Gems of War Review

Pro tip: Leave the wall alone - it can't actually hurt you! (ORLY? YARLY. NOWAI!)

  • Developer: Infinity Plus 2
  • Publisher: 505 Games
  • Release Date: 20 November 2014
  • Time played: 5 hours (INCOMPLETE)

Before I go any further let me tell you two things about this game:

  1. It's a mobile port
  2. It's Free-to-Play

Are you still with me? I suspect some of you aren't. When people hear "mobile port" and "free-to-play" in the same sentence they probably think of freemium titles like Candy Crush which try to extort the player of his/her hard-earned cash. There's no doubt that there are some downright evil "free-to-play" games out there, ones where it's nigh on impossible to progress or succeed without relinquishing some coin, and then there's "free-to-play" done right - games where there is very little or no disadvantage to having a free account with income being generated only for cosmetic changes such as custom costumes or skins.

I don't think Gems of War is one of the "evil" free-to-play games although I'll go into that after I talk a bit about the plot.

Plot (2/5)
From what I've experienced so far, which is actually quite little in terms of the overall campaign, but most of what could be considered the first storyline mission or mini-campaign, the plot is rather lacklustre and definitely not the main focus. At the beginning of the game, you along with some old codger are trying to kill waves of enemies as you work your way up a spire to kill a lava worm or something. No real reason why, just because you have to. You're a hero! It's what you do!

A lack of focus on the story isn't necessarily a bad thing since it does mean they've placed most of their focus on the gameplay, which is probably the most important aspect in a puzzle game.

Gameplay (4/5)
Okay, let's first talk about the actual gameplay before talking about Gems of War being a Free-to-Play title. So, the game is very similar to Puzzle Quest, which is no surprise considering Infinite Interactive is behind this game, the original creators of Puzzle Quest. Yes, I do realise that somehow they have a funny developer name of Infinity Plus 2 - I have no idea what that's about but trust me, there's a reason this game seems like a Puzzle Quest sequel - that's because it is, save for the name. The game is also similar to another game by Infinite Interactive called Puzzle Kingdoms which used the same match-3 mechanic but instead of your player character going toe-to-toe with an enemy instead you had several units or an army fighting against another army. Just like Puzzle Kingdoms, you'll command multiple units in Gems of War but that's where the similarities end.

So just like in Puzzle Quest you'll be fighting several battles that you'll come across by visiting kingdoms. You can do storyline quests/battles and you can do challenges which reward skill points you can use to upgrade your units. You're also able to join guilds for the first time although you're unable to actually play with anyone in the guild since there isn't any real-time multiplayer whatsoever in this. You can spend gold towards completing guild projects but that's the extent of the cooperation. There's only a limited number of things you can do with a guild really as there's no means of communicating with other members (e.g. via chat or forums) and the guild customisation options leave a lot to be desired. Also, whenever you fight other players, you're not really fighting them in real-time but fighting an AI that is controlling their current deck of units.

Okay, so you're probably thinking this doesn't sound too bad but is this a "Pay-2-Win" title? If I wanted to be completely honest, I couldn't say. If you're treating this game as a single-player game, definitely not (since it doesn't matter if you pay to get an advantage then, right?). If you're playing competitively (trying to get your guild to be the top of the leaderboards) - maybe, although I hope not.

You see, every battle you undertake in Gems of War requires the use of gold or coins. If you don't have enough coins, you pretty much can't play. However, you usually generate a sufficient number of coins each day (at least enough for a few battles daily) not to mention winning battles effectively reimburses some of the cost (a bit like visiting Medicare for a rebate on the doctor's visit). Unless you go on a mad spending spree on stuff, you're unlikely to run out of gold anytime soon. You can spend real money to buy things like in-game gold along with skill points and some cosmetic items. So if you spend real money, you're going to level up faster or be able to play the game more often than a player who doesn't spend any money - unless that player is a gun at the game and never loses. This isn't really a big deal (at least I don't think so) if you're treating the game as a single-player experience. The grey area comes about when you're trying to take your guild to the top of the leaderboards.

In order to make your guild rise the ranks of the leaderboards, you have to win trophies and the way you win trophies is by fighting other players (or at least the decks of other players as you're actually just fighting the AI). I do believe the game has a matchmaking system which tries to match you with someone of a similar skill level but what I'm worried about is when that doesn't work - or worse, when matchmaking it doesn't take into account the level of the player's units and just the player character's level. I can't really say this for certain but I find it unlikely there would've been such an oversight, so fingers crossed my negative scenario doesn't occur in reality.

The main screen

Sound (5/5)
Sound effects consist of the typical fantasy battle fare. No complaints.

Music (4/5)
The music isn't too memorable being your typical epic fantasy affair.

Graphics (2/5)
Graphics are pretty basic but they've employed a similar approach to presentation as they did with the original Puzzle Quest. There's not much in terms of animation but the art for the various creatures and backgrounds are nicely done.

Replay (5/5)
It probably takes about 5 hours to finish all of a kingdom's quests and I do believe there are 15 kingdoms in total to unlock meaning there's potentially 75 hours of gameplay here which isn't too bad for a puzzle game (not to mention the game doesn't, or at least shouldn't end when you finish all the quests as you can still "invade" other players or attempt to finish all the challenges associated with each kingdom). The game is an addictive time-waster and I can see myself playing this almost daily for a quick 15 minute game or so.

Polish (3/5)
When the game originally came out I had some issues with respect to the game freezing and losing connectivity, meaning I couldn't get to play the game. Fortunately, I haven't encountered any of those issues recently so hopefully they won't crop up again.

Score – 7/10

Gems of War is a worthy successor to Puzzle Quest in the gameplay department, taking elements from the original game that started it all and the more strategic Puzzle Kingdoms and offering it for the very attractive price of $0. Sure, spending some real money might mean less grind or that you're able to play the game for more than 2 hours a day, but if you're not intending to play the game for longer than that daily, then you'll never really need to open your wallet - unless you want that sexy looking Dragon Armour...

Gems of War is available from these retailers:

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[ LINK: Official Gems of War website ]