Mystika 3: Awakening of the Dragons
Year Published: 2016
Publisher: Unikware
Developer: Unikgame

Mystika 3 begins like a hidden object adventure, but after finding the world map, it proceeds into 200 levels of Match-3 games. Since only four more (brief) HO scenes occur throughout the rest of the game, I wondered why they were included at all. But then I realized that people like me get drawn in by them, which I don't necessarily mind since I like Match-3 games, though I probably wouldn't play them otherwise.

Tenebria introduces you to one of the game's few hidden object scenes.

In the land of Lumina, dragons and humans have a peace agreement that depends on four elemental dragon eggs being kept safe in hidden chambers. Of course, thieves have stolen the eggs, which has caused destruction across Lumina, but the dragons have not yet awakened and learned of the treachery. Tenebria, the Queen of Shadows, finds the stolen eggs and embarks on a quest to return them, because things will get a whole lot worse if the dragons find out. She enlists the help of Alrik, an old wizard, because the journey is too difficult to go solo. As the first two Mystika games are not on Steam, I have not played them, but my research tells me Tenebria was the villainess of those games. I don't know why she's appeared to switch sides here, but I don't really care, either.

As you complete the Match-3 levels, you are awarded 1-3 stars based on your speed. Different levels have different time requirements, though they're hidden from the player. More stars = more money earned for repairing the destroyed buildings around Lumina (stages can be replayed to earn missing stars/money). Restored buildings bestow power-ups that make clearing the stages easier, and nowhere is this more important than during Alrik's boss fights.

Match-3 boss fight excitement.

Every so many levels is a special stage that involves either digging up treasure, releasing fairies from locked cages, or boss fights against villainous characters. It's not clear if these baddies are the ones who stole the eggs, or just happen to be out there, but they differ in name and portrait only. By matching certain symbols, Alrik builds up and releases different spells, but the boss also unleashes an attack whenever its meter is full. These are the only stages where the player can actually lose, and though they start off easy, the bosses have longer health bars and attack faster in later levels. Earning three stars on every stage may be necessary to afford the power-ups and extra spells, or else Alrik may not last long.

That's not to say Mystika 3 is difficult. It's not. While it is long with 200 stages, and could take 10-15 hours to complete (my Steam time after two plays is 31), you probably won't feel much of it was very taxing aside from a few levels that are stubborn about those three stars.

Traveling and building up the world of Lumina.

That got me wondering on my replay if it's even possible to be good at Match-3 games, since so much is just waiting for the right pieces or power-ups to fall in the right places. So many three star runs have been ruined by that *one* piece that gets stuck in a corner and nothing seems to want to help remove it.

Yet the more I tried to earn those stars, the more I found myself looking for the optimal moves to make when more than one is available. Or holding off on using power-ups to make a more strategic play. Or just plain trying to be faster when dealing with a boss that can attack more often than I can. There are times when you're a victim of the RNG and you just need to replay the level for a (hopefully) better roll, but I figured that's part of the fun, is it not?

Some pretty settings, but many levels are similar to one another.

I don't recommend Mystika 3 as a hidden object game, because 95% of it just isn't one. But if you like casual Match-3 games, especially those with achievements and fantasy settings, then maybe it's one you could try. My final observation is that with a subtitle of Awakening of the Dragons, I was hoping dragons would have more involvement than they do. But since they haven't actually awakened in the story, that means they only appear in the opening cinema. Perhaps an alternate "bad" ending where we could've seen these dragons awaken and do their thing could've been considered.

SCORE: 3/5



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