For more than one reason, you'd be forgiven for assuming a game called Marvel Puzzle Quest: Dark Reign is home-grown Aussie developed. Not so. It's a doubly deceptive name for a game that was made just outside of Boston, and has little to do with its Melbourne-based franchise creator, and less to do with the classic Aussie-made RTS.
With Puzzle Quest creators Infinite Interactive popping up recently to announce their return to independent development, and revealing there was a 2013 game on the way "heavily inspired by Puzzle Quest", it looked like more Melbourne-made match 3 mayhem was on the cards. Enter the release of Marvel Puzzle Quest: Dark Reign, which not only carried the franchise name, but oddly, the name of another Aussie classic - the 1997 RTS by Auran.
Marvel Puzzle Quest plays out a lot like a Puzzle Quest game, with some nifty gameplay tweaks that fit the superhero realm very well, and add some interesting new strategic elements. But while playing, the Infinite Interactive logo was nowhere to be seen, while the usual publisher, D3, was present.
Half the mystery is easily explained - Dark Reign also happens to be the name of a series of events after the Skrull invasion in the Marvel Universe, in which the Green Goblin rises to power and forms an evil alliance with other notable villains.
But for the other half of the story, we reached out to I2 founder Steve Fawkner. It turns out, while I2 still owns the rights to Puzzle Quest, it was licensed out to Boston studio Demiurge, who developed the bulk of the game with design consultancy from the franchise creators.
So that brings us to the question, what exactly is I2 working on?
That would be Gems of War. It is, in Fawkner's own words, "Puzzle Quest and Warlords thrown together in a blender." I'm told we can expect it some time in 2014, and it was one of the many games to recently receive funding by Screen Australia. Here's a synopsis of the game from the Screen Australia website:
In Gems of War, players experience a grand strategy game in a high-fantasy universe. The unique hook is that unlike other strategy games, the battles here are played out on a match-3 puzzle board. Exactly as Puzzle Quest did for role-playing games, Gems of War will open strategy gaming to a whole new audience. Gems of War will also take full advantage of social features to make the game even more amazing than the developer’s previous break-out title, Puzzle Quest.
Steve Fawkner says I2 will have more to show when there are some cool looking screenshots ready. I've played every Puzzle Quest so far, including Galactrix, and love it - so I'm definitely looking forward to what's next.