Sunday, 29 November 2015

Chaos Reborn: One Guy's Review

                                                   Chaos Reborn

Chaos reborn is a complex and interesting game that utilizes a number of different gameplay mechanics while blending genres. It combines elements of a card game, strategic board game, and tactical war game, and then infuses it with a high fantasy theme.  This isn't entirely a new concept, but the execution and style are what help this game stand out in the crowd. 

The tactical battles are the heart of Chaos Reborn. You and your opponent each take on the role of a wizard, are dealt a hand of cards which serve as your spells, and try to outmaneuver, summon, and ultimately destroy you opponent through utilizing these spells. The common tactical considerations, such as height advantage, range, and resistances are in play, however Chaos Reborn adds in several others elements. 

First and foremost is the aspect of casting and summoning itself. All summoning spells have a chance to succeed or fail based on the balance between law and chaos (or good and evil, light and dark, etc.) You can shift the balance in your favour through spells, or by simply summoning creatures of that type. Weaker creatures are easier to summon, while more powerful ones will likely fail without the balance being strongly in your favour. This encourages players to pick a side and stick with it, while simultaneously making life more difficult for the opponent. As you do not build your deck of spells beforehand, it is inevitable you will get a mixture of law, chaos, and neutral cards to play with. This lack of a deck building mechanic limits the players ability to synergize their plan of attack beforehand. By foregoing the deck building meta game, Chaos Reborn forces the player to adapt on the fly and truly make the best use of their resources. There are means to influence the presence of certain spells being present in your opening hand, but no direct control in this regard. While I applaud the unique approach, it would be interesting to know the rationale for this design choice, as I feel like the game would have a much more dynamic feel with this mechanic.

Chaos Reborn adds another layer to the strategic design, by allowing you to always summon illusions of creatures without fear of failure. The concession in doing so, however, is that they can be "disbelieved" by your opponent easily. The risk/reward element here is one of the most interesting features of Chaos Reborn. This layer of adds significant depth and excitement to the battles, as knowing when to use your illusions, or disbelieve your opponent's, can cause huge swings in the battle. It also causes you to learn your opponent's tendencies. Is this a player likes to take chances with illusions, or a more conservative opponent? Summoning a powerful creature early in the game is usually a good indicator of an illusion, but it could also just be a lucky roll of the dice.

Statistical chance, in conjunction with luck, plays a huge roll in a chaos Reborn. You must play the odds or you will not win many games. Anyone who has played XCOM knows the ecstasy of making a low percentage shot, and the agony of missing that 90% shot. That will happen in Chaos Reborn as well, so you always need to be considering and maximizing the variables that contribute to these percentages. What that means is there is a lot to consider in the choices you make when summoning, deploying, and attacking, which makes the game both deep and satisfying in its payoff. It can feel like you just didn't get lucky at times, but any game that is not chess, is going to feel that way. Having said that, the player that consistently players the odds is going to have more long term success.

Chaos Reborn offers both multiplayer and single player experiences, with varying levels of intensity in both areas. The quick match is easy to jump in and play a game against a random opponent. The matchmaking is usually quick and seemless. In the games I played, the opponent skill level was usually just right. There also exists a ranked mode, which offers a monthly ladder system for the more competitive player. The two modes compliment each other well and will likely give the game a longer lifespan as the competitive scene develops. 

The single player experience is a somewhat unique proposal. You are given scenarios to play through, although it might be more accurate to describe these as modules as all are user created, and there is no "official" story to the game. These modules play out in a linear fashion with your avatar roaming the map  resolving encounters, securing resources, and doing battle with AI opponents for various reasons. The game innovates in this areas by allowing the multiplayer component to bleed into the single player experience. Other players are able to invade or assist in your quest if you allow or request such. The critical strategy element in this part of the game is time management however, as you have only a certain number of days to achieve your goal of breaching the enemy palace and defeating the AI wizard. While obtuse at the start, once the player gets a feel for this mode, it becomes almost too simplistic. It exists in a space between map based games like Heroes of Might and Magic and Age of Wonders, combining elements of both but not really developing them sufficiently to make this part of the game feel worthwhile. The writing for the encounters is well done, and salvages the experience to some extent. However, it also makes the lack of a long term campaign all the more disappointing. 

There are a number of secondary features that add flavour to the game. The forge allows the player to customize and create armour, pendants, and staffs to suit your preferred strategy. In doing so, your creation becomes available to the community at large. Crafting makes some headway in personalizing the game. The forge feels like a nod to the lack of deck building and is a nice addition. There is also a store in which gold earned from gameplay can be used to buy staffs, armour, and talismans. 

From a graphical and sound design standpoint, Chaos Reborn is very well done. The visuals accentuate the ethereal theme of the game, with a vibrant colour pallet set against otherworldly backdrops. The aesthetic is quite unique as it opts for less character detail than is the norm in modern games (the exception being your wizards avatar). This reinforces the summoned nature of your creatures, and also gives the game a signature look. The music and ambient sound effects are also fantastic. The epic sweeping opening score engages the player immediately, while the in game music hits the perfect balance in terms of presence. It would be a nice soundtrack to have on in the background during many games.

The interface is smart and clean, while also providing a wealth of information with one or two clicks. The controls allow for complete control of your wizard and creatures on the battlefield. The view can be zoomed and rotated effectively, which gives the player a strong sense of tactical planning. Being able to preview moves, and the percentages of hitting from those positions is a necessary tool, but could have been easily overlooked in design. The environment never gets in the way of your battles thanks to having this full aspect control.

In the end, Chaos Reborn is a fresh and enjoyable strategy game with interesting mechanics. It falls somewhere in between the realm of competitive card game and tactical board game. It forgoes some of the elements those genres employ; the collectible nature of the former, and the strategic reliability of the latter. In doing so, the game occupies a unique genre as a true "wizard simulator". Knowing this, Chaos Reborn wisely plays to its strengths, embracing the summoning and dispelling aspect. Chaos Reborn might find a strong competitive scene, but it may also be victimized by its own innovation in this regard. The complexity of the mechanics may deter more casual strategy gamers, while the random chance may frustrate highly competitive players. There is a solid game here though. It may take time to fully develop, but Chaos Reborn is a game I commend for its willingness to try something new, and offers a new experience all gamers should try. 

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