Chaos Rings tells a tale of woe, pain and betrayal. Somewhere in all this the characters have to learn to trust each other, and perhaps even learn how to love. This might sound cliché, but Square Enix manages to make it all really interesting. The story, and characters found within Chaos Rings are the most interesting and intriguing I have come across for the iPhone, and perhaps I have to go back to Final Fantasy VII to find it’s equal.
There are four different storylines found within the game. Starting up you can either choose to play as warrior Eluca with her cohort Zhamo or the apparently dark Escher with a former victim of his menace as partner, Musica. I have used the Escher/Musica combo, and their clashing pasts makes for a really interesting story. There are five couples that have been tossed into a game of death. One of the pairs gets killed as there are rules to obey. Finding the chaos rings, and finding out how to escape the evil forcing them into the game are the goals in the game. The story feels somewhat like an Agatha Christie novel where the characters have to realise how they hurt and rebuild each other…or die.
The game is divided into several different segments. Starting off in the world you get to select enemy levels. The higher level, the more challenging enemies, and of course better rewards. Unlocked levels can be replayed to collect items, and do some grinding if that is what you fancy. Worth noting is that this is one of the few games where grinding isn’t necessary as you can select level of difficulty instead. It also gives the more experienced RPG gamer a more challenging experience playing against beasts on a higher level. With a virtual stick showing up where you put your finger you control the main character running across the land. Crystal teleports can be entered, and chests can be opened by tapping them or tapping the exclamation mark in the lower right corner. These controls work really well, and I seldom get stuck on anything in the scenery. Teleporting between the a physical, and a computer generated world gives a lot of variation…and confusion. The map is hard to understand, and I tend to do a lot of running in cicles finding my way around. Thankfully you can turn off random encounters, and that makes backtracking less stressfull. Then when in need of levelling up you can turn it back on again. I see this as a big plus, and coming from Square Enix it is definitely unexpected.
The turn based battle is the second gameplay segment. Here you get to choose either to make solo or pair attacks. Pair attacks are stronger, but leave you at risk of both your characters getting attacked by all of the enemies. You can either attack, defend, use an item or use a gene magic. These gene magical abilities are unlocked as you face, and kill new enemies. The characters learn different attacks, and it is important to understand what genes work against what. This gives the game an extra layer of strategy. An aspect I really like is the fact that there is a meter in the top left showing which side has the advantage. This helps a lot in making the decision to stand and fight, or run like a coward.
The third segment is the puzzles where you either get to play teleport puzzles or slider puzzles. I found these to be perfect to break away from the running around, and brawling. You use the character to solve the puzzles, and at times I manage to move the wrong piece as I am used to having my virtual stick wherever I want to. A handy retry button to the top left is a great help to speed thing up.
If you die when you run around you will end back in the hallway where the game started. Here you get to buy new weapons, armour, and items. There are not much to choose from at all, and I found that to be somewhat disappointing. Only the next level sword or clothing, and no means to customize it. The quirky shop keeper Piu-Piu is hilarious, and just like the story line he is an enigma. If on the other hand you die when you face a boss the game is over, and you get your ass booted to the title screen. Thankfully you can see these bosses from afar, and it is easy to manually save to be safe. The game also quick saves whenever you press the home button.
The graphics in Chaos Rings are the best seen on an iPhone…period. Running around is smooth, and looks detailed with good character animation. The story is told in written dialogue, and even that looks and feels good for this game. The characters are so well drawn that they seem to pop out of the screen. Can it get better? Yes it can. The battles are amazing with some of the largest most detailed monsters to fight ever seen. All the enemies I have met have been interesting, well designed and beautifully drawn. Cool effects of spells and attacks, and superb backdrops help making it a visual feast for the eyes.
The music is awesome as well adjusting the music to the situation at hand. Bombastic string arrangements, trickery clowny puzzle music and tribal drum sections. The sound effects to me seem to be a lot of revamping of the classic Square Enix sounds of swords, magic and death roars. You can play your own music, and keep the sound effects as well. A further evidence that Square Enix has learned a lot from the errors of earlier releases for the iPhone.
The price is quite high for Chaos Rings, but if you want to experience the best action RPG for the iPhone it is definitely worth it. Sure I would have preferred to see the $9.99 barrier unbroken, but as a first real premium title I have no better contender. I can only hope that Square Enix enhances this version for the iPad making the same game compatible on both devices. If however you will be given the choice of an iPad or iPhone version I must say that Chaos Rings is perfect for the small screen. It can be played in short sessions, as well as for several hours straight. With a combined gamelife of at least 20 hours, and to get all achievements about 40 hours this is one to be experienced for a long time.
The first premium title for the iPhone is an awesome game reinventing the action RPG genre fully. With marvellous visuals, great controls, deep gene magic system and four intriguing story lines there is no better way to spend your first days of spring. The weird hard to follow map, lack of customization and gear are drawbacks holding back that final half star. If you want to take the next step in mobile RPGs definitely add Chaos Rings to your collection.
Chaos Rings $12.99 Get it from
Seller: Square Enix Co., Ltd.