Spectrum 2.0

Review of 'Chaos'

Rating:5 User: jeff_b

Chaos is a milestone in gaming. If you've ever enjoyed Jagged Alliance, X-Com, Terror From the Deep, Silent Storm, Laser Squad, Lords of Chaos, Commandos or pretty damn much any game with turn based tactical combat, this is where it all came from. The premise is a battle of wizards - you are cast (arf) into an empty arena with a bunch of other frothing reprobates, to do battle with conjured beasts and enchantments, various spells and delicious spices.

The game is divvied up into turns, so each player chooses a spell at the start of the turn, then each casts their spell and finally move their units.

The spells have casting difficulties and can only be used once, so deciding when to use them is key. Certain spells can boost your chances of casting, others can give you wings or enchanted armour. There is a huge range of spells - but the most fun one is the ability to create beasts and animals to wage your wars with. A typical game could begin with some bast casting a gooey blob (a perilous fast-spreading fungus that can quickly overrun the screen and spells doom if it surrounds your wizard), the second bast casting an illusory spectre (which can and will be dispelled by other players the next turn using the DISBELIEVE spell), the third player failing to cast a rare golden dragon because he's an utter twit and the fourth player casting a magic castle and attempting to hide in there for the rest of the game. You get the idea -because there's no set layout beyond the arena limits, players can face some interesting situations created by other players.

This becomes infinitely more fun with other people controlling wizards, the random destructive nature of raging pits of magic fire and copious quantities of beer. Is GaNDaLF's Wraith an illusion, or did he maybe hope to create a subterfuge of illusory low level animals and is saving his potency (ooer)? Will PiGSWiLL greedily quaff the potion that grants his wizard flight, or will he attempt to flee the magic fire you cast? Which way will the flames blow? Is that goblin looking at me? Is it my round again already? It's testament to how engaging the gameplay is that the primitive sprites and laughable animation is completely irrelevant. It perfectly conveys what you need to know, and that's all that matters.

Having Chaos on my netbook has given me the opportunity to play Chaos in some very strange places with some very strange people, and not one person I have started to play it against has been satisfied with the outcome of just one game. If it was transplanted to Facebook - even as is - I guarantee the world's GDP would drop to minus figures within hours. Perhaps that's a bit drastic, but there's certainly something charming about how stark and basic it looks and yet how deeply the claws hook you - and that applies from the university lecturer to the postman, from the white van man to the scary drug dealer, from the skeptical GP to the smelly pickle salesman from Bournemouth. I can't name another Speccy game that I'd rather play. It's ace.