Posted by Rampant Coyote on May 1, 2013
Mixing RPG elements with other game genres is nothing new. I mean, if you go back far enough, the genres weren’t clearly defined in the first place, and were all mixed together in weird stew that can be hard to classify. Some of the old-school RPGs of the 1980s might be called “Action-Adventure RPGs with strategy game elements” or something like that.
Today, such mixes are typically more deliberate – mainly because marketers have tried so hard to put everything in clearly defined boxes. But the results have borne fruit. I’ve put a lot of hours in the Borderlands series, a pretty reasonable blend of classic first-person shooter gameplay with fun RPG-style progression. I’d be hard pressed to really call it an “RPG”, but what it really is is a “fun game.”
Mixing RPG elements into the “match three” casual puzzle game genre is likewise not all that new (most notably done in the Puzzle Quest series). But a recent entry comes with some really neat twists a cool Steampunk theme, and turned a planned 15-minute session into an hour-long quest (that sadly ended in failure) right off the bat. Addictive? Yeah, it’s got that. Fun? Yeah. RPG? Enough to keep my interest.
The game is called Bret Airborne, by Machine 22.
I’m gonna assume you are already pretty familiar with Match-3 games, as made famous by the Bejeweled series. Anybody not played those? The goal is to match three (or more) objects at a time horizontally or vertically on a playing field. Basic stuff.
In Bret Airborne, there’s a lot more to it than that. Okay, so you are piloting an airship, battling other airships as you are going to save the world from a mad scientist. You have a special ability – and can buy more special abilities (and other customized qualities) from stores as you gain rewards from downing enemy airships on your quest. So that’s the RPG aspect of the game – you gain customized powers and passive augmentations as you go. It’s not much, but it’s enough. This is not a super complex game.
The “combat” is where things get really interesting. It’s a competitive match-3 game. You and your opponent play on a single board, divided down the middle. Like most match-3 games, you make a move by swapping an object with an adjacent object. However, you can only swap two pieces that are both on your side of the board – although you can make matches against pieces on your opponent’s side (and win “piracy” points when you do so). Normally, you and your opponent take turns making moves. If you get a match of four or more in a move, you get two bonuses – you get to take an extra turn (HUGE!), AND you push the boundary into your opponent’s territory, allowing you access to move objects formerly under his control. This lasts until your opponent finally gets his turn again, and the boundary re-centers.
Also, if you don’t have a match of any kind (or even if you do, but you are trying to prevent your opponent from getting a killer combo), you can make a move that doesn’t score any matches at all. It’s perfectly legal, but the boundary moves against you one space as it reverts to his turn, giving him access to one column of “your” objects.
In normal combat, matching cannonballs damages your opponent’s armor; matching hammers repairs damage to your ship’s armor. In thunderstorms, matching lightning bolts is something you want to avoid if you can – they cause damage to your own ship. Matching other objects has other effects, most frequently providing resources to your ship.
Instead of swapping tiles on your turn, you can spend those earned resources to use one of your special powers. These can have all kinds of effects, from straightforward damaging of your opponent or repairing your ship to things like converting some of your tiles into cannonballs, converting your opponent’s cannonballs into teapots, stealing resources from your opponent, etc. This is really the meat of the combat at higher levels – powering up your abilities while moving strategically to deny your opponent the opportunity to do the same.
‘Cuz, of course, they can do the same to you.
Anyway, I found the game delightful, and would recommend checking out the free demo –
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