It’s true that Chaos Wars is a crossover game, which usually means that it caters expressly to fan service. This does happen in Chaos Wars, but if you look hard enough, there’s actually a striking tactical game behind all the cameos.
The story itself take a while to start up. It involves a world called Endia, which sits at the end of all worlds, simultaneously; in easier terms, it’s like a hub between parallel universes. This means that throughout the course of the game, people with special powers are drawn through the cracks in these universes, and are summoned into the world of Endia. These people, called “Knights,” are the various characters from other series of games (like Shadow Hearts and Gungrave), most of which end up joining your party. As the protagonist, you are tasked with finding a way to unite the special powers of the “Knights” in your party, and ultimately find your way back home.
Most of the game’s action takes place on the battlefield. Anyone who has played Phantom Brave should be familiar with the combat system. Instead of being divided into grids, characters instead have a set move value, and are allowed to move anywhere within that sphere of movement. Instead of having a free attack or defense action, everything a character does costs energy, and while the energy slowly replenishes at regular intervals, if you burn through it fast enough a character will be unable to do anything but move when his turn comes up. However, you can spend a character’s energy, even when it isn’t his turn. If a character is close enough to an enemy when another character initiates the attack, he can join in with skills of his own to hit the enemy with a wicked combo.
If the player does well, Jake will figure out an important piece of the puzzle that progresses the story.
Leveling up happens in a non-traditional way; instead of gaining experience, each time a character acts, there’s a chance that he upgrades one of his stats. This is rather nice, as it means you can keep using your favorite characters and they’ll only continue to gain in power. This does, however, lend itself to certain abuses. If you only use a handful of characters, you’ll quickly find that you outclass even the toughest challenges.
Skills themselves also have a neat mechanic. When a character uses a skill, sometimes the skill will change to a different one—while not necessarily an upgrade, this skill can take the place of the skill you were trying to use. Sometimes this is great, because your wimpy Sword Skill turns into an awesome flaming sword of death, but sometimes the reverse can be true as well. To combat this, the game allows you to use resources to “lock in” your skills to prevent shifts. Proper skill management helps to make your character excel, but I’ve already mentioned that constant use will also beef your soldiers up well enough.
Overall, Chaos Wars is an interesting title, with enough strategy options to keep the game fresh and interesting the whole way. The grid-less combat can be annoying to get used to—especially when learning how to properly position characters—but there’s enough small changes to put a good spin on otherwise stale tactical combat. The story itself isn’t too ground-breaking, but it’s entertaining and spiced up with enough fan service to make it worthwhile. If you like any of the characters, or just strategy games in general, you owe it to yourself to check out Chaos Wars.
Version Reviewed: Playstation 2