Review: Chaos Rings (Xbox Live)
Finally arriving on Windows Phone 8 is Square Enix's mobile RPG smash, Chaos Ring. Already an established property on other platforms, how well has it made the jump to Microsoft's platform? Pretty well, is the answer, and I think a lot of RPG'ers are going to enjoy this one, although their wallet will be a lot lighter as a result!
Version Reviewed: 188.8.131.52
Chaos Ring was released during this year's GDC back in March, but that first release was on Windows Phone 7.5 only. Earlier in August a Windows Phone 8 version appeared in the Windows Phone store, and I've been questing ever since.
Right, let's set the scene for the non-hardcore gamer. Chaos Ring is published by Square Enix, arguably the masters of the modern RPG (they are behind titles such as Final Fantasy, Kingdom Hearts, and Dragon Quest). Initially released on iOS, Chaos Ring is now available on Android as well as Windows Phone, and brings a 'full-blown' RPG to these mobile platforms.
You'll spend part of your time wandering through intricate 3D landscapes as one of eight characters, but much of the game will focus on combat. Explore and fight, and explore and fight, and level up, that's the basic flow of Chaos Rings.
The other part of the game is the cut-scene. Used to advance the story, you'll find these popping up frequently. You can tap through the dialog here to speed it up, but you can't tap through any of the animations. If you're used to this style of RPG it's not a problem, but new players may find it frustrating.
As the game opens, five pairs of adventurers have mysteriously appeared in the Ark Arena, and are challenged to 'fight to the death' and the last one standing will earn immortality. It should be no surprise to genre watchers that this is only part of the story, and the rest will be revealed as you play through the game. It unfolds nicely, and while it's never going to win a BAFTA for scriptwriting, it holds the game together comfortably and always gives you something to think about while you are fighting.
This opening leads to what the hacks call a 'dungeon crawler'... Your team of two heads out of the central arena to visit various worlds, which have varying strengths of monsters to fight - and as you fight them you'll earn money and experience to help you advance in the game through purchasing better equipment and improved experience so you can cause more damage, heal faster, and generally be a better warrior.
Each of these levels has a ring to collect at the end, and these titular rings are to be returned to the Ark Arena... at which point the rest of the story will kick in.
This level based approach helps tremendously with the game flow. This is on a mobile device after all, so you'll want to dip in and out of the game. These initial dungeon crawlers are perfect for this, and the structure continues to help you as the story unfolds.
Controls are optimised for mobile, making the assumption that you're not going to want pixel perfect controls or have to rely on fast reactions. Walking and running around each location is through a virtual stick - just pop your thumb on the screen and slide in the right direction. It's a little cumbersome, but you won't need it for anything critical. To interact with elements on screen (which are all highlighted with an exclamation mark, so you know what you can do), just walk close to them, and tap with your finger. Simple, effective, and gets the job done, albeit in a perfunctory manner.
You don't need to worry about combat either. This isn't a button mashing fast moving 'Street Fighter 2', it's akin to a graphically sumptuous rich game of rock-paper-scissors. You decide whether to attack, defend, or use magic in each round, as does your opponent. The round is played out, and if another round is needed, so it goes, until your victory or death.
There's a touch more strategy here, as you can fight as a pair (i.e. you both attack, but you both share any damage), or attack as two solo fighters (to share the risks).
Again, this is great for a mobile environment - you have some tactical control over the game, and you get some fantastic animations as you attack, but you're not focused on micro-managing the combat.
There may be a concern for some that so much of the game takes place 'one level removed' from yourself, with you instructing the characters to do something, rather than have direct control. Just because other gamers (and reviewers) actually like this model for a story based adventure/RPG title, it might not be for you. I would very strongly recommend downloading and playing through a few levels first to get the feel of the title and see if it works for you.
That's doubly recommended because of the price. At $9.99/£7.99, this is one of the pricier titles in the Windows Phone Store. To be fair, there is a lot of content on offer, it looks fabulous, you have fantastic sounds and voice acting (albeit in, I think, Japanese), so this is a complete package of a game, at what I think is good value for money - even if it has been out for some time on iOS and Android.
Chaos Ring is not a small title. Clocking in at 800MB, you'll need a decent amount of free space to install the title. But with a big game comes the promise of a big gaming experience, a significant amount of playing time, and a challenging but rewarding slice of entertainment. Chaos Ring is all of that, and it delivers a console level RPG game to your Windows Phone.
What it doesn't do is deliver an RPG that's accessible to new players. If you're an RPG'er already, that's not a worry, and you should head to the store - but if you're looking to get started in this world, this might not be the title to begin with.
Reviewed by Ewan Spence at