CHAOS RINGS in Review – It’s final; there’s no fantasy!

When Square Enix announced they were developing an iDevice RPG, I was thrilled. What else could I expect from the company behind the famous Final Fantasy series? Parts 8 and 9 of the franchise were some of the best games I’ve ever played and the platform is perfect for the genre, right? And when Chaos Rings finally came out at the whopping price of $12.99 (the most expensive RPG at the App Store to date), you can imagine my interest. Boy, was I in for a surprise!

Chaos Rings is a member of the rare iDevice genere of console jRPG. 10 strangers, bundled in pairs wake up in a huge unfamiliar hall and are greeted by the mystical Agent, who decrees that they have been selected to fight in the Ark Arena to win the grand prize of eternal youth. You can choose one of 2 pairs to control, then lead them throughout 4 levels and about a dozen boss fights. Yes, those of you familiar with the genre are sure already have their brows raised.

In essence, Chaos Rings is the combat part of any Square Enix jRPG distilled. You lead your characters through 4 labyrinths in a quest to complete the tasks set by the Agent. If you’re hoping for something special, dream on – the task is always to reach the end of the labyrinth and defeat the boss who guards the quest items. Between the levels you find yourself in the lobby where your health and mana are automatically replenished and you can visit the nearby shop to upgrade your equipment.

Travelling through the labyrinths you’ll randomly get attacked by creatures. And don’t expect to be able to avoid them, as they are not visible on the main map. You can turn off the encounters all together, but that rather defeats the point of the whole game, doesn’t it? In combat you’ll find the classic mechanic, known to every console jRPG fan. You select actions for each of your heroes and then the game acts them out in turn with some internal speed calculations used to decide the order. The actions can be simple attacks, the use of a skill, or the use of an item. One original twist is that at the beginning of your turn you can choose to act as a pair instead of as individuals. This increases the power of the action but also allows the enemies to attack both of your characters at once.

Another hallmark of the Final Fantasy series has always been the original way of handling skills. And here Chaos Rings follows the traditions of its older brethren. Your characters have 3 spots to assign genes you acquire by defeating monsters. Each gene can grant up to 6 skills, both active and passive ones to your characters. The skills are learned by chance upon the defeat of an enemy, so if you’re very unlucky you may find yourself stuck with but the most basic of abilities. Though it’s not like there’s that many of them anyway. Apart from that, character customisation involves very little since your heroes are leveled up automatically and there’s always an obvious top weapon for your level which is available for sale at the shop.

The only tribute to the full-featured console jRPGs are the rare puzzle-type mini-games, which appalingly don’t offer much of a challenge and don’t give any significant rewards. Thankfully some of them are required to proceed through the levels, which gives at least some incentive to spend time on them.

The one part where it’s almost impossible to say anything bad about Chaos Rings is its graphics. The graphics are superb, with the mix of beautiful prerendered backgrounds and high-quality 3d characters. The only thing I found missing is support for the iPhone 4’s Retina display, which could obviously handle even higher quality. The controls are intuitive and work well, it’s immediately obvious the game was designed for the iDevice from the ground up.

Chaos Rings is the game you would get if you ripped out a full featured combat system from a recent Square Enix RPG and bundled it with a few levels for test purposes. The limited character customisation system is trite and artificial caps on progress makes Chaos Rings seem more of a proof-of-concept title than a full-blown RPG. And considering its monstrous price, it is a surprising title, especially from the legendary Square Enix. The only parts of the game attributable to the greatness of Square Enix are the excellent graphics and polished interface, which are far from enough to make the game worthwhile. If you are still wondering – NO, Chaos Rings will not find a hallowed spot among the App Store’s Best RPG’s.

With this I declare Chaos Rings officially touched

App Summary
Title: CHAOS RINGS Developer: SQUARE ENIX Co., LTD.
Reviewed Ver: 1.0.0 Min OS Req: 3.0
Price: $12.99 App Size: 253.25MB
  • Classic combat mechanics with some nice features
  • Excellent graphics
  • Polished interface
  • Poor story
  • Short gameplay
  • Extremely limited character customization
  • Small world
  • Too expensive for what it is

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A project manager in a major telecommunications supplier, an iPhone junkie and lately - a TMA editor. Love long walks on the beach and my wife, who is the most beautiful girl on the face of this planet. You can also follow me on twitter for all things iPhone and project management (and some personal stuff as well): http://twitter.com/ChiffaNe

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