The land is in chaos. Bandits prey upon travelers, monsters
roam the countryside, and the Dark Lord looms ominously from his throne,
seeking the Stones of power that were stolen from him. Only you and your stalwart
companions can stem the tide, but are you really up to it? The Dark Lord’s
legions are vast, and it will take a strategic mind, a disciplined army, and
keen puzzle-solving skills to send them back to the void.
Train the Troops
No hero has ever achieved victory without an army at his
back. If you wish to challenge the Dark Lord, you must amass a fighting force
like no other.
a castle to serve as your base of operations
and train legions of soldiers.
a team of heroes to fight alongside you.
and forge magical potions and scrolls.
Fight the Darkness
Empires & Puzzles boasts a unique battle system that
combines tactical RPG combat with mind-breaking match-three gameplay. Use your wits
to outsmart and conquer your enemy.
shields together to assault the enemy.
the offensive by creating powerful gems in the midst of battle.
goblins, demons, dragons and even the Dark Lord himself.
devastating attacks and cast powerful spells.
Become a Legend
Empires & Puzzles is a game like no other, blending the
RPG genre with strategic base management and match-three gameplay so seamlessly
together, it’s a wonder it hasn’t been done before. If you need a new way to
hone your tactical mind, then look no further with Empires & Puzzles!
Castles and Match-Threes and Heroes, Oh My!
There are two ways to innovate. You can either come up with something
original, or you can try to combine multiple ideas and see how they roll
together. Small Giant Games clearly went for the latter when they made Empires
& Puzzles, which mixes no less than three different genres in a single app:
role-playing game, match-three puzzler and city builder. The results are
predictable in some ways, and it could use some fine-tuning here and there, but
overall, the product is actually pretty good.
Battling with Matches
Where do we begin in describing Empires & Puzzles?
Boiled down to its absolute basics, you could say that it’s an RPG where combat
is abstracted through a match-three game. You have a bunch of heroes who level
up over time, and you fight monsters by grouping matching shields together. Every
successful match results in the heroes launching an attack on the monsters,
with the placement of the match determining which enemies get hit. Heroes and
enemies trade blows and the fight ends when everyone on one side is defeated.
The matching contains all the usual elements. Grouping four
or more shields together forms a special gem with explosive effects that can
really wrack up the pain, and forming combination matches is a must if you want
to get through the tougher fights. However, there’s a lot more RPG goodness to
be had here. For one thing, each type of shield represents a different element like
fire, ice, light and dark. Enemies are typically strong against some and weak
to others, so you’ll really want to find and exploit those vulnerabilities
whenever you can.
Then there’s the fact that heroes come equipped with special
abilities that can really turn the tide of battle. Some have an attack that
hits multiple foes at once, some can poison enemies, some can heal allies, and
so on. The same applies to enemies as well; they can hit your guys with some
hard-hitting attacks, weaken them with status effects, or bolster their own
defenses. Getting through Empires & Puzzles in one piece is going to be a
matter of assembling a solid team of characters that can counter everything
thrown at them.
The matching may sound complicated, but it really isn’t. By
itself, it’s a far cry from more devoted match-three games, having none of the
strategy found in Candy Crush or the fast pace of Bejeweled Blitz. Fortunately,
it’s only one part of the picture.
Making the Team
The team-building portion of the game helps to give it a
strategic layer. There are a ton of heroes to recruit, and they operate on a
level similar to a card game. You acquire a “deck” of them over time
through various means, and assemble a “hand” that you bring into
battle. Getting duplicates is possible, but that’s not a bad thing in and of
itself, for empowering one hero requires you to sacrifice several others.
As stated before, heroes have different abilities, but they
also have different elemental affinities. Fail to bring in a yellow hero, and
your yellow match-ups won’t cause any damage whatsoever. Therefore, it’s
important to cover your bases.
On that note, kudos needs to be given to the designs of the
heroes. They’ve all got these wildly distinctive appearances to cover just
about every fantasy archetype you can think of, covering a variety of dastardly
ruffians, stuck-up mages, veteran soldiers, and cutthroat assassins. In fact,
the art direction of Empires & Puzzles is strong all around, with the
monsters you fight looking so amazingly colorful and cool, you’ll almost regret
killing them. The soundtrack is solid as well. Intense music plays in the heat
of battle, while a slow tune that’s equal parts sweeping and melancholy
accompanies the view of your map. Make absolutely sure to play the app with the
sound on if you can.
A Castle in the Swamp
Tying the whole package up is a castle that plays like your
usual base management sim. It’s here where you can summon new heroes, train new
troops, produce items, and generate resources needed to do just about anything.
Like all games of this stripe, everything takes time to happen.
This is undoubtedly the weakest part of the game,
considering it’s just the usual tap-and-wait “gameplay” that these
apps are known for. Fortunately, you can always go out and do something like
fight monsters while the timer runs down. However, the game comes packaged with
an energy meter that depletes every time you fight a battle. It regenerates
pretty fast, so you’re not likely to run dry, but with all the timers you have
to put up with in the castle, it feels completely unnecessary. There are enough
limitations on how long you can play; the app doesn’t need any more!
Conclusion: An Adventure Worth Undertaking
All the different parts of Empires & Puzzles may seem
shallow when compared to other games, but the way they feed into one another
makes all the difference. Putting together a team of heroes, bringing them to
their full potential, and engaging in fight after fight with the always
addictive match-three gameplay is such a joy, you’ll barely even notice the
slower parts. Definitely give this app a go.
– Review by David Galvin
Dave Galvin is a freelance writer and avid gamer. Somehow, he managed to find a way to combine the two passions.
(Android – For most Android based phones and tablets.
See download page for specific requirements.)
(iOS – For most iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch devices.
See download page for specific requirements.)