Match-3 games are a dime a dozen, but what usually makes them stand out is either the story, the visuals, or a different twist to a similar gameplay loop. I have to commend Empires & Puzzles for making a valiant effort to join in on the match-3 RPG bandwagon, but it's sadly A for effort and not much else.Table of contents:
EMPIRES & PUZZLES VISUALSIn Empires & Puzzles, you can expect a painterly style of artwork when it comes to the heroes in the game. While the character art does look pleasing to the eye, it has a very outdated vibe, especially when compared to other more vibrant entries in the same genre. Match-3 RPGs are an absolute delight to play if they have enough going for them to keep gamers interested, and while this one does boast a polished look, I honestly didn't feel like it's enough to make it stand out from the sea of similar titles on mobile today.
This is especially problematic when looks are the very first thing most people often notice at first glance. I myself judge the proverbial book by its cover when it comes to games, and while I do appreciate the cool-looking icons on the match-3 board itself - each one corresponding to specific colours and attacks - the sprites themselves feel a little lacklustre, especially since the movements are very static. Sprites move around to simulate action but nothing is really animated, which definitely takes away from the overall appeal of the game.
THE GAMEPLAY OF EMPIRES & PUZZLESThankfully, the gameplay does feel engaging as any match-3 RPG should. You'll match tiles of the same colour to unleash devastating attacks on your foes, and charge just enough to use special attacks that can damage enemies, buff up your partymates, or offer useful healing effects. You can strategise which enemies you want to target first, as well as take advantage of the elemental attributes of each foe in a rock-paper-scissors manner.
You can pack some items for the journey as well, which are incredibly useful in a pinch. At the end of the day, you can also just tap on the auto-fight button to speed through everything without spending too much effort during battle.
Outside of the main missions, you can summon your heroes and upgrade them as is typical of the genre - what makes this game a little bit different is that it also infuses elements of strategy games into the mix. The base-building mechanics will have you upgrading your Stronghold, building structures to boost Iron and Food production (for levelling up your heroes), forging items you can use to craft healing potions, or even housing recruits or troops you can use to train new Heroes. All these contribute to your combat power as you go from location to location battling the forces of evil.
WHAT'S THE APPEAL?While I do appreciate how the game tries to set itself apart by combining two genres together, it's still not enough to make me want to stay - not when there are so many other titles out there that are more alluring. The match-3 gameplay is satisfying, but I eventually felt like I'd hit a paywall, especially since the game has an annoying energy system. Even the music isn't compelling enough despite being in sync with the game's atmosphere.
I wanted to like this game since match-3 gacha RPGs are always fun, but when all is said and done, gacha mechanics should tempt you to want to collect all characters because they just look so darn good or they're too hella cool on the battlefield. Sadly, Empires & Puzzles has neither. I did enjoy the match-3 combat for a while until I hit a paywall, though - perhaps if you're willing to shell out a few bucks to keep going, then it might be a more pleasant experience for you than it was for me.