Marvel Puzzle Quest: Dark Reign is a very good puzzler indeed, one I thoroughly enjoyed when I played it for review.
With a good deal of tactical depth, a fair number of gameplay systems to familiarise yourself with, and loads of content both online and off, it'd probably be good if a superhero from the Pocket Gamer staff were to put together a guide to help out the newbies, and teach intermediate players a thing or two as well.
So that's what I've been tasked with doing.
Sure, the information contained herein isn't going to save the world from an alien invasion by creatures from the planet Tarnax IV, and it won't quell the tremors of an earthquake about to ruin thousands of lives. I even doubt it'll solve the mystery of the Weapon X program, more's the pity.
But it will teach you how to forge a great alliance of Covers, unveil top tactics for battles, and highlight a few of the smaller details about the game that you may have missed. Excelsior!
Building a team
Before you head into a mission or online battle, take a look at the team you're rocking with, because the heroes you choose are one of the biggest determining factors as to whether or not you'll win in an encounter. If you have a strong team, you're more likely to be victorious. It's as simple as that.
If you're planning on spending a little cash on the game, or are happy to grind for currency a little, then get yourself some Hero Points and nab a rare Cover or two from the store. The rarer the Cover, the more useful it will be in battles, and this is even more true in the first few hours of play, when a rare card will steam roll almost every opponent in your path.
With your team assembled, focus on upgrading their abilities whenever you can. Don't spread out - and diminish the effectiveness of - your Iso-8 amongst a large number of Covers, as you'll hit overpowered foes in relation to your level, which will impede progress earlier in the game.
I focused on improving my Iron Man Cover, with Storm as my backup, and then got a rare Cover as early as possible. This gave me a formidable team, with a good selection of powers to take advantage of.
You may want to think about adding a Power Boost before engaging with enemies, as this may give you the edge in scraps. I didn't find them super useful myself, and tended to only use them when I was really struggling.
Now that you're fielding your most powerful heroes, you'll want to use their unique abilities effectively in the field of battle.
Some hero powers deal instant damage to your opponent, and can be used to grind down their health or quickly turn the tide in your favour. Iron Man's Repulsor Blast is a perfect example of this: just build up your AP and you can unleash a direct attack to your enemy - an attack that increases its damage in line with your experience level.
Other hero powers - such as Dr. Doom's Summon Demons - will place Attack Tiles on the playfield, which deal out the pain at the end of every turn you take.
It's useful if you keep the tiles for these attacks in play as long as possible, so avoid matching regular tiles with them as otherwise you'll remove them from the board and diminish their overall effect.
If you know you want to use a certain type of power, say there's an enemy that is constantly healing their team mates and must be dealt with quickly, you'll want to focus on defeating them as rapidly as possible, usually through a succession of normal hits followed by super moves.
Target the baddie by selecting them in the window above the play area, then begin matching tiles. You'll want to concentrate on matching those tiles with the corresponding icon of the hero whose power you'd like to use, so that your AP for that character builds up fast.
And don't forget: you can use your powers an unlimited number of times before playing your next regular move and passing the turn over to your opponent.
The little details
There's not a lot that's hidden away from you in Marvel Puzzle Quest: Dark Reign. It's more that there are a few things you should remember to keep in mind while playing.
For instance, you're awarded a large amount of Iso-8 the first time you complete a mission, so if you're running low on the stuff, it may be worth exploring new avenues in the single player. Alternatively you may decide that the multiplayer is the channel to get hold of this level-raising chemical, as you'll be given some for winning battles there, as well as Covers.
A little talked about feature about Covers is that they too can be converted into Iso-8, should you get desperate. Don't bother selling Covers you've spent a load of time improving, as the pay-off isn't worth it, but a low level one may be worth sacrificing.
You'll also want to repeat missions over and over again, so that you gain all of the rewards on offer. In the overworld map, missions you've exhausted of new bonuses are marked with a tick, so avoid these and try your hand at the others. You can see what you're likely to receive by going into the mission and looking at the bottom right-hand side of the screen.
Got any tips to share? Let us and the rest of the PG community know them by leaving them in the comments section below.