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
Reviewed Ver:1.0.0Min OS Req:3.0
Price:$12.99App 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


  • Eric Pankoke

    All I can say is “thank you”. Actually, let me say it again: “thank you”. I personally did not care for this game, and I took a lot of flack for my less than favorable review. Apparently I didn’t know what I was talking about since I didn’t like the game, as the majority of the comments on my review pointed out.

    I personally completely agree with your assessment of the game, and it’s nice to know that I was not the only person who was not snowed over by the simple fact that this was a Square-Enix game.

  • Grandpa Bob

    This game is not for everyone, and it’s certainly not perfect, but a

    “SLAP IT?” rating… Really?!

    **** SLAP IT DEFINITION ****

    “Glimpses of potential are shown throughout the user experience, but not nearly enough to really warrant an icon space for it on the iPhone. Borderline frustration caused by the overall poor design of the app.”

    **** SLAP IT DEFINITION ****

    Thank you for putting the time in to review this. I love hearing what people think. However, I disagree with elements of this review. But I can see why you made the points you did.

    At first glance… only two pairs to control, only four stages, expensive, and a straight forward sounding story that says to us, “fight in the Ark Arena to win the grand prize of eternal youth” Lame.

    But actually, it’s much more than just that…


    …if you finish the first two couples completely, you get to control FOUR of the five couples and explore new locations. There are alternate universe story lines which build on each other and eventually meet, resulting in great character development, rewarding extended play, and a worthwhile story. You will find out that the game is NOT about trying to gain eternal youth in a contest.

    The sense of constrain set on the first two couples is what provides the thrill when you break those very confines later.

    **** End Spoilers ****

    With beautifully animated 3D characters, the game runs like a dream on my 3G and the interface is not frustrating at all. It’s the closest thing I’ve seen to playing Final Fantasy 8. (until anything else comes close, the price will probably stay high).

    But like I said earlier, this game is not for everyone, just as some people didn’t like FF8. I don’t believe this game earned a “SLAP IT” rating though. Too many people are enjoying it.

    Chaos Rings reminds me of some movies that REALLY suck if you only watch them halfway through. They’re usually films where the characters are set in dismal situations and there is very little hope. There’s an urge to give up midway through because we can’t see any light at the end of the tunnel. But for those who hold on and persevere, that light is all the more brighter when it does unexpectedly come

    (and the comic relief is THAT much more effective too).

  • Aswad

    Are you serious?? Not only did you review this game late, but you gave it a slap-it rating??

    I have to admit that the game is not perfect and has its flaws but it certainly did not deserve such a horrible ratings.

    Im just stunned.

    A slap-it rating for me means the game is completely impossible to play or offensive or lacking in fun.

    To me Chaos Rings is an excellent game. I come upon this verdict not because of other review sites but because I have played this game myself. Yes, it is not perfect to me but I love it, I love the characters, the story, the 2 endings, the art, the controls.

    The only good thing about this review is that it has informed me that your taste in anything sucks.

  • I have played the game through completely. And I do adore FF8. But Chaos Rings is just sloppy work hidden under Square Enix logo. Doesn’t the fact that you have to play through the game TWICE to unlock a couple of additional levels and scenes just artificially extending the gameplay? If this wasn’t a game from the developers of FF I would probably give it a tap. But Chaos Rings is just so far below the quality standard set by the FF series from the same developer that I was left with no choice.

    In the end, to each his own. I would advise you to try Crimson Gem Saga – it is much better, even if plagued by poor interface.

  • You are completely right – there is no accounting for taste. My taste doesn’t include games where the developers got bored after building the graphics engine, interface and basic game mechanics (granted they are done very well) and just decided to take it easy on the content part.

    Oh yeah, your definition of a slap is actually a wipe it rating at tma. Slap means – there is potential but the developers couldn’t realize it.

  • Eric,

    I’m with you there. Having played through it twice I had difficulty making myself return to it for the purpose of the review. The game is just so boring after the first run through that it is a mystery to me that some people are defending it so strongly. Unfortunately the AppStore is just devoid of quality jRPGs and this has done enough of a first step to win over most people. But having reviewed about 20 games monthly from both indie teams and big-named developers I recognize lazy developing when I see it. I stand by my review to death :)

  • Grandpa Bob

    Am really liking Crimson Gem Saga, been playing it ever since I read your great review of it. Thx!

    It’s too bad that logos have so much political weight on our opinions these days. When our expectations aren’t met by the people we love, we hurt them more than the rest.

    The poor saps who have never played a Square Enix game before. Square’s mobile division (iPhone), which is probably separate from their console/pc team to whom they are so brutally compared.

    Most of their RPGs with 3D characters were on consoles and PCs. This is the FIRST original mobile 3D game they’ve done, a bold step forward that if anything I think should be encouraged.

    Doesn’t the fact that you GET to play through the game TWICE and turn what we thought was happening on its head prove that they’re not afraid of experimenting with the format of a game? Much like films Memento, Sixth Sense, Fight Club and Pulp Fiction.

    If it was just a couple of additional levels and scenes that artificially extended the gameplay, it wouldn’t do it for me. The story as a complete composition is what sold it for me.

    I think they worked like hell to make the game as polished as it is now considering the barriers and limitations of the platform (PRE iPhone 4 too). I prefer to think of it as a good start; not sloppy work.

  • Whether or not a game is reviewed late has no bearing on a rating. ChiffaN takes time with each and every title he reviews. I’ve never been let down by his opinions, though I’ve been left without pennies many a time because I buy on his recommendations. He is straight-faced in his reviews and is especially careful with RPG’s and adventure titles. There is nothing in his review of Chaos Rings to warrant a better review rating at the time. If Square brought out a title rather than an Ultima 9-esque game-outline, it might have fared better. As always, ChiffaN, thank you for your true and sometimes bold statements.

  • Fil

    You actually can choose between four pairs of characters, and each one has a different story!!!!

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