I have a confession to make – I am totally and completely addicted to Marvel Puzzle Quest: Dark Reign. I’ve developed a number of tips and tricks for this game, and I’ve collected them as part of this post, my Marvel Puzzle Quest: Dark Reign guide.
What is Marvel Puzzle Quest: Dark Reign?
Marvel Puzzle Quest: Dark Reign is a free-to-play game that is available on both mobile devices and, oddly enough, on PC via Steam. The basic gameplay is similar to Puzzle Quest and Puzzle Quest 2. Other similar games include Bejeweled and Candy Crush Saga, but by comparison Marvel Puzzle Quest has a much smaller audience.
How do I earn new heroes? How do “covers” work?
Heroes are unlocked by earning covers. There are several ways to earn covers:
- Some covers can be earned by completing some of the single player story missions. These covers tend to be the more common heroes.
- More rare covers can be earned by participating in and placing highly in Events, which pit your heroes against other players.
- You can also buy covers in the “recruit” menu by spending either Iso-8 or Hero Points, or in exchange for Recruit Tokens.
Once you’ve unlocked a hero, you can level up their powers by earning more of the same cover. Each cover comes in multiple colors, and each color levels up the corresponding colored power. There are typically two or three powers per hero, and 5 levels per power.
Thus, in order to max out a hero, you’re generally going to need 10 or 15 covers.
At times, you’ll need more covers in order to continue leveling a hero with Iso-8. We’ll cover Iso-8 in a later section, but if you see an error like “Train Powers First!” know that the game wants you to earn more covers for that hero in order to proceed.
In addition to using covers to upgrade powers, you can also pay Hero Points to upgrade powers. We’ll cover this in more detail when we talk about Hero Points.
It’s also possible to sell covers that you don’t need or want anymore. You’ll generally gain a small amount of Iso-8 for this.
How should I pick heroes to form my team?
Once you’ve collected a set of covers, you’ll naturally want to select a set of them that work optimally together in order to win battles.
Each hero in Marvel Puzzle Quest: Dark Reign has a different set of stats that determines how much damage they do for matching a particular color of gems. Each hero also has a different set of skills that can be used when they earn enough AP of a particular color. Usually these two things are correlated – heroes who have skills of a particular color tend to do more damage when matching those colors together.
For these reasons, it pays to balance your team so that you can utilize all colors of AP. That way, no matter what is on the board, you can do damage and charge abilities.
There are also different types of heroes, and it pays to keep track of your team’s composition so that you end up with a balance. Some heroes have high HP and can soak up a lot of damage, while other heroes have high damage skills that hit hard and down enemies quickly. Some heroes have super useful skills that can turn the tide of battle.
If you pick all high-HP weak-hitting heroes, chances are good you’re going to have trouble dealing enough damage before the enemies whittle down your health. If you pick all “low-HP high hitting or utility skill” heroes, the enemies will mop the floor with you before you can charge up and fire them.
A balance is critical so that you can weather the storm while you charge up, and then dish out major damage to incapacitate your enemies.
What are Events and why do I care?
Events are missions you can take on that will often pit your team against a team selected by another player. Unlike the campaign missions, most events are timed. Some events involve the entire Marvel Puzzle Quest population, although most will only make you compete against a small number (say, 500) other players.
Clearing missions in an event gives you points, which determine your ranking and what rewards you receive. Points can also be lost in player-vs-player events if other players attack you.
Events pay out two different types of rewards:
- Placement Rewards are awarded for how well you do relative to other players at the time when the event ends.
- Progression Rewards are given out when you reach certain point totals, regardless of how you are doing relative to other players. The more you play, the better the rewards are.
What is Iso-8?
Iso-8 is a purple crystal looking thing. You’ll earn it by completing missions and by participating in events. You can also outright buy Iso-8 with real-world money if that suits you. It is one of two premium currencies in the game, and is by far the more common of the two.
What’s the fastest way to earn Iso-8?
Iso-8 is most commonly earned by winning missions or events. You could buy it, but I’m all about playing these games for free, so that’s really not how I roll.
In fact, by far the fastest way to earn Iso-8 in Marvel Puzzle Quest is by playing in events. For every win you get, you’ll earn either 70 or 140 Iso-8. If you win a few rounds in an event, chances are good too that you’ll walk away with several hundred more from the event rewards.
How should I spend my Iso-8?
The primary use for Iso-8 is leveling up your heroes. The higher the level, the more Iso-8 it will take to level your hero up.
You can also spend Iso-8 on certain categories of covers in the “Recruit” menu, although I find this to be of limited utility. You’ll generally only get the most common hero types this way, and I tended to have enough Recruit Tokens to make spending Iso-8 on covers redundant.
This brings up a related question: what heroes should I level up first?
The higher the level a hero is, the more damage they do when they match, the more HP they have, and it also slightly increases the damage that their abilities do. Therefore, my suggestion to you is to level up high-HP heroes that have damage-dealing skills first.
For instance, Iron Man is a good, common level up candidate. His abilities all deal damage and he’s got high HP when compared to heroes at his level. Thor or Captain America are also good candidates.
An example of a low-priority level up target would be Black Widow. She doesn’t earn a lot of HP for her levels, she doesn’t do a heck of a lot of damage when matching, and all her skills don’t deal damage either. That’s not to say you should leave her at level 1 – she certainly benefits from the increased survivability extra levels add. She’s just not a high priority by comparison to others.
What are Hero Points?
