sucking vampires that they are.

They may look cute, but they're a brute.

Indeed! Puzzle games or Tower defence games consume your life day by day!

Don't mention tower defence games to me...they eat my life when I play them. At least the little flash versions do...

I got the DS version recently and it seems that the game is a little too heavy for DS.
The game goes through about 5 second loading screen every time you do practically anything outside the puzzle bobards, and it makes the game play a lot slower than the original Puzzle Quest.

Also the controls are a bit inaccurate and stiff, especially the popup menus that you use to choose what to do on planets, spacestations and such.

So for anyone thinking of buying the DS version, the game does not play very smoothly and it can be annoying sometimes.

Also, the battles are usually longer than in the original Puzzle Quest and the computer seems to get more lucky combos, so you may have to retry long and difficult battles quite often just because of bad luck.

I think that Galactrix isn't as good game as the original, but desipite it's flaws, it's still fun. And I've noticed that it gets more enjoyable when you get a little further in the game.

I grabbed this game on Live at around 10PM on a Sunday. And was playing it till almost 3AM. :/

It definitely has its share of bugs and annoyances, but the puzzle gameplay is fun (hacking Leapgates gets old quick though with no real reward other then temporarily opening the gate). The ship inventory/skill system is interesting if a bit under explained, although the crafting interface could use a bit of work, as you have no idea what anything you're crafting does unless you go remember the description from an enemy/store. I only found out by accident that your cargo space from all your ships gets added together because you are actually in a fleet rather then only your "active" ship, which is a big deal when your starting ship has almost no cargo space and the early ships with cargo space have worse stats.

The fake computer voice in the puzzles and the music was actually a lot better then I expected. It's not the greatest soundtrack ever, but is very easy to listen to and goes well with the puzzle play.

I'd imagine anyone who liked the first PQ with all of its bugs and bad UI decisions will get addicted to Galactrix just fine.

Kross:
I grabbed this game on Live at around 10PM on a Sunday. And was playing it till almost 3AM. :/

Snip...

I'd imagine anyone who liked the first PQ with all of its bugs and bad UI decisions will get addicted to Galactrix just fine.

I agree but thats exactly what bugged me the most. An educated game designer or interactive designer could have burned through these issues in an afternoon, some of them are even very easy to code. Like having your ship appear in a system in a random location instead of the gate you jumped in from, how hard is it to code that?

The more obvious the bug is and the simpler the solution the more it irked me, maddening.

Question Susan: From a purely gameplay point of view, is this Puzzle Quest or the first one better/funner?

The first puzzle quest is a lot better. The new one is still good, but definitely not as good.

Problems with Puzzle Quest Galactrix that make me like it less:

* The characters and story are boring. The original Puzzle Quest had heaps of humour and fun characters who were well thought-out. They made you want to play the game just to see what they would say next. The sequel has cardboard cookie-cut characters who very rarely provide any humour (the sole exception being the robot and even he's just a duller, more whiny version of Kryten from Red Dwarf). And the story is so dull... the usual "save the universe from some vaguely-specified evil force" nonsense. You'll stop caring about the plot and the characters way before the game ends.

* The game is SO EASY. No enemies really provide a challenge. Bola Mines, a turn-skip module or two and you've got every fight sewn up. Proof: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F9GvgYFToV8 Even the boss fight at the end of the game is weak.

* The game crashes a lot, usually after an hour or two. Odd for a casual game to do this. The original Puzzle Quest had a few issues too, but it didn't crash to the desktop!

The leapgates that the reviewer complains about, on the other hand, aren't really that hard. In fact they're probably the only part of the game that provides a decent challenge and one of the few parts of the game I enjoyed. And although they sometimes do relock themselves, that's rare. Most of them you only have to do once.

Still, it's not terrible. If you've got money to burn you probably won't hate it. Just don't expect too much.

It's not that the Leapgates are necessarily hard (although it can be stingy with the colors you need sometimes), it's that there are SO MANY that you have to hack through with very little variety in the gameplay.

Also, the fact that the timer keeps running while the gems are cascading can be REALLY obnoxious at times.

It can be fun when you're down to 15 seconds with 3 matches to go though, with you both rushing and trying to pull time bonus pieces together.

To me, the whole gems cascading and wasting precious seconds thing made the leapgates more fun. It means you have to play to specifically avoid cascades - a neat twist on the way these games usually work where you're trying to cascade as much as possible. It forces you to use some actual strategy rather than just "let's match the biggest thing I can". Also, as it's meant to represent "hacking" so I mentally likened it to a real hacking attempt where it might take some time to accomplish each "command", but that probably says more about my inner hardcore RP nerd coming out than the quality of the game itself...

