By Jaime Skelton (MissyS), Senior Editor
Finding a balance between the casual game experience of mobile with the need for gamers to do more than watch pixels fly by on their screen seems to be a challenge that most mobile game developers can’t handle. Idle games certainly have their charm, and hardcore gamers have their niche games haunting the corners of the app stores. Gamers like myself, though, want an in-between: something casual enough we won’t cry if we miss a day playing, but don’t fall asleep watching auto attacks fly by. So when action RPGs came to market at last, I happily hopped in each one, hoping for something that could sustain my interest, something that actually engaged me as I played.
Chaos Chronicle, developed by WING Studio and published by Nexon globally, is one of those games that manages to hit the sweet spot. It’s not the first of its kind, and at first glance, might simply look like a uniquely animated brawler that brings nothing new to the table. But after the first hour or so of gameplay, I was won over: not simply for the game’s style (which has a hint of Hyung Tae Kim when it comes to eye candy), or its amusing storytelling, but because it reaches a little farther than the best on the market. Let’s get straight to what makes this new mobile RPG worth your attention.
The Basics: Hold my Hand, Senpai~
(OMG NOT THAT HARD IT HURTS)
Chaos Chronicle is a 2D side-scrolling brawler, similar to games like Soul Hunters and Crusaders Quest. In fact, if you’ve been a player of the latter, you’ll see a striking number of similarities. Thankfully Chaos Chronicle finds its own way to stand apart from the mobile trend of auto-scrolling time wasters. So if you’re familiar, you can skim ahead to the next section, which you owe to yourself since the game will forcibly hold your hand through the tutorial until your palm begins to bleed.
In Chaos Chronicle, and games of its kind, players take the role of a hero who must lead a small party, RPG style, into battle against evil through a series of stages and chapters. Like many mobile games, this takes the flavor of a “collect ‘em all” gachapon hero album. Characters can be earned or summoned, come in a variety of rarities and classes, and can be improved in multiple ways.
Across each stage, players pick their team and enter a side-scrolling stage similar to those found in beat-em-up’s, but with a twist: characters will auto attack and auto advance. Each character also has skills they bring into battle, which can be activated by tapping on them during combat. Characters gain experience by completing stages, along with having surplus characters ‘synthesized’ into their own, and can eventually be upgraded to rarer and more powerful versions of themselves. It’s a fun combination of a story-based game and active play, with bonus features attached.
What Chaos Chronicle Does Differently
With autoscrolling brawlers becoming more popular on the market, it’s easier to tell you what Chaos Chronicle does differently than walk you through most of the same old systems by hand and point out the similarities.
Active skills. Oh yes, similar games require active skill use too, but Chaos Chronicle takes it a step beyond. In addition to relatively simple “one tap and it’s done” type skills – frequent on healers and front-line fighters – there are targeted and charge skills. Targeted skills, represented by a small marksman’s crosshair, are a two-step process. The first tap activates the skill, sending a targeting circle forward along the ground. A second tap will stop the circle and begin the skill’s attack. It’s important for players to pay attention to the ground target in the midst of the combat to make sure their aim is true, but the benefit – being able to specifically target enemies, especially those in the back row – is powerful indeed. Charge skills, on the other hand, can be charged up by holding the skill before releasing the tap to gain more power.
Counter-attacks. Part of the skill system also involves the ability to counter-attack. Enemies will project their skills with a small alert sound and an exclamation mark, followed by text on screen describing the skill. By using a skill that will hit the enemy at the same time as the enemy’s skill, a player can cancel their skill cast. Add to this crucial interrupt feature (because enemies will use skills quite often, once Mono-senpai lets go of your hand) the Perfect Counter-Attack. This rare feat of skill requires players timing their skill use to activate just as the enemy’s skill hits them, but if done correctly, will unleash a powerful counter attack that will smash your enemy into dust.
RPG Style Heroes. Cracking open the hero info for the first time is a bit like looking at your first Dungeons & Dragons character sheet or trying to decipher your advanced stats in Diablo. Heroes have a full array of stats that you’d expect from any single player RPG including attack speed, evasion, accuracy, crit chance, and crit damage. Heroes also have six different equipment slots, one active skill and three traits, and an equipment ‘crest’ which lets you further enhance their power through the use of special stones. This means you have thirteen different stats, a dozen different pieces of equipment, one active skill, and three passive skills to manage. Add to that the complexity of racial bonuses, stat upgrades, and enhancement, and you’re faced with as much character management as you’d find in a standard MMO – for each character in your roster.
