I have been playing Puzzle and Dragons for nearly 2,500 days and in this time, I have seen countless meta shifts along with new mechanics being introduced in various dungeons. As a result, PAD has evolved into a truly unique game with an absurd amount of content available, especially for newer players.
In fact, these past few months have been some of the best for PAD in recent history and it is not a far stretch to say we are entering a second “Golden Age” due to the plethora of new content for all ranges of players along with the most generous in-game currency being given out.
While this promising, there are still a few things are problematic about Puzzle and Dragons in regards to too many different monsters available, few/no meaningful way for players improve existing cards, and newer dungeons becoming more of a Box/Active skill check due to numerous mechanics.
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.
First Golden Age
I use the term Gold Age to describe a period of time in which PAD was at doing incredibly well due to the volume of content available along with meaningful ways to spend stamina. With this in mind, I strongly believe the first Golden Age of PAD occurred during the time from Arena 1 to the beginning of Colosseum 1 in which we were given increasingly difficult dungeons that were both challenging and meaningful to grind. This began around early 2016 and persisted til around early 2017.
At that point in time, Pys were a relative novelty, Latent Tamadras being incredibly rare, and Orpharion being a valuable trophy/sub. As such, it was worth grinding/farming these dungeons and their difficulty level was well balanced along with gaining access to the Farmbale Myr who probably ended up much stronger than GungHo expected. This in turn gave all players a chance to actually attempt end game content as you could farm a top tier leader who also had relatively gentle team building requirements.
Furthermore, GungHo also struck a wonderful balance between juggling the number of mechanics, the counters they required, and balancing how important puzzling/orb matching was. In fact, I feel there was a much heavier emphasis on matching skills and even damage control compared to today.
I also feel that this may have also been the time in which PAD may have been at the height of their player base if looking at the number of views from my various mediums and it does not surprise me as it was a truly wonderful time to play.
Present day & second Golden Age
After that first Golden Age, I feel GungHo got too comfortable with their own success and it took them a bit under a year to release a new end game dungeon. This is far cry compared to before and just looking at the Crown difference on my account between my first Colosseum 1 and Alt. Arena 1 attempt, it has barely changed as there was also an incredibly long period of no Ranking Dungeons either.
Either way, PAD lost a great deal of it’s momentum and possibly also their player base. This relative lull in content continued for a modest period of time but things started to pick up again in late 2019 and has greatly accelerated in 2020.
During the past 6 months or so, we have been blessed with an absurd amount of Magic Stones, new end game dungeons, numerous Ranking Dungeons, along with events that have meaningful places to grind/spent stamina.
The key with this is having meaningful places to spend stamina. Just this past month alone, there has been something to play every week such as Qilin Dragon invades, GH Py/Ticket farming, Ranking Dungeons, TA1/2 boosted EXP, 3P having Super Awakenings, and Dark Ilmina along with the relatively new AA4.
For myself, I know I should be playing more AA4 as it is the only place to acquire the Super Latents, but I am happily distracted by all the other things going on. As such, there is this background feeling of always wanting more time/stamina which is somewhat reminiscent of older PAD days. Furthermore, the various content we have been given can be played by a wide variety of players instead of only being relevant to a small demographic.
This is perhaps one of the harder aspects to strike a happy balance: content for all range of players that is also diverse. Not everyone enjoys Ranking Dungeons or farming AA2 for Qilin Dragon, but these are exciting for many players and help give a meaningful place to spend stamina instead of always playing the same dungeons over and over again.
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 was 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 AA4 Latents are powerful and 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. 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 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.
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 counterable by using specific active skills and if you are playing through the newer Arenas, 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 AA4 article are the following notable mechanics:
- 100% SBR on Floor 1 (pre-Transform)
- Damage Absorb Void (Fujin -style)
- Numerous Awoken Binds
- Numerous Time debuffs
- 100% Blind Resist
- ATK debuffs
- Unable to Match Orb Effect counter
- You may die to Enoch on Floor 3 & will die vs Odin Dragon
- 98,138 damage preemptive on floor 15
- If you encounter Myne on floor 14, you MUST have over 98,138 HP before awakenings or use a 2 turn shield on floor 14
- Cloud Resist & Tape Resist
- VDP (or Void Damage Void active)
- FUA (maybe ) or Auto Follow Up Damage
- Auto Follow Up is preferred
- Guard Break or large Auto Follow Up (300k+)
- 2 Billion DEF Aten (f4) & Tamadras (f12) who also have 99% Damage Reduction
- Large Poisons can work but takes up an active slot
- Ideally Leader Swap Resist Latent
- Prevents likely death from Mitsuanri
- Poison Surge Latent
- Prevents all Poison Skyfalls
- Stops death combo of Freyja (floor 6) into Acala
- Shuts down Neptune Dragon (floor 19)
- 100% Poison Resist
- Slightly offset by Norza’s huge RCV multiplier
From this above list, the five coloured Blue bullets are mechanics you must counter with an active or you will never finish the dungeon (the red point may not always apply to every team). This means you must bring these 5 counters across your team of potentially 12 actives and have them all ready at the correct time.
5/12 does not sound too intimidating but many of these you will need on a regular basis along with probably requiring orb changers or any other utility required to run your team. To make things worse you have to consider the required awakenings needed to function along with the correct Resists.
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 nearing 2,500 days. In fact, PAD has become an integral part of my life and at this point in time, I do truly believe we are entering/entered a second Golden Age.
This is because we have been given numerous and meaningful ways to spend stamina, the most free goodies ever given out (Stones + free rolls), along with content that appeals to a wide range of players.
Of course, no game is perfect but the fact that PAD is still releasing content is a sign of a healthy game 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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