I have been playing Puzzle and Dragons for over 2,700 days and in this time I have seen monsters rise and fall, a constantly shifting meta, along with Farmables being a top tier leader. Furthermore, I have witnessed the constantly evolving mechanics of current end game dungeons along with the cards released to counter them.
As a whole, PAD is by far my longest played game and would technically qualify as my longest relationship, but like any relationship, it requires work, dedication, and patience to truly succeed.
Obviously I love Puzzle and Dragons but at the same time, I can be critical about the short comings of this game along with how I feel the meta is shifting and whether or not it is for the better.
With that being said, there has never been a better time to play PAD due to the exceptionally generous hand outs by GungHo that include copious amounts of Magic Stones and special Godfest rolls which is further diminishing the concept of early game PAD.
With all of this in mind, I would like to examine the current state of the game through this article by highlighting what works and areas that need improvement.
On a side note, my previous State of the Game article highlights other important aspects with many of my views holding true to this day.
Marathon, not a Sprint
Like any Gatcha game, PAD is a marathon, not a sprint as you are rewarded the most for how long you have played due to the nature of Magic Stone acquisition.
Magic Stones are the premium currency within PAD and there is no true way to “farm” them as there is a finite number of dungeons to clear. As such, the best way to acquire Magic Stones is through logging in, doing gift dungeons, or other limited time, low-hanging fruit.
Perhaps the most extreme example I know of is Purtle who is completely non-IAP (does not spend IRL money) and has amassed over 4,200 Stones from just playing the game and only rolling conservatively.
Showered with goodies
Looking back through my PAD life time, I cannot find a time period where GungHo has ever been this generous through all of the gift dungeons, free rolls, and amazing Magic Stone handouts.
In fact, players need significantly less Grinding as all resources are more abundant compared to before. This in turn lets players focus more on the “fun” aspects of the game as we are no longer slogging away in Ocean of Heaven and being happy with 3 Pluses dropping.
Stamina used to be a highly precious resource back in the day when it refilled at a rate of 1 every 10 minutes. This meant you probably had to adhere to GungHo’s tip of limiting your playing time to 1 hour and we had to be quite selective of what we played.
Fast forward to today and we have Stamina refilling once every 3 minutes along with the ability to watch Ads twice a day for a full refresh.
This means players will naturally generate 480 Stamina per day along with two entire refills of their maximum stamina. Furthermore, we have many lucrative Rank EXP dungeons which means a motivated individual could potentially play for hours every day without fear of having insufficient Stamina.
No more “early game”
Whenever you start a new game, there is often a certain degree of predictable progression that needs to occur to help ease players into the various mechanics and nuances unique to a given game.
Many games utilize a tutorial or something equivalent and while PAD does have a tutorial, it is 7-8 years out of date as it teaches players virtually nothing and then immediately thrusts them into the game with no explanations.
Perhaps to counter this, GungHo gives out significantly more goodies to newer players but it still does not teach them what to do, what is valuable, how to build a team, or even tackle dungeons. This is further hampered by the majority of Normal and Technical dungeons being completely irrelevant as they were released years and years ago.
Furthermore, the variuos collateral benefits given during Godfests can enable new players to potentially have ready made, fully evolved, skilled, awoken, and +297 cards with no concept of how to build a team nor understanding how to develop or invest in cards.
I feel that all of these factors have completely neutered the concept of an early game experience as players can potentially have fully developed cards before they know what they are actually doing.
Finally, overloading new players with cards and resources early on gives a false sense of achievement and may lead to extreme disappointment when they actually play a challenging dungeon and die to seemingly unfair mechanics.
By comparison, the Story Mode dungeons actually function much more like a tutorial and it does take away some of the early game weight by giving premade teams that slowly gets populated along with actual tips throughout. Furthermore, the Story Mode gives meaningful, albeit possibly too many rewards (1,000 Tamadras?!) but it actually has a level of progression and the encounters have some mechanics which are briefly highlighted.
Compared to the majority of Normal and Technical Dungeons, the Story Mode does an infinitely better job of teaching the game while not having dungeons from possibly 8 years ago.
