Puzzle and Dragons: The Pay to Play You Don’t Pay to Play
“Candy Crush on crack combined with Pokemon.”; This is my go-to phrase for describing the gameplay of Puzzle and Dragons (PAD).
As I approach my 1000th day on the game with no intentions of stopping any time soon, I feel the need to spread the word about this fantastic game. There are 3 things that make this mobile game so outstanding: The gameplay itself, the company that created it (GungHo), and the player base.
The game at its core is simple.
There are several different colored orbs, each which represent a different attribute, on a 5x6 board. Each dungeon is entered with a hand-picked team of monsters, dragons, gods, and heroes with their own attributes. Any time at least 3 orbs of a color are matched up, all team members with that attribute attack the enemy monster(s).
Unlike games like Candy Crush and Bejeweled, however, PAD wants you to move more than just one orb one tile over. You grab one, the timer starts, and you maneuver that thing around to make as many combos as you possibly can.
The possibilities this opens up are endless. Each team has a leader monster that requires a specific goal for your matching to enhance your damage. Some will need rows of one color, while others demand cross shapes for damage.
The incredible variance in these leaders, combined with different boards (Some are 4x4, some 7x6) and various restrictions imposed by enemies (bombs that destroy rows, poison orbs that do damage, and jammer orbs that just take up space) makes the game challenging and beating a dungeon give a sense of satisfaction.
Their common collaborations with other companies and games makes hundreds (yes, hundreds) of popular characters available in the game alongside the other monsters. Even characters like from Dragonball Z, Bleach, DC Comics, and Final Fantasy are available for limited times, in addition to special seasonal and holiday events.
A great game is nothing without a great developer supporting it, and GungHo’s work, dedication, and lack of greed always keeps me happy. As a Japan based company, the focus of their work is on their Japanese player base, but the American division really does its best to stay up to date. Updates are common and clearly defined with maintenance being done regularly to make sure no severe problems arise.
A company that does its job well is wonderful, but what makes GungHo’s actions truly refreshing is how supportive of their player base they are. Lost your phone and need to get your account back? Shoot them an email with some details and they will do their very best to get it back.
Players all agree something needs to be fixed? Give us a bit of time and it’s all done!
Maintenance took an hour longer than expected? Enjoy some free in-game currency for the inconvenience. In fact, the amount of in-game currency given away for free is astronomical compared to any other pay-to-play game I’ve ever heard of.
“Magic Stones”, the in-game currency, is given away so constantly, that in the 3 years I’ve played, I’ve spent a grand total of 10 dollars. That’s 10 dollars for a game that I have enjoyed daily for almost 3 years and I only spent that money because I wanted to support this game.
There’s no need to spend it on playing more often, since as you continue to play, your play limit is increased. In fact, most experienced players adamantly insist to all new players to never use Magic Stones on something like that until a good 400 days into the game.
Almost every single accomplishment in the game (beating a dungeon, beating a set of dungeons, doing exceptionally well in a dungeon) nets a player a free stone, in addition to almost daily free stones.
GungHo’s constant distribution of free giveaways not only makes me feel appreciated as a customer, it assures me that they care about more than just the money to be made.
Finally, the player base, the massive assortment of people that play the game, create a gaming community that is always inclusive and helpful. Dedicated Facebook pages, subreddits (r/PuzzleandDragons), websites (Puzzledragonx.com), and even several apps (PAD Guide) are made and managed to not only help experienced players play better, but to make the game more accessible to new players.
Going on these sites, all I see is a constant stream of helpful advice, friendly discussions, and hopeful fans. On the subreddit you can even find people willing to spend well over half an hour poring over your monster list to help you create a fun and/or easy team, or some who are willing to join new players in Co-op Mode to help with some of the harder dungeons.
Puzzle and Dragons is fun. That’s the most important thing to consider when making a game.
GungHo didn’t just make a game though, it made an experience. That's because Puzzle and Dragons is more than just fun. It’s inclusive, exciting, challenging, and brings people together.
It’s something I look forward to reading up on and writing about because I can feel the effort that they put into making the game as great as it can be. It makes me proud to be part of its community and helping others enjoy it as much as I do. They don’t seem to be stopping any time soon, and neither will I.