Marvel bejeweled?

As I alluded to previously, much of the cause behind my riding problems (and especially my sleeping problems) has to do with a new game to which a friend introduced me, called Marvel Puzzle Quest.  At first blush, it seems like a Bejeweled clone (and I've long played a fair bit of Bejeweled, mostly of the Blitz variant) with a Marvel Super Heroes theme.

The basic mechanics are identical to bejeweled (and Candy Crush, and umpteen others, I'm sure), but the addition of the characters adds a number of strategic elements.

Basically, it is set up as a series of matches, three heroes vs one to three villains.  And each one in the match has a certain number of hit points, and certain powers to directly do damage or affect the board layout.  Plus, each one does a set amount of damage for each color.

This means there's a couple levels of strategy involved.  First, there's the selection of characters to use, in that you want ones that complement each other in both powers and in doing max damage in each color.  Or you might want one to protect another by making sure the protector does more damage in one or more colors than the protectee (the one who does the damage in the first tile match is the one exposed to enemy counterattack on the other team's turn).

There's also the strategy during the bout for selecting the tile match to make; do you want to maximize damage?  Or maximize AP (energy for special powers)?  Or make multiple matches?  Or prevent the other team from making a certain match?  Lots of options.

One of the things that makes the game pretty evil is that you have limited options for which characters to use.  You start out with three, I think, and occasionally you get "cover"s.  These are pictures of comic book covers with a given character on the front.  If you don't have the character pictured, and you have room on your roster, you can recruit that character.  If you already have the character, you can use the cover to make your version of that character more powerful, by either adding a new power (they start with only one, and can have two or three, depending on the character.  For instance, modern Black Widow can only have two powers, while Iron Man can have three) or improving an existing one.

And powers can be raised until you reach the lesser of level five for that power or thirteen total levels in powers for that character.

Each character is also rated for a certain rarity, denoted by the number of stars, and a level (think D&D).  The base level of the character is based on those stars: 1 for 1 star, 15 for 2-star, 40 for 3-star, up to 70 for 4-star.  Character level affects hit points, how much damage is done with a match of each color, and has effects on certain powers (particularly damage-dealing ones).

When you initially find a character, the levels listed above are maxima, as well as minima.  If you want to raise their level, you need two things: Iso-8 and additional covers.  Each cover allows you to raise a character's level by a certain amount (how much depends on which total cover number it is and how many stars the character has).  Basically, each cover raises the maximum level you can achieve by a certain amount, and then you can pay the Iso-8 to actually raise the level towards that maximum.  And because there's a limit on covers, there's also a limit on overall character level (50 for one-star, 94 for two-star, 166 for three star, and 270 for four star).

So Iso-8 is a kind of in-game currency (one of two) which allows raising character level.  It's also a plot device, built around that idea (I'll come back to this).  It can be found by completing bouts or as bonuses for certain things (ditto).  It can also be found by selling covers (you will get extras, especially of the one stars, fairly quickly).

The other form of currency is hero points, which can be used to expand your roster or to acquire additional covers.  Strategically, you should only use them to expand your roster, because they're hard to find and are generally found in increments of twenty-five or fifty (and roster slots quickly reach several hundred points each).

But you can use them to purchase "cover packs" as well, where you get one, ten, or forty-two covers, perhaps within a subset of available heroes.  The advantage of the larger packs is not that they get cheaper on a per-cover basis, but that you get better odds of three- and four-star covers.  It's an interesting, and evil, system definitely informed by experience with collectible card-playing games.  And this is part of what makes the game evil for me; I was very seriously into Magic: The Gathering back in college, and for some years after.  It was quite the money-sink for me; if you want to buy a set of beta moxes/power blue (unlimited, signed lotus), I still have those (I sold the rest of my cards).

One thing to note, if you're thinking of buying a cover pack, check the odds and pricing, because it's all over the map from series to series, which is the best buy.  With the base set, the single is the best buy, because it's around one-third the price with two-thirds the odds of the best covers.  With some of the scenario-based ones, especially if you're just looking for the featured covers, you'll do better with the 10- or 42-packs.

Rounding out hero points, what I said about saving hero points for roster slots holds generally, but there is one exception.  If you're going to put some money into the game, and decided ahead of time to set some of the hero points you buy (with real money) into (a) cover pack(s), then go for it.  It isn't the most strategic use of your resources, but could work out well.  I've certainly been tempted, and might do it in the future.

I alluded to plot device, so let's get back to that.  There are three basic ways to play the game.  Two of them are plot-driven, where you have specific missions, and have to defeat specific threats.  One of them is completely single-player, with exactly-defined threats.  The other is competitive, in that everyone is going after the same type of threat (same opponents), but with varying levels of difficulty (higher level opposition for stronger players (still trying to determine how they figure out the exact meaning of stronger)).

In the former, the prizes are exhaustively determined at the beginning, and will run out.  In the latter, each run (and it goes in 3-4 day sequences, where each day is also a separate competition) has separate prizes, and they regenerate when the run starts over (I don't know how long the timeframe is on that; I haven't been playing long enough).

In those competitive runs, for the whole sequence, there are prizes defined by how many points you get.  That is, and point total X, you'll get prize Y.  Those points accumulate, too, and the winners come from the point totals.

It is run in groups of one thousand, and within that group, the top two get a really hard to find cover (and three of a slightly-easier-to-find one.  Generally one four-star and all three covers of a three star).  The next eight finishers get those same three covers of the three star.  The next ten get two covers of that same three star.  The next thirty get one cover.  Below that, there will be some lesser covers (probably one or more prominent characters from that run).

Everyone also gets increasing amounts of Iso-8, and the top fifty get increasing amounts of hero points.

Within each day, there's a similar breakdown, in terms of placing determining prize.  In that one, the top 100 or 200 get a (token for a) cover from the set for that run.  There are also increasing amounts of Iso-8 and Hero Points.  Some lower finishers get a token for a default set two-star (or better) cover or for a one-star (one-star tokens are all the same; there are no set-specific ones.  Something like 90% of them are one-star covers, and you'll quickly get all of those that you want.  The rest, you can sell for more Iso-8).  The point is, you do well and you'll be rewarded pretty handsomely.

The last way you can play is player-vs-player.  This is a kind-of weird dynamic, though, as it isn't a real-time game.  Essentially, you get pitted against someone, and you attack them.  Their team is played by the game's AI (which is not terribly good), while you play your team.  The attacker has a number of advantages.

Anyway, the point of this is not to get into the weeds of the mechanics.  Player vs player (PvP) is also done in events, and the winner of a match gets points (if the attacker wins, they also get a prize.  Usually Iso-8, but sometimes a one-star token).  At the end of the event, players are ranked by their points, and get prizes similarly with how it works in competitive single-player play.

This is a weird set-up, in that it isn't designed to reward newbies, it's designed to reward the players with ridiculously-powered characters (those people have an edge in the competitive stuff as well, but thanks to the dynamic scaling of opposition level, not as big an edge as here).

Anyway, I think all of that gives a feel for the game, with solid indications of why I like it.  It's one of the few games I've actually put more than a couple of dollars into in a long time.

No comments:

Post a Comment