Elements of Arkandia
Terry Brown's development studio, Undefined, may lack definition, but it certainly hasn't been short on different methods for RPG battle systems. Enemies have been mowed down by towers in their Protector series, dungeons have been crawled in Arkandian Legends, and beasties summoned with cards in Cardian. But not until now has the glorious offensive potential of match-3 been mined by them. In Elements of Arkandia, you'll use just that to duel enemies and earn loot. Loot which you'll need to pay down the debt that your dad saddled you with while he goes gallivanting off. Wizard dads do that. Gallivant, I mean.
The game gives you a fairly good tutorial when you start out. In the main area of the game, you'll manage your spellbook and armory, where logically enough you can equip spells and armor. You start out with some basics of each and can find more by adventuring. The shopping section sells upgrades to things like your mana bank and shop space for your own shop. In your shop, you'll sell pieces of armor and reagents that you pick up adventuring and don't need. All of that coin will come in handy because you start the game thirty thousand coins in debt from dear old dad. You'll also be able to make loan payments from this main screen.
But forget all that for a moment. The real reason you're here is to go adventuring! If you've played any match-3 title, and given that you're currently on the internet it's a safe bet you have, you should know the basic drill. Swap adjacent tiles to match three or more, clearing them. In this game, clearing gems can fill your mana pool, your physical attack pool (called rage), or give you coins or loot, depending on the kind of gem. Matching four or five gems in a row grants you some extra life and an extra turn also, so naturally you'll want to do that whenever you can.
You'll use this mana and rage to cast spells and physically attack an enemy. The enemies also will be attacking you every two turns, so it's best to make quick work of them when you can. Each area has several enemies in a row which you must defeat altogether before you can claim your loot and money. The total number of treasure gems affects which item of loot you get, so be sure to check the loot tables by hovering over the chest icon in the adventure selection screen. When you finish an area, you'll return to the main screen where you can examine your loot and decide whether to equip it or sell it.
Analysis: If you approach this game like a puzzle, or if you have a perfectionistic streak and want to try to get a four or higher every time, let me warn you that this game will really, really drag. Since there's no way to save mid-adventure, you could easily find yourself stuck to the computer for a half hour or more if you play that way. It might have been best if the developers had included a timer mechanism to encourage a good pace of play, but pretend that there is one and don't get obsessed with finding the best move every time, or you'll get sick of the game fairly quickly. If you play the game the way it must be meant to be played, with a certain relaxation and a good pace, there's still a ton of game here. There are 24 adventure areas and you can play the different areas multiple times in pursuit of their different special items.
The game dabbles a bit in Recettear-style shop ownership, but it feels more like an afterthought than a serious part of the game. You simply click a button, watch a clock go round, and then get told which of the items you put up for sale got sold and for how much. The game does much better with the match-3/battle hybrid. While it isn't the first game to do this, it's implemented well, and match-3 fans will enjoy the added challenge of considering not only how best to clear gems, but also how to get gems of the desired type. There's also a sprinkling of gentle humor here and there, such as the Corrupted Lumberjack, who sleeps all night and works all day. (Someone explain the reference in the comments.)
The only question now is what Undefined will tackle next now that they've crossed off match-3. I humbly suggest full contact rock paper scissors.