Choose Your Lord. After a starting battle that introduces you to the play style of four different heroes, you get to choose which one you want as your “House Lord.” The options are two male characters (both melee fighters) and two female characters (an assassin and a mage). While you’ll inevitably drift from these heroes in advanced late-game play, it’s rare you get to choose your starting hero in action RPGs like this.
Other people. It’s a small touch, but when you’re in town, you can see other players in the same area, represented by their chosen leader. You can also check out their teams and request them as friends.
Hero opinion. Another small touch, and a funny one to boot. In the hero screen, there’s an option to write and read opinions or “reviews” of each hero. While some of these can be useful, many of them range into the absurd: “his name is tom. just tom” being one of my personal favorites, while female heroes get what I’ve decided to call the *o*bs treatment:
A Day in the Life of a House Lord
So what can you expect when playing Chaos Chronicle? Let’s start with the story. Your chosen character plays the role of a House Lord, one who goes off on missions to uncover the game’s story while recruiting other heroes to their aid. Naturally, this means that the core gameplay is in the single-player campaign experience, set out across multiple chapters and stages. The game throws what feels like an endless supply of quests and missions at you that will get completed as you play with no need to double check that you’ve killed ten rats or looted a rare crystal skull. The story is relatively well told and well translated from its original language, enough so that it has lost the awkwardness of many translated games on the market. The game also starts you out with enough power that you’ll generally be blowing through these quests for a long while before hitting any need to grind.
It’s no surprise that this part of the game is gated by an energy system, in which you gain a limited number of energy points over time and each stage costs energy points. However, the game is generous enough the energy burn will only be felt if you’re grinding. The game offers Subjugation Tickets, which let you skip a stage, and social points, a currency gained through the game’s friend system, can also be exchanged at a reasonable rate for energy.
If you do run out of energy, there’s still several options available to you. The ManaTech Tower is a solo challenge in which you take a party through ascending and more difficult levels for sizable rewards. The Arena offers ranked asynchronous PvP matches against other players’ teams, with weekly and daily rewards paid out. Finally Raids allow players to discover raid bosses and call their friends into a shared fight against powerful enemies to earn yet more points. Each of these features has its own energy system, meaning that in a single daily pass, you can get fifteen battles under your belt in these special features plus however many stages you can fit in your stamina bar (in chapter three, that’s about 12 in a single fill of stamina). That’s about an hour of play, if not more, without having to worry about purchasing energy refills. Extremely generous for a free-to-play title.
The Obligatory Question: Pay2Win?
Any game that touts itself as free-to-play has to answer to the question of if it’s pay-to-win. In Chaos Chronicle’s case, it’s a muddy answer. Like most mobile games, it offers energy, hero contracts, and equipment with its premium currency, the ruby. It’s also relatively generous in handing out rubies and even hands out six free hero contracts a day to players. Additional currencies offer even more ways to obtain these items, making them within the grasp of an active player without pulling out a credit card. Despite that, a game with those microtransactions and a PvP system will, in essence, always have an element of “P2W” and Chaos Chronicle is no exception. With dedicated players capable of putting down money to get the mats and experience they need faster to make their heroes more powerful, the Arena is bound to be dominated by a P2W attitude. If you’re in these kinds of games to dominate the leaderboards and don’t want to pay up, scratch Chaos Chronicle off the list. If you’re more casual, though, the microtransactions will never hurt you.
Final Verdict: Excellent
I’ve been a long time believer that Crusaders Quest is the best free-to-play brawler on the market, and Chaos Chronicle managed to knock CQ down just a ranking in my personal favorites list. I still believe that Crusaders Quest has better charm, perhaps due to its goddess system or those oh-so-adorable pixel sprites. But when I look at Chaos Chronicle, I see a game that has a more active and cerebral combat system, a more in-depth character progression system, and a more generous energy system. Quite simply, Chaos Chronicle, though it comes from a relatively unknown development team (to us Westerners, at least), has the best gameplay mechanics of the brawler RPG genre.
That’s not to say that Chaos Chronicle is perfect. Raids can be too easy to push over and end almost as quickly as they are announced. A guild system, which could easily enhance the social atmosphere, is lacking. The Arena is already too competitive for casuals to hope for a weekly ranking in. But despite these flaws, Chaos Chronicle remains engaging and entertaining. This is a definite must-try.