I’ve played Bejeweled a little and a few other Match-3 games (that aren’t worth name-dropping) in my day, but lately I’ve found myself wandering into that world again with gusto. I’m not fully proud of my time played in these games that have very little depth on the surface when I could very well be playing any number of games that have a story and … well depth for lack of a better word. That is the nature of these games, though, is to suck you in right? The two taking my time (albeit both are now waning in my game-time thanks to Monster Hunter) are Pokémon Shuffle and Gems of War.
The differences are easy to see on the surface because one has Pokémon and the other has made up creatures… wait a minute… other than that there is some actual depth in both of these games. Pokémon Shuffle and Gems of War both have level up elements with all of your characters to gauge your progress by. Leveling in Pokémon Shuffle comes a bit more naturally as the more you play with a captured Pokémon gains them more experience causing them to level up. Unlike traditional Pokémon games, they don’t evolve through leveling. If you want the evolved form of your Pokémon, you’ll have to progress in the game and capture them. The differences between the Pokémon are their passive abilities that activate with you simply match them on the board (by dragging a Pokémon from one spot and placing it wherever you want: Freedom!) or match 4 or more at one time. Some have Mega Evolutions as well that can be unlocked by progressing. When a Pokémon is Mega Evolved during a match their passive ability changes as well.
Gems of War is a bit more brutal when it comes to leveling. You don’t level up your characters by playing with them, but rather with the souls you gain when you defeat your opponents. At first it’s not too bad cost-wise, but it scales up dramatically and gets really expensive to give your character one level and possible only get a single stat benefit from it. When their magic stat increases their active ability power goes up which you can use when you match enough gems of a certain color (with traditional adjacent tile movement). You only get (with a basic setup) four souls per match with 300+ souls to level one character up one level later on, you’ll be spending a lot of time in the challenge mode to gain the extra souls. That or you can play in the arena where you pick from randomly selected troops (that you may not own) and pit you against opponent’s teams that sometimes don’t feel as random as your choices for a growing set of rewards with the more you win.
Both are Free-To-Play (FTP) games and both apply different approaches to how they want to monetize their game. Pokémon Shuffle goes with the “you only get so many turns to play and then you have to wait or pay” method. This can seem rough, but if you’re picking it up as a simple time killing game, it’s perfectly acceptable. You get extra turns every 30 minutes which is rather generous. You can buy more turns with gems that you get for beating every Mega Evolved Pokémon, street passing 100 people or paying real money for them. You can also use these gems to continue for an extra five moves if you think that will help finish off a Pokémon. I usually only recommend using that on a Mega Evolved opponent since those tend to be the tougher ones and you can’t capture them, but receive a Mega Stone for winning instead. Once again, I think this FTP model only works if you don’t want to play this game for hours on end.
Gems of War let’s you play until you run out of in-game money. This causes the game to have a bit of a rough start due to not having enough money to do anything but come back later. The more you progress and more cities you purchase, the less this will become a problem, but that is with some decent time invested. You can buy gems in Gems of War, but unlike Pokémon Shuffle you can buy gear that give you bonuses to money, souls and/or experience. This helps, but costs a bit. The only other option is in-game money and keys which give a random chance at getting new characters. I’m not super excited about those mystery bags they sell at grocery stores and I’m not excited to spend real money on a chance at getting stuff I already have and don’t want here either. It’s just frustrating. There are nicer keys to be purchased with real money that have a chance to get better heroes, both those are just as random and that’s not my thing. As far as using gems to buy souls, the cost of souls for leveling a single character to max is just ridiculous when you have a party of four and may want to switch later on. (Yes you can gain souls if you play a lot, but we’re just talking about how much it costs.)
The only other main difference between these two match-3 games is how they give difficulty to the player. Pokémon Shuffle does this with puzzle stages, interruption blocks and extra ineffective Pokémon. The puzzle stages setup… well… puzzles that you’ll have to figure out in order to win and interruption blocks also speak for themselves. Some of these stages are fairly easy, but I’ve had to use the internet to figure out one of them, but that was it. The ineffective Pokémon is the main way they try to hinder you. You want to match similar Pokémon that are strong against the one you are fighting, but some stages will throw Pokémon that are super weak against your opponent and thus hindering your cascading damage. You can buy out of this, but it’s expensive. It’s not out of reach, but it is costly. Capture and level up your Pokémon and get all the Mega Stones you can get. Sometimes winning is just a war of chucking lots of bodies at the enemy until they give in!
Gems of War falls pretty hard here depending on who you talk to. They don’t have interruption blocks or anything super obvious. What Gems of War does have is a very large pool of “BS” it can pull from. Cascades can and will happen to you. If you create a team that makes it so it’s hard for the enemy to get a turn, that also helps if you can get the mana flowing. What happens is that sometimes the game will just not give you what you need. In fact it will give you what you don’t need which will drop things you do need and the enemy will take it leaving you with nothing again. With no mana, there are no moves to use against the enemy and there’s less of a chance of winning. You can match skulls, but there’s the kicker. I’ve experienced this and have watched a few others experience the same where you won’t get jack other than screwed with what drops for you, but you will continually see what falls after your move set up the computer for something that continues their turn and damages you only for you to have no other option but to set them up and have it happen again. The forums are full of people who will tell you that the games does not operate like this and that you are misremembering, but I have no idea what they are smoking. The devs can give up all the code they want for this game, it does honestly feel like it actively screws you over. Once again, you can build a team that blocks the enemy from getting many if any turns, but that feels just like your dropping to their level… and I guess that just means that I’ll have to take what they give me.
*EDIT* There is a patch coming up for Gems of War in which it looks like they are working on the cascades making them less “punishing”. I’m still not entirely sure I’ll wait around for it though.
Gems of War: