Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Marvel Puzzle Quest: Dark Reign

I've been playing a lot of Marvel Puzzle Quest: Dark Reign lately on my iPad. Some types of games work best with specific input devices, and match-3 games work great on touch screens. About the game itself there isn't much to say: Just like every other game of the Puzzle Quest series it combines some sort of match-3 puzzle combat with some sort of RPG game, only that in this case you play Marvel super-heroes instead of generic fantasy heroes. As the story in all Puzzle Quest games is weak and badly written, you might as well ignore the setting and just concentrate on the gameplay. But what makes this version of Puzzle Quest so different is the business model: It is a Free2Play game as opposed to all the buy-to-own previous versions.

What I think is important about Free2Play games is how much of it you can actually play for free, and how much of it you can play if you spend tens of dollars on it. Some games do have options to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on them, but I never do that, and so I am not much interested in what would be on offer. Marvel Puzzle Quest: Dark Reign can be played for free for some time, enough to tell you whether you like the game, but not forever. Unlike many other games there really isn't an option to grind instead of paying. Missions have a limited number of rewards, usually 4, and then you either can't play them any more, or you can play them for a token reward of 20 Iso-8 units, which really doesn't get you anywhere. So as you can't grind missions forever, at some point you might run into missions that are too hard for you unless you use money to increase your power. "Pay2Win" is unfortunately a very loaded term, but to some extent it applies here.

What annoys many people even more is that you can't play Marvel Puzzle Quest: Dark Reign for long without pause. If you take damage in a mission, which soon becomes inevitable, your heroes heal that damage in real time. So you either start the next mission with already weakened heroes, or wait until they are fit again. How annoying that is depends very much on your play style: If you play casually, a game here and there, that feature isn't stopping you much, especially since you get 4 health kits which regenerate with time. If you like to play the same game for hours, you're out of luck.

What I did was spend some money on this game, which allowed me to increase the size of my inventory for heroes, and get more different heroes of a half-decent level. That helps with the working around wounded heroes, as they heal while you play with the alts. And I don't mind paying for it, because it is basically added content: Different super-heroes have different abilities, so playing with different teams changes how the game plays. It is fun to look for the best combination of heroes to beat strong opponents. So I would say that in the "spend tens of dollars on the game" area, Marvel Puzzle Quest is quite enjoyable.

But if you are notoriously allergic against Pay2Win games, you'd better stay away from this. I haven't tried it, but it appears to me that you can buy both the "covers" you need to get and advance your super hero powers as well as the Iso-8 you need to level up. So it appears possible to buy yourself max-level super-heroes for real money without even needing to play the game. I am the kind of person who doesn't even understand why you'd want to do that, but the more competitively minded players appear to be affected a lot by that sort of feature.

Note that you can buy Puzzle Quest 2 on the iPad for $3.99 (which is less than what you'd spend on Marvel Puzzle Quest to make it enjoyable). You even get PvP multiplayer in the iOS version. So even if there are less heroes, and thus less variety than in the Marvel version, Puzzle Quest 2 might be the better option for some people.

I have been playing since it was released on Android.
Really liking it and to an extent agree with the complaints about having to wait for characters to heal but the more you play some of the weekly special events, the more bonuses you can win, heal packs for example.

I'm hardly a F2P apologist but as nickel and dime apps go, this is actually a really nice one. The only real money I put in was for a rare character early on (I love me some Spidey), I almost wish I didn't as this week alone I have picked up three new 3 star characters just from regular play and winning roster tokens.
Even having a large roster isn't that much of a big deal when you can win the coins required to extend your character limit.
If ever there was a game you could point to and exclaim it was the way F2P should be done, it's this one.
I just hope the support for weekly missions and also the single player missions continues.
Reading your description of the game I am surprised that you cannot pay cash to heal your heroes faster. It seems like a convenience feature that people would pay for and a handy earner for the company.
What annoys me the most about Marvel Puzzle Quest is the reward structure. There are usually 4 rewards for one mission, and you have a 100% chance, 4 in 4, to get one the first time you succeed. Next reward is a 3 in 4 chance, then 2 in 4 chance, and finally 1 in 4 chance. So you can get the first three rewards quickly, and then play forever to get the last one, which I find rather annoying.

I agree on the F2P model not being so bad. But I think it bothers people when old franchises that used to be buy-to-own now get F2P sequels. There is a big howl over the new Dungeon Keeper being F2P.
I am surprised that you cannot pay cash to heal your heroes faster. It seems like a convenience feature that people would pay for and a handy earner for the company.

I checked that out, and it turns out that you can. By clicking on your health stacks you get the option of buying health packs for gold, which can be bought for real money.
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