Hero Points are the second premium currency in Marvel Puzzle Quest: Dark Reign. They are certainly the more premium of the two, and are significantly more rare than Iso-8 is.
What’s the fastest way to earn Hero Points?
There are just a few campaign levels that grant Hero Points as a possible reward. You can check the campaign levels you’ve cleared and see if there are any that still could give you some Hero Points. Bear in mind, though, that you might have to play multiple times in order to get one of the rewards listed – sometimes you’ll end up with a tiny Iso-8 reward instead of any of the “possible rewards” for a level.
You can also earn Hero Points for competing in events. You’ll have to work pretty hard for them, though. You might end up winning 16-20 rounds in a given event before you qualify for a Hero Point payout.
How should I spend my Hero Points?
You can spend Hero Points on a lot of things in Marvel Puzzle Quest: Dark Reign. If you’re buying points, you might have enough to buy the occasional cover from the Recruit menu or restock your Health Packs. You can also spend them to upgrade a hero’s powers, which might be safer than trying to buy random covers. This method of upgrading powers tends to be very expensive, though.
However, if you’re trying to play this game cheaply (or without spending any money at all, which is the way I play), it pays to spend your Hero Points to upgrade your roster size and make room for more heroes.
Even just collecting all the common heroes will easily fill 10-15 roster slots, and chances are you’re going to occasionally find a cover for a rarer hero. If you earn these rare covers as rewards, you’ve only got a week to recruit the hero or you’ll lose it forever. You’re also going to have to hold on to these heroes/covers for longer before they are useful, since you can’t really make these rare guys powerful without the rare covers they rely on.
It’s a real bummer to win an event and get a rare cover or three but lose them because you don’t have the roster slots to redeem them. Thus, your #1 priority when you have Hero Points is to increase your roster size.
What Covers/Heroes Should I Save?
This is a somewhat controversial question. It’s nearly impossible to have a roster large enough to hold every hero unless you sink a lot of cash into hero points for roster upgrades. However, the “best” team of heroes is a very subjective question. I’ll give you some general tips, and then my picks.
- Pick a set of three heroes that covers all colors. That way, regardless of what is on the board, you’ll be making damage and progress towards your abilities.
- Pick at least one, but preferably two heroes with high hit points. If your team of three is all squishy support heroes, you’re likely to have problems surviving.
- Save as many 3-star heroes as possible. Often in the “single player” style events, you’ll need particular heroes, or a particular hero group will be powered up. Getting the 3-star heroes for these is rather difficult to do. That said, you still want to be able to build your roster of 1- and 2-star heroes early on, so you might end up ditching a 3-star cover or two because you don’t have space.
Pro Tip Don’t sell covers you don’t have space for or don’t plan to recruit until the last minute if possible. Often, I’ve found that within the amount of time it takes the covers to expire I’ve found a use for someone who is in my “cover queue.”
I’m at the point in the game now where I’m training primarily 3-star heroes. My 1-star team was:
- Iron Man – He’s got high HP and some decent attack and defense skills. His blue ability is powerful, but I had other blue heroes so I ignored it for the most part.
- Black Widow – When maxed out, she can stun the entire enemy team, which gives you complete control of the board for a turn. Super, super useful.
- Storm – Storm is crazy overpowered, but she has low HP. Her Red ability only takes 6 AP (two matches) and charges your environment attacks rapidly while making a lot of other matches possible. Her Green not only destroys tiles but earns AP, which is rather rare. Together with Black Widow’s stun, she can be a formidable opponent.
I see a lot of Juggernaut in the 1-star category, and occasionally Venom as well. Both are solid choices, just not the ones I picked.
After you’ve maxed out a 1-star team, it’s time to start focusing roster space on a 2-star team. It takes a while for 2-star heroes to eclipse your 1-star team, so hang on to this maxed-out team for a while!
For 2-star there are several candidates, I chose:
- Captain America – He’s kind of underrated, in my opinion. All of his abilities can be exploited to make massive 4- and 5-of a kind matches, especially his Yellow, which creates 4 tiles. At max level, his Red ability replaces any tile on the board – including enemy countdown tiles – with a friendly Red tile.
- Black Widow – The 2-star variant of Black Widow (“Original”) has an extremely powerful heal, while retaining the AP-draining abilities of the 1-star version. She’s a lifesaver!
- Storm – 2-star “classic” Storm is missing the Red ability of 1-star Storm, and her abilities are very costly. However, her Blue is a real game changer, and again she’s the only one with an AP-generating “break a bunch of tiles” attack.
- Thor or Wolverine – Both of these guys are mainstays of many Marvel Puzzle Quest rosters. I don’t like them too much since they were recently nerf’ed, but they’re still solid choices.
When you get to 3-star, chances are pretty good that you’ll have a handle on what to look for in a good hero team. Also, chances are good that unless you’re playing a lot or paying, you’re not going to have many options when it comes to 3-star covers. Also also, they are constantly adding new 3-star heroes. Here are some things to consider, though:
- Spider-Man is a classic choice. He’s got another powerful heal and stun move that can’t be beat.
- Wolverine makes a 3-star appearance as Patch. He’s got some strong moves, just like his 2-star variant.
- Punisher and Hulk are both good Green/Black/Red choices.
- Loki and The Hood both have a pretty impressive set of support abilities that are worth considering.
Just be ready to change things up on a regular basis – 3-star heroes are very “flavor of the month” and the roster is ever-increasing.