Staff Changes: Gollop’s Chaos Reborn Gets A Metagame

the pride of RPS

My word, check you out, Chaos Reborn [official site]. Don’t you get bigger and prettier every time I take a look at you? I quite like the stark, neon outlines it used to depict its assorted bestiary back in the old prototype, then I liked the later move to Fantasy-Tron-With-Figurines, and now I like the ornate, characterful land its latest Early Access update presents even more. X-COM co-creator Julian Gollop’s Chaos Reborn always felt like a boardgame in videogame’s clothing, but its tailor has done so fine a job this time that it’s increasingly hard to see the boardgame beneath it all. Also new as of this update is a whole lot more equipment stuff, so you can unlock customise your wizard as you play. In other words, the metagame has begun.

You wizard will change in appearance and ability as you obtain and choose new gear for him or her, essentially. I must confess to mixed feelings about a sequel to revered Spectrum strategy title Chaos incorporating the vogeuish unlock/rank model that makes so many contemporary games less about the taking part and only the winning. At the same time, I can see why Chaos Reborn’s short, fixed battles would benefit hugely from a metagame, and a firm reason to keep playing and challenge yourself further. As-was it was too tempting to feel you’d hit a personal ceiling of ability and feel little need to carry on. With goodies in the offing for more and better performance, it’s a different matter. I’ve only just started delving into this stuff, but so far it looks as though the focus is much more on tweaking your ‘deck’ to suit your preferred playstyle and summons than it is on getting tougher as you claim more scalps. But we’ll see.

For instance, there are now “Seven different types of talisman allowing you to bind spells to your deck, buff creatures, gain mana, buff your wizard and transform entities.” Binding spells to the deck is something of a game-changer, particular from Chaos classic – a great deal of the challenge, and satisfaction, stemmed from making do with whatever random creature summons you wound up with. Going in with some degree of certainty as to what you’ll have is a profound shift.

Of course, the idea is that every player will have a talisman or two before long, so everyone’s going to have a preferred deck. They’ll also have their preferred staff and robe, which dictate whether their spells are more inclined to chaos, order or neutrality and which ‘mega-spell’ they can cast if they lay hands on enough mana. There’s also a new in-game store which – deep breath – doesn’t involve any real money, but lets you spend gold earned from multiplayer wins on random packs of gear, Hearthstone-style.

Fingers crossed that’s not going to move beyond in-game currency. I like the idea of ‘ooh, what have I got?’ more than ‘I am going to keep playing until I get this one specific thing’, but I do hope it doesn’t lead to long-term imbalance or a strong-get-stronger vicious circle.

‘Hundreds’ of equippable items are now available, apparently, and you can also upgrade your wizard, their staff and their armour as far as level 33. Phew. A simple game is becoming complicated; that’s certainly going to make me play it more often, but I’d hate to see this disappear down a micro-management rabbit hole. It does feel like a more significant offering than as-was though, and there’s the singleplayer mode – which I am particularly looking forwards to – still to come.

Also it’s much prettier now. More creatures have been added and redesigned, the environments are lively rather than muted, and there’s a ton of neat animations, such as vampires turning into a cloud of bats when they move. There’s a long way to go and, clearly, a ton of experimentation going on, but I’ve still got a very good feeling about Chaos Reborn.

The game’s 25% off until the next Monday, if you want to take a punt. The singleplayer mode should be along later this year.


  1. mattevansc3 says:

    So this game will allow me to put on my robe and wizard hat?

  2. Colthor says:

    Yay, a Skinner box to grind! With random rewards! Which will give long-time players advantages over newbies! What could be better.

    • Emeraude says:

      A mode that allows you to totally ignore it ?

    • Varanas says:

      As a reasonably high level player I have to agree. It’s a shame they took out the previous mode, where armour and staffs were handed out randomly (all at the same level), but it will be back. There’s also going to be a third mode where each player is given the same selection of gear and spells, and must choose which items to discard before the match starts.

      If the game itself still interests you I’d recommend checking it out again in a month or two (updates are monthly, but who knows how long it’ll be until you can opt out of the stuff you don’t like).

    • Hmm-Hmm. says:

      Yeah, I’m kinda puzzled why they’d emulate unlock/leveling systems like CoD’s. Those are designed to keep people playing but make the gameplay itself far less balanced.

  3. misterT0AST says:

    A game proposing a new business model and completely innovating the relation between the product and the consumer would be better.

    But since this is unlikely and rare, I’d say any reasonable person couldn’t expect anything different from the the tried and true model they chose.

  4. Harlander says:

    This looks bad for me – my win/loss ratio is awful in this game.

  5. The Sombrero Kid says:

    I wasn’t hugely impressed with the very first early prototype but something about this game wont dislodge itself from my brain & it gets more and more interesting with every major release to my eye.

  6. caff says:

    Looking better, can’t wait for a “Lords of Chaos”-style single player game too. I think that would be splendid.

    • TĪ›PETRVE says:

      That’s precisely what the Realms of Chaos mode is going to be :-3 .

  7. EhexT says:

    This update has the potential to ruin the game as comprehensively as the TF2 updates did, or the way Bloodline Champions was destroyed when they added progression and items. Games on the knife edge of balance ruined by grindy progression systems and gear. Blegh.

    • Caiman says:

      Unlikely, the devs are testing one of three modes, the rest of the game isn’t going away, but this is Early Access and with it the need to test gameplay systems. And once you start playing RPG Mode, it’s clear that the core game that’s so compelling has not gone away.

      CR is now ranked top of my “most hours played” list in Steam, over 150 hours, and it hasn’t lost any of its addictive qualities. But then not surprising, I still play the 1984 original (or rather, I did until this came along).

  8. btxsqdr says:

    I have no idea why, but for some reason I dig this game. I started to play it accidently, and then did stick to it. Not that I am good. It’s just the gameplay I like, for some reason, and the music.