Puzzle Quest was one of the surprise hits of 2007. It's combination of a popular casual puzzle game with RPG elements proved to be an addictive formula for casual and hardcore gamers alike. D3Publisher was showing off the sequel at PAX East, and there's been quite a few improvements made to the original, including a better overall graphics style, some new challenges, and a brand-new loot system akin to Diablo and other dungeon crawlers.
The first thing that stands out with Puzzle Quest 2 is the graphics. Compared with its predecessor, the sequel has a look and feel that's even more stylized and crisp. Characters on-screen and the environments are a bit more cartoon-y in nature than they were in Puzzle Quest, but the transition pieces and movies are where a lot of the style is evident. From stained glass windows to pictures that look more like a concept art for another game, its readily evident that D3 has
As far as the gameplay, Puzzle Quest 2 has moved away from the "move about a map and fight random battles" style, to a model that's "move about a dungeon and fight random battles." Although, with that dungeon crawler mechanic, comes a new loot system that includes rare and epic pieces of equipment that your character can wear. These items will give your character additional stats and power boosts, and they also have more of an impact in the puzzle gem battles this time around. The gold and XP gems have been removed from the game (these are now awarded after a battle only) and in their place is a new type of mana (purple) and a gem that resembles a fist, which allows you attack the enemy with whatever weapon you have equipped. Attacking with a weapon brings with it a chance to deal a critical hit, the chance of which can be increased with character abilities.
Perhaps the most interesting change between Puzzle Quest and the sequel has been the inclusion of challenge boards and mini-game type challenges. In the demo we saw, one of the NPCs tasked us with putting out a fire. Instead of lining up skull gems and gaining mana to use your special abilities, lining up blue gems reduced the fire's "hit points," while lining up red gems increased the fire's health and caused damage to you. Later in the game, players will encounter boards where certain areas are "dead zones" that prohibits players from lining up gems within them.
Puzzle Quest 2 is initially slated for release on the DS and XBLA, with versions on other platforms to be announced later. While the game will not feature any co-op modes, it certainly proved to be one of the more surprising games here at PAX East.