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Should I be excited about… Chaos Reborn (PC)

Chaos was one of the first games I ever loved. The precursor to this new project by industry legend Julian Gollop, Chaos was a really simple, brilliant concept for a game. It was a multiplayer turn based strategy game where a bunch of wizards fought a battle in a bare, blank world, and the conflict was so epic that you would literally create (and destroy) a whole world as you played. You were less like wizards and more like Gods, creating dark forests, monsters and animals and bringing the dead back to life as you summoned whatever you though would allow you to defeat your rivals.

chaos1If my grandiose description doesn’t quite match the screenshots, it’s probably because the epic scope and scale was in our imaginations as much as it was on the screen. Like the very best games of the time, the primitive visuals were just a gateway into the game world, and for anyone who loved DnD, Tolkein or just fantasy in general, it was essential that you play Chaos. What other game would let you summon a Pegasus, then ride that Pegasus around the map, summoning zombies and skeletons and evil trees that ate your enemies?

Julian Gollop went on to have a fantastic career, but I still most fondly remember his early games like Chaos, it’s sequel Lords of Chaos, and the Rebelstar series of games. They were turn based strategy at it’s purest, and I’ve been waiting for something similar for almost 25 years.

ChaosReborn (2)Of course these games are the precursors to the XCOM series, but for all I like aliens and shooty space men, I want to once again pick up my zombie-summoning wizards staff.

Chaos Reborn is at a very early stage in development. Very early. At the time of writing most of the character animation is absent, while the character models themselves are placeholder. The interface is basic. The UI doesn’t scale to resolution very well. There are no cool visual effects. The sound is basic. The worlds are mostly empty. And yes, it seems like it’s going to be great.

Chaos Reborn takes the same basic gameplay as Chaos and layers on some modern visuals and online multiplayer. For a game that was already ahead of its 25 years ago, this is really all Chaos Reborn needs to do.

I’m not sure how much work still needs to be done, but the minimum you can expect is a fun, compulsive multiplayer game. If it becomes pretties, deeper and has more features added, you will undoubtedly be looking at one of the best turn based strategy games you’ve ever played.

ChaosReborn (9)It’s good that the game is being effectively play-tested at this early stage, because in this type of game balance is everything. Chaos Reborn is really just a rule set, and it could be played just as well as a boardgame as a videogame. The good news is that even at this early stage, the rules make for a fun, fast paced game.

Each turn you can move your wizard a set number of spaces and use one spell. You can also move any animals or monsters you have summoned. If you’ve summoned a pegasus or unicorn or similar mount, you can ride that animal to traverse the map more quickly. You have a random selection of sixteen spells, and while some of these will allow you to summon creatures or directly attack enemies with lighting bolts and fireballs, others are more subtle. For example, you can summon lots of trees to create an impassable Forrest, protecting yourself or trapping your enemies. When there are four wizards each affecting the game world with their spells, the word Chaos quickly becomes the most appropriate word to describe the situation.

There’s a whole host of little systems that make the game more interesting. For example, all spells have variable odds of success, and the most powerful creatures might only appear 10% of the time, with the other nine in ten attempts resulting in an embarrassed fizzle and a lost turn. This risk/reward system is complicated further by “illusions”. You can cast an illusion of any creature with 100% success, but they can be instantly dismissed with the “disbelieve” spell, which every wizard possesses.

ChaosReborn (5)Imagine the scenarios that can result from this: Your enemy conjures a Golden Dragon. Ahhhh! No wait, it’s probably an illusion. Maybe? Ok, I’ll cast disbelieve! And….. Ahhhh! It was real! Cue laughter from your enemy as you’re eaten by a golden dragon. Awesome.

It is early, early days for Chaos Reborn. What’s amazing though is that I was already excited, and after playing this prototype version, I can barely contain myself. Bravo Julian Gollop and everyone on your team. Keep working, but don’t rush it. We already love what you’re doing, now just take the time you need to make it perfect.

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