Do you remember the TV shows from the gymnastics competitions that were THE event to watch a few years ago? That is where, for the first time, I learned of the base score concept: if the routine wasn’t complex enough to be rated with a 10, the judges started from a lower maximum score and from that they deducted the flaws in execution.
In our case, Infinite interactive Studios started from the model introduced by Bejeweled, but they weren’t satisfied with an execution that wouldn’t get the maximum score, so they substantially changed the recipe, showing that if there’s passion involved you can turn anything into gold. With Bejeweled, all you could do was form lines out of 3 or more stones of the same colour that disappeared when you aligned them together, from above other stones would fall and so on. At this point though, as if to give a meaning to this colourful drug that can clear up the head of any gamer, the producers wrapped it all up in a story with heroes, skills, abilities, princesses, runes, sieges and many, many more.
And so, you find yourself, like in a real RPG, being asked to create a hero, choosing from 4 different categories, each with its own "battle-style". After that you get thrown into the game to save the world… for the 1001st time. All fights are set in the same environment, where you have to move different stones of different shapes and colours in order to form lines, but, most of all, so that you can use their effects. The first big difference comes up when you notice that your adversary makes his own moves too, and the whole game turns into a sort of chess.
At the beginning, it feels natural to chase the skull shaped stones, because they cause direct damage to the opponent, then the coin shaped ones, because you will need them to buy all kinds of items – shields, swords, artefacts or upgrades for your castle – and, last but not least, the star shaped stones, because they give you experience to level up your hero.
At every level up you will be given four points to distribute as you wish between the different skills of your hero. You can make him stronger, for example, and do more damage and raise your odds of making another move after the skull alignment. You can make him more cunning and the experience you get at the end of each fight grows. This skill also gives the right to make the first move if you are more experienced than your opponent. Or, you can invest (highly recommended) in the art of using one of the four existing branches of magic, that use four types of runes, coloured accordingly: fire – red, water – blue, earth – green, air – yellow. The spells can either be unlocked once you level up either learned from captured prisoners.
Unfortunately, the spells are not clearly divided between the four branches of magic, many of them need manna of different colours in order to be used; this is why, you will find that you are forced to form a multilaterally developed hero, because you never know what spells you might come across and what their requirements might be. The game play – however – creates the same sick addiction as Bejeweled. And more than that, you’ll spend hours and hours forming a strategy before you get into the battle, buying objects, levelling up your hero, choosing your spells or gearing him up with amulets and artefacts to fight against the powers or the spells of the attackers.
The maximum level you can bring your hero to is 50, but even then you can further improve his skills, and discover new fighting strategies or items that can make you rethink the entire spell chain.
The interface is surprisingly good for a game like this: the hero’s inventory can’t be overloaded, the items are automatically sorted, the shops compare the objects you want t buy with the ones you already have, even the spells of folks you captured are neatly listed and have a small explanation of what they do and the ones you already know are ticked.