I thought it was good anyway. If the space battles were anywhere near as challenging as the hacking the game would have been a lot more interesting and I may have been able to forgive its other faults more (crap story etc).

BonsaiK:
The first puzzle quest is a lot better. The new one is still good, but definitely not as good.

Well, I've just got the first Puzzle Quest over steam now, and I'll get Galactrix when it drops in price.

The change from, always falls from the top, to, falls from whichever side is closest, seems that it would be hard to get my head around.

Eric the Orange:
The change from, always falls from the top, to, falls from whichever side is closest, seems that it would be hard to get my head around.

It is at first, but you do get used to it eventually. It's actually one of the better things about the game, because it does open up some different gem-moving strategies to what you're probably used to in games like this.

Doug:

BonsaiK:
The first puzzle quest is a lot better. The new one is still good, but definitely not as good.

Well, I've just got the first Puzzle Quest over steam now, and I'll get Galactrix when it drops in price.

That's probably very sensible. Just wait for the next markdown or Steam sale to get Galctrix.

Another thing I forgot to mention in Galactrix is the music is meh. The first one had some pretty good tunes though.

Good review!

I tried the demo on Xbox and was going to buy it (partly because a friend of mine is one of the engine programmers), but I found the controls a little unwieldy. I'd get it for DS, but apparently that has issues with loading screens etc. So maybe PC, but I don't use my PC that much. Can anyone recommend a version? Are the Xbox controls ok once you get used to them?

Doug:
From a purely gameplay point of view, is this Puzzle Quest or the first one better/funner?

From what I've played (which is just the demo), the actual puzzle game itself is a bit more fun in Galactrix because there's a bit more variety and strategy. I'll leave it to others to tell you whether the game in general is better than PQ, cos I haven't played it enough.

BonsaiK:
Another thing I forgot to mention in Galactrix is the music is meh. The first one had some pretty good tunes though.

Ha! My friend knows the guy who did the music, so I'll pass that along. :-P Actually the music in Challenge of the Warlords on DS gave me the shits and I prefer the music in Galactrix on the Xbox, but that might just be because the big console has inherently better sound than the portable.

I've only played both on the PC if that's of any help.

For controls, Galactrix has no serious control issues on the PC. The interface is a little "odd" for PC perhaps (signs of a console port), and it's definitely a case of "too many clicks" when progressing through missions. It could have been streamlined, certainly. But there's nothing game-breaking and nothing to get strongly worked up over.

As far as music goes, what annoyed me about Galactrix's music was that it didn't really have enough "sci-fi" vibe to it, most of it could have fit right into Challenge Of The Warlords without anyone batting an eyelid. But aside from that, the tunes in Warlords are just better written and create more atmosphere. Once again though I'm talking about the PC versions, I can't comment on the music on other platforms. Except for Warlords on the mobile mind you, and that has truly hideous music, heh...

From what I've played (which is just the demo), the actual puzzle game itself is a bit more fun in Galactrix because there's a bit more variety and strategy. I'll leave it to others to tell you whether the game in general is better than PQ, cos I haven't played it enough.

I agree with this generally. Six ways to match instead of four, plus the fact pieces can come from any direction, definitely does open up another level of strategy. However this positive is balanced out by the fact that the game is way too easy, even up until the very end. If Puzzle Quest had a way to set difficulty level to make enemies either smarter or just with more hitpoints, and if Bola Mines and the turn skip modules were removed (or their effectiveness was reduced or compensated for), it would be strategically an awesome game, better than the first.

Judging by the video this game has the original massive problem that it's predecessor had, that being the fact that the computer is a cheating bastard, in the original while addicting you could never fully suspend your belief at the absurd number of combos that would be made by the new pieces dropping in from the top of the screen, even less when you added the fact that almost always your combos were useless while the computer always got gigantic ones that give it huge convenient advantages if not winning the match outright. The video suggests that these absurd cases of 'luck' are still there and they annoyed me badly enough in the first game.

Good review. You have convinced me to get the DS version.

This way the battery can die, forcing me to realize that I've been playing for 10 hours straight. Or I could play and charge at the same time...

Ilosia:
Judging by the video this game has the original massive problem that it's predecessor had, that being the fact that the computer is a cheating bastard, in the original while addicting you could never fully suspend your belief at the absurd number of combos that would be made by the new pieces dropping in from the top of the screen, even less when you added the fact that almost always your combos were useless while the computer always got gigantic ones that give it huge convenient advantages if not winning the match outright. The video suggests that these absurd cases of 'luck' are still there and they annoyed me badly enough in the first game.

