Race your way through match-3 battles to defeat monsters in Puzzle Saga.

Puzzle Saga is a concept that seems inescapably bound by success: a Facebook game that merges match-3 gameplay with RPG fantasy battles in the vein of the multiplatform casual hit Puzzle Quest. While Puzzle Saga is quite good by Facebook standards, it’s no Puzzle Quest. The puzzle battles are real-time instead of turn-based and there’s no real level of customization. The emphasis is on making matches as quickly as possible rather than necessarily making the best matches.

The “no customization” is when it comes to your wizard’s spells, which you can’t change. Instead you’ll just automatically learn better spells that replace old ones as you level up. Each spell is tied to a particular color of mana, which comes from matching a particular color of block. There are actually three different match-3 modes you play, each of which uses differently shaped blocks. A mode where you move rows and columns like strips uses animal shapes, a mode where you click on groups of two or more uses candy shapes, and a mode that plays more like Bejeweled uses celestial shapes.

Puzzle Saga

Your wizard casts spells automatically when you match enough blocks to fill your wizard’s mana meter up all the way. Cascading matches are desirable because they’ll match a lot of blocks at once, filling up several meters. Matching four blocks fills your meter up very rapidly and eliminates an entire row or column, while matching five seems to let you cast a spell of that color instantly. Victory is informed somewhat by your wizard’s stats, but after you’ve leveled up a little it really boils down to matching 4-block and 5-block matches as rapidly as possible.

Puzzle Saga

Monsters also attack in real-time. They don’t seem to use special skills or anything, instead they simply deal damage scaled roughly to their level on a timer. When the “next attack” bar fills, they’ll deal damage. Attacking the monster and certain spells slow or freeze the meter. You know the monster is about to attack when you hear its distinct battle cry, which for some creatures is a little irritating. Regardless, Puzzle Saga is definitely a game to play with the sound on, since knowing when an attack is incoming can give you a little spike of adrenaline.

Puzzle Saga

The main thing that drags Puzzle Saga down is that it gets really repetitive. There is a social mechanic where you can add people to your “party” to get assistance, but it’s not strictly necessary. The bulk of the game is just exploring dungeons that feel basically identical no matter where you go, amassing loot, and then maybe spending it on castle decorations or clothes for your avatar. Nothing you can buy short of extremely expensive potions seems to really affect the gameplay, though, which makes the RPG aspect of the experience feel a bit hollow.