Chaos Re­born

PC

EDGE - - GAMES -

Ju­lian Gollop made four Rebel­stars, two X-COMs, a Ghost Re­con and an As­sas­sin’s Creed be­fore con­sid­er­ing a re­turn to Chaos. Be­fore Chaos’s most re­cent re­birth, it was a 1985 ZX Spec­trum game, and be­fore that it was a boardgame, but only a hand­ful of Bri­tish 30-some­things will recog­nise this as a se­quel. For most, Chaos Re­born is new, even if its rules are 30 years old.

In Chaos, wiz­ards take turns sum­mon­ing crea­tures and launch­ing at­tacks from a deck of spells. The most pow­er­ful spells have a re­duced chance of be­ing suc­cess­ful, but cast­ing sev­eral weaker spells with high hit rates can shift the bal­ance, and the bat­tle­field, to­wards law­ful or chaotic. This in turn in­creases the odds of a suc­cess­ful cast of spells of that type and es­ca­lates the bat­tle. The first few rounds tend to be played out with goblins and zom­bies, but as the cast­ing odds in­crease, drag­ons, vam­pires and gi­ants start to come into play.

And Chaos be­comes a poker game when you learn any crea­ture can be cast as an il­lu­sion with a 100 per cent suc­cess rate. Il­lu­sory crea­tures move, at­tack and de­fend like the real thing, but can be im­me­di­ately dis­pelled by an­other wizard’s Dis­be­lieve spell. The ques­tion, then, is whether you doubt your op­po­nent’s Golden Dragon enough to waste a valu­able turn Dis­be­liev­ing it. Get it wrong and the beast will shrug the spell off, fly half­way across the bat­tle­field and belch fire all over your un­de­fended wizard.

Those core rules have sur­vived un­changed in Re­born. “There’s a sim­plic­ity there,” says Gollop, both de­signer and pro­gram­mer here. “But with that sim­plic­ity, you’ve got a great deal of di­ver­sity in what can hap­pen. Ran­dom­ness is a key part of this, and I

wanted to keep that feel­ing from the orig­i­nal game, be­cause it’s unique. The ran­dom­ness means you have to judge your risk care­fully; you have to take chances when you need to and be cau­tious, be­cause the sit­u­a­tion can change sud­denly from one turn to the next. It’s a game that has quite a few turn­arounds, even though each game is quite short.”

Re­born’s mod­ern up­dates have made the game faster and more dy­namic. Wiz­ards and crea­tures are more mo­bile on hexes than they were on the orig­i­nal’s square grid, and bat­tles are now limited to a max­i­mum of four play­ers, not eight, with maps scaled to the player count. Vic­tory points dis­cour­age cowardice, with suc­cess­ful spells and crea­ture kills scor­ing points that come into play if the game lasts 20 turns, though this is rare.

Re­born is a fast-paced strat­egy game made for si­mul­ta­ne­ous on­line play, but asyn­chro­nous play can stretch short games over days.

Brand new, too, is the Realms Of Chaos metagame, which links hun­dreds of player-vs-CPU bat­tles across a pro­ce­du­rally gen­er­ated, fog-shrouded land­scape. As you ex­plore, you’ll con­front en­emy wiz­ards, fight them, and steal new spells for your own deck. That deck can be taken into on­line mul­ti­player, and ac­quired knowl­edge shared with the rest of your wiz­ards’ guild. “Chaos re­ally was just an arena bat­tle game,” Gollop says, “but I’ve al­ways been a big fan of metagames. I added a metagame to X-COM, as you know, and I was at­tempt­ing to do so for other games and fail­ing, but it works for Chaos, es­pe­cially with the on­line el­e­ment. If you find cer­tain pieces of equip­ment, you can share that in­for­ma­tion with your guild mem­bers.

“It sounds vague, but we’re still work­ing it out.” In­deed, Re­born’s playable pro­to­type has none of the metagame or on­line el­e­ments be­sides the core mul­ti­player mode, Clas­sic Chaos, in which up to four wiz­ards are as­signed a ran­dom deck and sent into bat­tle. For now, there are 43 spells – just over half the planned num­ber – with few beasts’ spe­cial abil­i­ties im­ple­mented, but al­ready it’s a com­pet­i­tive tus­sle where the ma­noeu­vrable units are more than a match for a lucky cast and games are of­ten won by the best player rather than the best deck.

For Gollop, Re­born is the sum of 30 years of learn­ing. “There’s so much,” he says. “Some­thing I’m very keen on de­vel­op­ing is pro­ce­du­rally gen­er­ated con­tent. There was an

“With that sim­plic­ity, you’ve got a great deal of di­ver­sity in what can hap­pen”

el­e­ment of that in X-COM and it’s some­thing I very much want to do with Chaos Re­born. We’ll have ran­domly gen­er­ated are­nas, ran­domly gen­er­ated realms [and] op­po­nents. We’ll see how far we can take it. Then there’s the ac­ces­si­bil­ity, or Ubisoft’s def­i­ni­tion of ac­ces­si­bil­ity I learned [on Ghost Re­con and

As­sas­sin’s Creed], which is a com­bi­na­tion of us­abil­ity and learn­abil­ity. The idea to try to keep things easy for the player to learn, and easy to get into, is quite valu­able.

“And I think the other thing I learned was from work­ing on Laser Squad Neme­sis be­fore go­ing back to a big pub­lisher… and it’s that work­ing di­rectly with your au­di­ence is quite re­ward­ing com­pared to this dis­con­nected ap­proach you get work­ing ei­ther in or for a big pub­lisher. We built Neme­sis with a small set of fea­tures and we de­vel­oped it with lots of player in­put, and we had play­ers de­sign­ing maps, mod­er­at­ing their own tour­na­ments and more. I hope Chaos Re­born will de­velop in the same way, be­cause when play­ers own the game, it’s a very cool way to make games.”

ABOVE CEN­TRE Chaos’s Gooey Blob is its most fa­mous spell and even be­came the name of Ya­hoo’s Chaos fan club in the late ’90s. It used to spread ex­po­nen­tially across the board, swal­low­ing all in its path, but it’ll burn it­self out even­tu­ally in Re­born.

ABOVE Fly­ing crea­tures move quickly and make deadly mounts. Strong­est of all are the drag­ons, which fly and have a pow­er­ful ranged at­tack, but their 20 per cent cast­ing chance also makes them a risky card to play. LEFT In later builds of

Re­born, gi­ants will gain a one-shot ranged at­tack, a thrown rock, that their 8bit coun­ter­parts never had

Chaos’s crea­tures were limited to one of seven colours due to the ZX Spec­trum’s sim­ple pal­ette. Re­born’s beasts still have one base colour, but they’re pearles­cent. They’re also of­ten ren­dered in the hue used for their 8bit fore­bears

Wiz­ards can cast crea­tures to fight on their be­half, or can at­tack di­rectly us­ing spells such as Vengeance or Magic Bolt. Other de­fen­sive and of­fen­sive op­tions in­clude a magic sword and shield, or a magic cas­tle to hide within

BE­LOW Shadow Wood can be sum­moned dt to en­gage en­emy units, pop­u­lat­ing the map with liv­ing trees. While the trees are weak, an en­gaged unit is im­mo­bile un­til the fight is over, mak­ing it the per­fect de­lay tac­tic

Ju­lian Gollop, de­signer and pro­gram­mer

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