That's a common complaint. It's not true in reality though - it's an illusion generated by the fact that the computer does all its turns instantly whereas players tend to think carefully between moves. It makes it look like the computer is just pulling moves out of its ass. However, if you're a reasonably good player and were inclined to actually sit down with a pen and paper and write out each move and score in a game versus the computer, you'd find that the computer isn't really that much of a hotshot. The game designers were however aware that players felt this way about the first Puzzle Quest, and I believe they did make an effort to make Galactrix's A.I. "play stupid" a bit more so people wouldn't feel this way. Which is a pity because it's really easy to beat now.

Game is fun. XBL version is a blast as is Challenge of the Warlords. CotW was the first XBL game I bought when I purchased my xbox a few months ago. 20 bucks each gets you an absolute mess of gameplay for both games. They are both awesome. I prefer Galactrix just because of the scifi motif. I can't wait to see where puzzle quest goes in the future. They have themselves a bonafide franchise now methinks. Good stuff!

Ilosia:
Judging by the video this game has the original massive problem that it's predecessor had, that being the fact that the computer is a cheating bastard, in the original while addicting you could never fully suspend your belief at the absurd number of combos that would be made by the new pieces dropping in from the top of the screen, even less when you added the fact that almost always your combos were useless while the computer always got gigantic ones that give it huge convenient advantages if not winning the match outright. The video suggests that these absurd cases of 'luck' are still there and they annoyed me badly enough in the first game.

There were plenty of match three and turn passes to the other player on both sides, they just are not all that entertaining to watch so most of my cuts were of the big strings of matches. Actually the game seems to be less "cheap" in the luck regard, from what I saw. The AI doesn't go on endless match 4 turns like I remembered in Challenge of the Warlords.

Ilosia:
the computer is a cheating bastard

I mentioned above that my friend is a programmer at Infinite Interactive. I asked him, and he insists that the AI doesn't cheat. He said the AI programming on Challenge of the Warlords is actually embarrassingly simple, something along the lines of:
1. Look for five of a kind (first skulls, then multipliers, then anything else)
2. Look for four of a kind (ditto)
3. Look for three of a kind (ditto)
There's probably a bit more to it than that, but not much. It certainly doesn't predict what's going to fall.

Here's a quote from the founder of Infinite Interactive at Palgn:

Steve Fawkner:
I promise you, I give my word, that there is absolutely no cheating. The funny thing is - I'll let you in on a big secret her,e okay - I've written AIs for a lot of games over the years. Puzzle Quest is the first one I've written that doesn't cheat. Every other one cheats, and a few people have figured out that a few of them cheat, many people haven't figured out that they all cheat. They all cheat in various ways, most of them pretty harmless.

To me it's all about making sure that the player has fun, rather than worrying too much about cheating. If it cheats a lot players aren't going to have fun, sure, so we cheat them a little bit to make the experience better. Puzzle Quest? I wrote the AI in one afternoon, it took me two hours - honestly, these days when I write code I'm too lazy to make the game cheat - it would have been so much harder to make the game cheat, but it's a simple little AI. I really should publish it online and show people, but then they'd think I was publishing some fake code I think. It's literally, the AI is about 50 or 60 lines, dead simple, doesn't cheat, it's just pure luck and I think it's just human psychology that people naturally think it's cheating.

My problem was not with the choices the AI made but with the fact that these massive chains caused by blocks spawning onto the screen could completely reverse the way a game was going, combining strategy and random chance is rarely a good idea, and the way many of my matches ended up was like playing a game of chess when suddenly a rock falls from the sky and crushes all the pieces on one side of the board.

Okay. Well you'll hate Galactrix then because blocks can match six ways instead of four, making crazy random combos much more common.

I played the trial version and I don't know if it's my tv or the game, but some colors looked just the same.

I'll stick with the first one instead.

Doug:
Question Susan: From a purely gameplay point of view, is this Puzzle Quest or the first one better/funner?

Hmm...tricky question. This one has more going on, by way of the different types of puzzles, but the Leapgates are extremely aggravating. The hexagonal board adds a very satisfying new aspect to the basic match-three gameplay, too. But if I absolutely had to pick one or the other...hmmm...I think I'd go with the first one.

Well, I got this for my DS yesterday and the Leapgates aren't terribly annoying yet. I'm having more trouble trying to figure out what to do with my skill points...I'm putting them all into Piloting to increase my shields for now, since I don't have any real energy focus for equipment, yet.

I just beat this game last night... I was pretty disappointed. It's frustrating, too, because the actual PUZZLE is so much better than CotW, but the QUEST... not so much. Just too many bugs that should have been fixed, and the stylus control was horrible. Well, at least now I can finally go back to DSgaea for my OCD tendencies o_O

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