by Marko Susimetsä
previewed on PC
Chess is mental torture
Many modern gamers may regard chess as a relatively boring game in comparison to all the flash and bang that modern computer games have to offer. Thus, I should not be surprised to read that Battle vs. Chess will, according to the developers TopWare Interactive, bring the classic game of chess to the 21st century by introducing to it combat-oriented game mechanics and richly animated game pieces.
I'm sure most chess enthusiasts just experienced what might be called a brain infarct when reading the previous sentence. Those who survived the experience may be able to recall a game from some few years ago with a hauntingly similar name - Battle Chess - that renewed the basic concept of chess simply by making striking enemy chess pieces more fun by introducing kill and death animations to the normal gameplay. Whether this is what Battle vs. Chess will be all about as well, we'll try to discover in this article.
It is always better to sacrifice your opponent's men
The original game of chess originates from around the 6th century and has gone through several changes over the centuries to become the game that we know today. Such a long history includes some very interesting phases, such as a period of prohibition of chess tournaments in Louis IX's France and the release of the theatrical musical version of chess in London's West End theatre. It might also surprise some people that the rules of the game have changed and developed over the centuries, even if the last century or so has been relatively uneventful, no one daring to touch the basic rules of the game any more.
On computers and consoles, chess has rarely caused any big waves in the flocks of gamers, and the above-mentioned Battle Chess of the late 80s and early 90s may be the only bright spot of computer chess gaming, bringing new players to the game, at least until they had seen all the possible animations of different pieces killing each other.
Strategy requires thought, tactics require observation
Battle vs. Chess will attempt the impossible and make chess attractive again to a wider public. Updating the concept of Battle Chess by adding fancy 3D animations as well as distinct game board environments will undoubtedly help in this goal part of the way, but they are also mere window dressing that cannot, in the long run, hide the original game and its requirements to the player – it will still demand a certain degree of patience and logical thinking skills, the former of which is in short supply in today's world.
However, TopWare Interactive seems to have other tricks up their sleeves. First, the game will use the Fritz! chess algorithm software which should be able to challenge even old hands at chess. In addition, the developers state that the game will feature special game modes and unlockables. These could naturally only refer to time limit games or additional game board environments, but there's more: online multiplayer seems something that could change the basic game a lot, given that the standard game is traditionally a two-player affair. In order to make the game multiplayer, some major renovations need to be done (unless they are merely throwing around terms like multiplayer when they mean simple online two-player game).
Another interesting detail that I have saved until the last are what the developers call “optional action integration elements”. Could it be that the developers have dared to touch the rules of the game and made it possible for players to actually fight it out between the pieces? If true, Battle vs. Chess might actually be a marriage between chess and the classic Archon and would definitely attract new gamers to the granddad of all games.
Chess is above all, a fight!
To all those who live and breathe chess, Battle vs. Chess will probably be some sort of an abomination - a thing to be avoided and preferably stoned to death. However, to all casual chess players, Battle vs. Chess could be a welcome breath of fresh air to an old classic, even if all the additions turn out to be mere window dressing – after all, there's a reason people like to redress their windows now and again. Personally, I look forward to seeing what Battle vs. Chess will bring and I'll be first in line if it turns out that they are actually mixing in Archon-like gameplay elements.