As such, I feel that replacing the useless Tutorial with Story Mode would be meaningful or even just removing the majority of Normal/Technical dungeons and replace them with more Story Modes.
Transforming is King
Transforming is essentially anther hurdle for team building that heavily revolves around having sufficient Skill Boosts to Transform from a weak form to something much stronger. This makes sense as you do have to jump through another hurdle to reach your optimal form but these cards have to stronger compared to non-Transforming cards to justify the Skill Boost requirement. If they were not stronger, no real point in hampering yourself for a similar outcome.
Furthermore, post-Transform removes all Skill Boost awakenings from said card along with greatly upgrading their kit. In fact, post-Transform cards often have some of the most outrageous active skills for their cooldown (eg. Norza ) and are often a key part of a team due to their low cooldown and orb generation effects which ensures consistent activation.
Cards don’t stay relevant as long
Gatchas always have varying degrees of Powercreep and PAD is no exception. Sadly, the trend appears to favour releasing new cards on a regular basis who have to be stronger in order to be worth chasing. The difference from event to event may not always be that drastic but comparing cards released 3 months apart may have more polarizing results.
Furthermore, it is difficult to heavily invest into a card due to the fact that there are limited ways to do so.
Shifting away from Monster Exchange
The Monster Exchange is one of the BEST improvements to PAD over the years as it allows players to efficiently utilize dupes to trade for a valuable card. Furthermore, the trading ratio feels quite fair and still requires lots of rolling to amass enough Fodder.
Sadly, GungHo appears to be edging away from Monster Exchanging in order to force players to roll heavily in Collabs such as Demon Slayer or Monogatari to acquire the second highest rarity cards.
Even worse are events like Mystics & Spectres where the featured cards are lumped into the regular REM with sad rolling rate with the top rarity cards holding barely any of the rolling percentage.
I personally do not find these events fun to roll in as there can be so much sadness to wade through in order to find value along with no Pity System to offset a potentially infinite string of bad luck.
Things to improve PAD
Nothing is perfect and while there have been numerous Quality of Life improvements made to Puzzle and Dragons over the years, there are still several glaring issues all around.
Too many cards
The first and possible root to many of my subsequent points is that there are far too many cards in existence. It is probably a selling point to have thousands of different cards but the sad reality is that only a small number are truly valuable when trying to build the most efficient teams possible or when pushing through new and challenging content.
This giant rolling pool with only a few being truly valuable can be frustrating and this is further exasperated by GungHo continuously releasing new cards which in turn raise the rate of Powercreep along with potentially shifting currently useful cards into more obscurity as an upgrade is released.
In fact, newly released cards have to be stronger in theory as there would be no motivation to try and pursue them as a whole. This in turn keeps the meta more “fresh” but at the same time slowly invalidates older cards as more efficient options now exist.
As such, many leaders are cycled out as it is the easiest place to upgrade a card as GungHo only has to increase the multipliers to make a new card better. With this in mind, it is important to try and acquire a new and powerful leader as soon as they come out in order to maximize their time spent on top.
No meaningful way to improve existing cards
When PAD first came out, you were considered a cool cat if you had a +297 leader and even more revered if they were max skilled for certain cards. Over time we acquired the original Latents which gave another small layer of customization but eventually, both of these aspects became easier to acquire.
Don’t get me wrong, I am glad I no longer have to mindlessly grind Ocean of Heaven for maybe 2 Pluses but we have also lost truly meaningful ways to improve our cards.
While the 6-slot Latents are powerful and kind of rare, the PAD Pass somewhat killed their exclusivity and motivation to grind for them as all players who signed up for the PAD Pass can acquire 1 for free every month. But even then, each card can only accept one of these Super Latents.
While we can use spicier Weapon Assists as inherits, there is still a low degree of customization available and you cannot truly make your favourite card stronger no matter how much you want to.
I feel this is a frustrating aspect but also plays along with the concept of constantly releasing new cards. I feel you are almost supposed to roll a new card, be able to instantly max them out (level, pluses, awakenings), use them for a small period of time and then start the process again with the next new card.
