Battle vs Chess – first-look

In a whirlwind look at the upcoming Battle vs Chess, we saw so many modes it made our brains spin. With a cursory glance you might think this is just another chess game that adds pretty graphics to the classic, genius-baiting board game, but it does so much more, it’s kind of ridiculous (in a good way).

Above: The hottest chess piece ever

First off is the regular old chess we know, but with pretty graphics (yeah, we know, but let’s get this out of the way). It’s not just cool animated pieces, but imaginative environments as well. For instance, we saw a board that looked partially buried in sand, with gusts of wind and dust blowing across the board in a suitably apocalyptic fashion, really lending a lively presence to the familiarly static game. The novelty of it alone makes regular chess seem new again, but wait till we rattle off the modes (and modes, and modes)…

Purists may scoff at the way Battle vs Chess shakes up the formula, but we’re betting even they will be intrigued by at least some of the modes, because several of them take standard rules for pieces, and then throws them into unfamiliar territory. The result: seasoned chess veterans suddenly can’t rely on old reliable gambits, and the first parts of the game don’t have to be on auto-pilot. One mode, called Tactical Placement, allows you to take your standard pieces and arrange them on your side of the board any way you want. Another mode, Random Placement, scatters your pieces everywhere on the board, so you can start with pieces already beyond your opponent’s front line. The Recruit mode randomizes your actual types of pieces based on a point value, so that you might get two queens, but fewer pawns.

Above: No really, it's seriously pretty

There’s also an extensive Campaign mode where you work through a series of designed “puzzle” situations, earning medals based on how few moves you use to win. Another mode, which gets pretty far away from traditional chess, has you in control of a queen alone on a board with crystals scattered about. Any crystal within your line of attack is automatically gathered, so you move around the board attempting to gather the most crystals in the fewest moves, and these puzzles have many, many levels to them.

One-Timers are challenges where your job is to move a specific piece into a specific position within a certain time limit. Standard puzzles put you into common situations that you have to figure out how to overcome, and Hard puzzles are actual, historical situations from games between chess masters, so trying to figure out the right way to win is, of course, quite difficult.

Battle mode takes regular chess, but then assigns a unit value to each piece, and then each piece represents a group of units. So for instance, let’s say your rook moves to capture the queen. The view switches to a battle where the rook is represented by a small group of soldiers, while the queen has a larger group. Then you actually control one of your units in real time, hacking and slashing toward victory. Whatever units die in this mode are removed for the remainder of the game, so that a queen’s strength can be whittled down with repeated attacks.

Enough modes for you yet? We’re still not done. There’s Duel mode, where when you attempt to capture a piece, there are quick-time-event like sequences, also sort of like swing meters, where you defend yourself with the properly timed sequence of button presses. Finally, there’s a Bomberman style game where you actually drop bombs to destroy walls and take out enemies in order to capture a piece.

The amount of iterations on traditional chess is truly staggering. In order to make the game still accessible, the tutorial mode is extensive, teaching all levels of play so that someone totally new to chess can learn the basics, while seasoned players can learn advanced tricks. All skill levels are also catered to with 12 levels of AI difficulty, all the way up to a level capable of beating Grand Masters (good luck with that one). The online component uses an ELO system just like real chess in order to match up players of appropriate skill levels.

Chess isn’t for everybody, but we’re betting if you’re reading this you’re probably interested, and it looks like Battle vs Chess will provide something for every chess addict out there.

Aug 12, 2010

Matthew Keast
My new approach to play all games on Hard mode straight off the bat has proven satisfying. Sure there is some frustration, but I've decided it's the lesser of two evils when weighed against the boredom of easiness that Normal difficulty has become in the era of casual gaming.