Review: Chaos Reborn: Adventures17 Sep 2018 7
Review: Chaos Reborn: Adventures
Released 12 Sep 2018
I am really showing my age when I say that I can fondly recall gathering around my Sinclair Spectrum with a couple of friends for a game of the original Chaos. Looking back, it seems amazing that a few blocky pixels and the odd beep could produce so many emotional highs and lows. Chaos, a multiplayer tactical game of duelling wizards, with its wild swings of luck often led to equally wild swings of mood. However, as soon as one battle ended, and the whining and gloating had receded we were all ready to dust off our robes, polish our wands and recommence battle.
In Chaos, each player takes on the role of a wizard, equipped with a deck of spell cards. Wizards begin at opposite ends of an arena and must attempt to defeat each other by summoning creatures and flinging fireballs and other spells. The author of the original game, Julian Gollop, went on to become an industry legend. Not so much because of Chaos but for a certain tactical squad-based sci-fi game called Rebelstar Raiders, which was later updated in a game entitled Laser Squad, before becoming the basis for the XCOM series.
History lesson over, let’s take a look at Chaos Reborn Adventures, which is based on the 2015 release Chaos Reborn, a PC re-imagining of the original that was designed by Julian Gollop himself. First off, I should address the randomly generated elephant in the room. The level of luck in the original Chaos may be difficult for most modern gamers to stomach. Magic is an unpredictable business with no guarantees of success. Spells have a percentage chance of success and even the simplest of summon spells can fail. Combat is equally ruthless, it is either kill or be killed with just a single hit required to defeat a foe. With a little outrageous fortune, a lowly rat can overcome a dragon – Chaos is indeed aptly named. This may sound highly frustrating, but it does mean that even when things are not going particularly well there is always the chance of pulling off a miraculous dragon spell, hitching a ride and flambéing all of your opponents.
If all of this randomness doesn’t appeal to you then fear not, because a new lawful mode adheres to more modern gaming conventions. In this mode, spells are cast using mana points and health points replace one-off kills. This makes for a far less frustrating experience and although battles take longer it is the mode most likely to appeal to all but the most diehard of gamers. Whichever mode you choose, you will be able to enter into online battles against other players or compete in offline multiplayer matches. There is also an extensive single-player campaign. This will see you traversing realms, acquiring new skills and taking part in increasingly tough battles against AI-controlled wizards.
Whichever mode you choose, lawful or chaos, there are measures that you can take to improve your chances of success. One key strategy is to make for higher ground, as this will significantly improve attacking and defensive abilities. Another thing to keep in mind is that each spell will have an alignment, either chaos, lawful or neutral. Casting spells will impact on the overall cosmic balance. This means that you can work towards casting a powerful spell by first doing the groundwork by casting lesser spells of the same alignment. Then there is the added brilliance of the poker-style bluffing of the illusion spell. Any creature spell can be cast as an illusion with a guaranteed chance of success. Illusionary creatures move around and cause damage just like their real counterparts. However, if an opponent suspects that your dragon is not all that it seems then they can cast a disbelieve spell, making it disappear in a puff of smoke. The disbelieve spell counts as your spell-casting action for the round, so it pays to be pretty sure that the creature isn’t real before casting it.
Mana is vital to success and some is regenerated each turn; you can get an additional boost by burning any cards in your hand. Mana is also awarded for destroying enemy units, with an added bonus if your wizard lands the killing blow in hand-to-hand combat. Make no mistake, these wizards aren’t doddery old men with beards that still contain the remains of yesterday’s lunch. You can equip them with enough armour and weapons to transform them into fearsome killing machines. Alternatively, you can concentrate on developing your magical skills, staying clear of direct conflict. Mana can also be gathered from locations on the map, tempting greedy wizards to overstretch themselves. Each wizard has a mega spell. As the name suggests these are very powerful spells, such as conjuring a whole pride of lions. However, they require a huge amount of mana. There is no limit to the number of times mega spells can be cast but each casting becomes progressively more expensive.
In a nod towards modern games Chaos Reborn: Adventures also introduces a deck-building element. Victory results in gold, which can be used to purchase random card packs. The contents of these packs include staves and bodygear. The type of staff you wield influences the hand of spell cards that you draw before the battle, how many cards you can hold at one time and which mega spell will be available. There is an excellent mix of creatures and spells that lead to a range of different tactical approaches. Because you will start each game with different spells you cannot overly rely on a single tactical approach.
Wizards may only have a limited amount of actions, but the nuances make for a game that offers real depth. There is a six-stage tutorial with various additional challenges that help enforce what you have learnt. You can access the rules at any point in the game and they are presented in a nicely illustrated and well-ordered fashion. This degree of care and attention to detail is something that carries over into the single-player campaign. Each level is a tense race against time, as the archmage will be doing their best to summon enough power to expel you from their realm before you have a chance to overcome them in battle. You get to explore ruins, hire mercenaries, enlist help from settlements and even take over citadels. The citadels give access to long-range realm spells such as clearing fog or even breaching the realm’s palace.
The original Chaos was all about the competition of battling against human opponents. Hopefully, the game’s pedigree will help it to secure the following that it needs to ensure an active and competitive online environment. However, the single player campaign is worth the admission price alone, being both tense and having just enough depth to remain interesting. The developers have cleverly elected to cover all bases to create a game that should appeal to diehards newcomers, solitary and social players alike.