Julian Gollop’s long awaited sequel to the 1985 classic Chaos: The Battle of The Wizards dons it’s most fetching wizard hat and prepares to do battle in Steam’s Early Access program. Is it any good? Does it live up to the name? Is that the same son of a Gollop who wrought UFO: Enemy Unknown? The answer to your questions, is yes.
• Developer: Snapshot Games Inc.
• Publisher: Snapshot Games Inc.
• Reviewed on: PC
• Also Available On: Mac, Linux
• Release Date: Q3 2015
In it’s current state Chaos Reborn offers a tight, turn-based tactical wizard combat experience. You can compete, either online or offline, with up to three other wizards and take turns slinging spells at each other and summoning creatures to do battle. Not fond of playing with others? You can also clash staves with AI opponents in a small variety of beautifully crafted hex-based arenas.
Each wizard has a set of spell cards at his or her disposal and each turn you can cast one. Each spell has a percentage chance of success, the more powerful spells having a much lower chance of being cast. In real gameplay terms this makes summoning a pack of rats much more likely than summoning a dragon or a manticore. You can buff a spell’s chance of success by spending mana sprites that are scattered around the map or by sacrificing cards. Spell success can also be buffed by the Cosmic Balance. Spells are separated into three classes: Law, Chaos and Neutral. Law and Chaos spells affect Cosmic Balance by buffing future spells of that type, so if you plan on bringing out your hydra, a very powerful Chaos creature, it’s probably best to lay the groundwork by summoning a few goblins first. There is a decent variety of creatures and the character design itself is very striking. Chaos Reborn looks gorgeous and the character models have an almost tactile feel to them which gives Chaos Reborn a distinct tabletop flavour.
It’s not just creatures you’ll be summoning, you can cast offensive and defensive spells. You can smite your enemies from a distance, conjure a haunted forest and even cast illusions. Now, illusions are where Chaos Reborn gets really interesting. Illusions act in the same manner as regular creatures, they can move, attack, kill and be killed. They also have a 100% chance of being cast successfully. However, every wizard also has a “Disbelieve” spell in their arsenal, and casting this spell on an illusion will destroy it and allow you to cast a second spell. Try to “Disbelieve” a genuine creature? Well, looks like you won’t be casting any more spells this turn son, now be a good wizard and stand still while my giant punches you in the face.
This adds a whole new layer of tactical flexibility to your playstyle. You could summon huge swathes of powerful monsters and clad yourself in magical armour OR you could conjure illusory giants and dragons and crush your enemies like a bullshitting Gandalf. Also, imagine the hilarity when that manticore your opponent is riding turns out to be a freshly disbelieved illusion and he ends up on his wizardly arse. Oh did I mention you can ride manticores? You can ride manticores and a variety of other mythical creatures such as unicorns and elephants.
Those of you who are familiar with the original are probably saying “Yes we had that 30 years ago. What’s new?” Well the answer is: not much. Not yet, anyway. There is a whole swathe of future content planned by Snapshot Games such as PvE content, character progression, spell deck customisation, equipment crafting and social ranks. Social ranks appear to be some form of guild system whereby upon earning a particular rank, Wizard King, you can create and populate levels for other players to adventure through. Apparently you will even be able ascend to godhood and buff players that follow you. Details are sketchy, but I am excited to see how Chaos Reborn develops over the next few months.
Chaos Reborn can be frustrating at times, you will find yourself praying to RNGesus for those pivotal moments in a match, but as your chances of success are made clear from the outset the random element in combat is all about calculated risk, much like Gollop’s beautiful UFO: Enemy Unknown. I mean, it says 95% chance of success. What could possibly go wrong?
At £15 it may be too steep for what is on offer at the moment for some people, but Chaos Reborn is well worth adding to your wishlist so you can whip out your debit card once more meat has been added to the solid wizardly bones that are currently available. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to pretend I’m riding an elephant and crush my foes with imaginary goblins. In the game, obviously.
Chaos Reborn is planned for a full release in Summer 2015 and is currently available on Steam Early Access.