One of the first games of today’s dead strategy genre needs to be completely rethought and as quickly as possible. Chess, a turn-based strategy with a very limited battlefield, tries to implement the life-long principle of game design “easy to learn but hard to master,” a principle popularized by Tetris. But the awkward game mechanics of Chess and the very shallow depth and variety of gameplay lead to the fact that the project is not able to delay you for a long time.
The game introduces you as the king of a small country, which is at war with another kingdom with an equal army. The plot and lore of the game is practically absent, primitive characters have the charisma of a stone statue and are not able to evoke even a drop of empathy for themselves. All you know about them are simple labels like “Queen” or even worse – “Knight”. Moreover, the appearance in half of the cases does not even closely match their names. Only a madman can think of the name “Rook” for the fortress tower! She can’t even swim!
The game’s setting is as simple and two-dimensional as anything else. There is only one game card, consisting of a two-color 8×8 field, which is simply ridiculous because even the ancient Red Alert had game cards in the size of 128×128. As a consequence of the lack of spacious, complex maps, the game feels like just a slightly more advanced version of the good old Minesweeper.
As if referring to the already mentioned Tetris, Chess avoids any attempts at stylization and unique appearance, trying to offer instead the so-called “addictive” gameplay. Unfortunately, the gameplay has a puddle depth after mushroom rain. For example, there are only six types of units in the game. Of these six, two are virtually useless, and one is incredibly strong and breaks the balance of the game in the bud. As you can guess, we are talking about the Queen, usually called the Queen among casual players. As if Lara Croft of the nineties, this character is trying by any means to attract an audience to a game that is not able to sell itself simply due to good gameplay. The queen is capable of attacking in any direction, and all the game does to try to maintain balance is simply providing an equally godlike unit to the opposing side.
The abilities of other characters also leave much to be desired. For example, Rooks can move (even though stone towers) only vertically or horizontally and are not capable of attacking the enemy diagonally, while “Elephants”, on the contrary, move only diagonally. As a result, we get an incredibly frustrating player attempt to create deep gameplay and good balance where they simply cannot be.
Problems with finding a path for units worsen an already unfortunate situation. Pawns are only able to move straight ahead, but for some inexplicable reason they only attack diagonally. Worst of all, the armies are only in one position before the start of the game. Where the player could use their strategic skills and deploy the army in order to make optimal use of an already tiny map, the developers say “NO!” and force you to do so and only as they decide. As a result, Chess matches can stretch for a very long time, as pawns stand in the way of your more useful units, blocking their path.
Sometimes the game is capable of producing good frames, but overall the graphics are not impressive. Ray traced reflections look realistic though.
Only 2 players can take part in the game at the same time, although many other strategies offer up to sixteen players to take part in battles. There is only one game mode – there is not even the simplest “Capture the Flag” or “DOTA” – and all that you do is attack enemy units move by move, removing the defeated characters from the map. At the moment when the “King” unit comes under threat, the game goes into “check” mode. From this moment on, the player whose King is in danger must protect him in any way possible. If the player is not able to do this, he automatically loses the whole battle. Everything. Even if 90% of your army at this moment is fully combat-ready, the loss of just one unit decides the outcome of the game.
All units “die” with one blow, and they say even pawns can turn the tide of battle in your favor if you use them wisely. As a consequence, although strict restrictions on the initial deployment of the army turn Chess into a kind of “battle of the minds”, the turn-based nature of the game leads to the fact that the intensity of the battle remains low until the middle of the battle.
at least, when the field is finally freed up for really difficult tactical maneuvers. … But even despite this, half of the battles turn out to be a draw due to the limited number of units and the impossibility of making up for their loss in principle.
In the hope of somehow holding the player’s attention, the game is trying to establish itself through its tactical mechanics. But these mechanics are boring and difficult to learn and exacerbate the game’s already plentiful problems. By the time you learn all the intricacies of the rules and gameplay, the game will bore you a lot and you will forget about it forever. In addition, the game does not reward the player for winning the game, and a rigid set of rules leads to the fact that the variability of the gameplay is reduced to zero and all experienced players by and large play exactly the same.
As a result, Chess will surely acquire a small group of loyal fans of the genre due to its ostentatious minimalism and theoretically tactical gameplay. But considering all the game’s abundant flaws and limitations, I don’t see the likelihood that the game will reach the level of popularity of much more sophisticated competitors like Warcraft III or Red Alert 2, which will remain classics of the genre for many years.