Capsule Review: Match Land

A free-to-play match-3 RPG. The core of the gameplay is turn-based combat where you queue up as many matches as you can and then execute them simultaneously to power your attacks. Between fights there are a number of complex progression mechanics to become stronger that rely on some deliberate slowdowns, such as the spoils of combat only gradually turning into money and combat itself consuming a slow-recharge stamina meter. You can speed up progress by spending the premium currency, but there’s no way to permanently remove the stamina mechanic or other slowdowns.

The base game is largely a treadmill. Your heroes get stronger and you unlock even stronger ones, and meanwhile the enemies get stronger as well. Combat doesn’t change much and eventually the depth is exhausted. Fortunately, a post-launch update added the “Arena of Skulls” which has varying multipliers in effect for different types of heroes. Perhaps one week your “Samurai”-themed heroes might do double damage while your archers do triple, and the next week your “Royal”-themed heroes do triple damage while your sword-wielders do double.

This has a surprisingly large effect on combat strategy. While the base game is structured to encourage you to use your strongest hero for each weapon type, the arena’s multipliers will often mean that some of your otherwise left-behind heroes are worthwhile again and you’ll field a more mechanically lopsided team. Maybe you’ll have three axe-wielders (so axe attacks do an insane amount of damage) but no staff-wielders (so you don’t have access to their self-heal ability). The variety this creates adds a lot of longevity to the experience.

Unfortunately, it’s still tied to the base game’s deliberate slowdowns. You need an increasing amount of enemy drops to progress through the game, and while you can “quick loot” old levels to farm drops without redoing outleveled combat encounters, that still costs stamina. Efficient play therefore often means spending all your stamina on quick looting rather than actually playing the game. That’s a weird choice to have to make, and because you can’t get rid of the stamina meter it’s never really possible to play the game on your own schedule.

I Stopped Playing When: I lost interest in the base game until the arena brought me back. That held my attention for a while, but mainly for lack of a better way to spend my kill-a-few-minutes-on-my-phone gaming time. And when I rediscovered Jetpack Joyride, that unseated it easily.

Docprof's Rating:

Two Stars: Meh. The game has some merit - it probably held my attention for at least an hour or I came back to it for more than one play session. But there wasn't enough draw for me to stick with it for the long haul.

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