This cycle of acquiring a new card, instantly maxing them, and then moving on a brief period of time later has become common practice for the most part and is probably why we do not need to heavily invest in cards as they will be pushed aside a few months down the road.
This feels less meaningful to me and even if a card has managed to stay relevant for a prolong period of time, there is no way for us to further improve them to continue using them.
Looking at other games, one thing I enjoyed about Fire Emblem Heroes (I used to play casually) is that you can merge your favourite units up to +10 which is a meaningful way to upgrade a character which also means older cards can be relevant as they can gain sizable stat upgrade through these merges. This also means players often use the same character for a longer period of time and the satisfaction of seeing them “grow up” feels pretty great.
Perhaps this is somewhat reminiscent of my early days of PAD when I used Sakuya for a year and a half in which it probably took over a month of grinding to give her +297 and even longer to max skill. Point of the matter is I was able to use a card long term and slowly build up their value as it was impossible to just instantly max out cards.
Level 120 & in-game Coins
We now have the ability for cards to reach level 120 which requires 1 Billion Coins and 5 Super Snow Globes. Up until now, Coins have little value as they are either too copious with nothing meaningful to spend on, or requiring 1,000,000,000 to push beyond level 110.
This is terribly polarizing and I wish there was a better mid-range medium to spend coins as level 120 is only truly needed for end game content.
Cannot swap Super Awakenings/Latents with ease
There are so many times where I wish my single copy of a card could have a different Latent or Super Awakening for a specific dungeon and then revert back to my original setting afterwards without wastefully burning resources. While the costs are not as bad relatively compared to before, it still cuts down on team building creativity or even just experimenting, especially for a player with less resources.
I feel it would be best if we could change between previously unlocked Super Awakenings or fused Latents as we technically already spent the resources.
Dungeons are becoming too mechanic heavy
PAD was originally just Normal-style dungeons in that everything only had a health pool, DEF value, and a single attack. These spawns also had much higher value of health compared to our offensive capabilities and being able to one shot floors was rare unless you used actives.
Fast forward to today and all new dungeons feature numerous different mechanics for each floor along with almost all of them being able to one shot with minimal effort. This has created a pseudo mindset of always having to one shot floors but to compensate, most spawns now have several dangerous mechanics.
Furthermore, these mechanics are often only counter-able by using specific active skills and if you are playing through the newer content, you will need a whole host of different counters which can be sometimes impossible to fully address or even do given your Monster Box.
Copy/pasting from my Arenas, Colosseum & WoC/Shura Mechanics Checklist:
Alt. Arena 4 (Alt. Incarnation of Worlds)
Things you must bring
Great to have but lower priority
From this above list, floors with an asterisks (*) are unavoidable and you should ideally have a counter to them but only have 12 possible active skills. Furthermore, this is not even the hardest dungeon in the game and is mostly just a test of how deep your Box is for countering mechanics.
By extension, the lack of in-game information compounds the potential frustration of mechanics-heavy dungeons as you can easily die to “unfair” abilities.
Show next enemy attack
This is perhaps the biggest and most absurd aspect of PAD is that we still have no way of knowing what ability the enemy monster will perform along with how much health they currently have.
Puzzle and Dragons is advertised as a Puzzle game but we are still left guessing what will happen in dungeon and means we have to rely on third party apps/websites in order to actually play the game.
I still find this baffling that the only information we are given is how many turns the enemy will take before they attack (which is usually just 1) along with no indication of how much health they have left beyond a health bar.
In an ideal world, we would have meaningful dungeon information in game but a small starting point would be to just show us what the next ability is in the dungeon at this current HP threshold. Just knowing that you will not die in the upcoming turn (assuming the spawn’s health does not change) would make PAD so much more enjoyable as you could actually plan out if you need to stall, kill, or use actives.
Puzzle and Dragons is one of the longest standing games on the market and is my longest played title as I am over 2,700 days. In fact, PAD has become an integral part of my life and at this point in time and it is somewhat challenging to imagine what I would be doing otherwise.
While no game is perfect, PAD still does a fantastic job of continuously releasing content along with numerous extra goodies and less grinding required overall.
Let me know what you think about the direction PAD has taken along with how long you have been playing in the comments below.
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