The original Chaos Rings upped the ante for iOS RPGs with its high production values, deep gameplay, and overall Square Enix-ness. It also proved that Square Enix was taking iOS gaming seriously. And now one year later they’ve delivered a prequel that’s just as good, even if it sticks slavishly to the same formula. But in this case, that’s not a bad thing.
Taking place 10,000 years before the original, Chaos Rings Ω is about as “pre” of a prequel as you can get. Once again, several pairs of warriors from far-away realms are abducted to a mansion by the powerful entity called Agent. When they wake up wondering where they are, Agent tells them that they must first collect rings scattered throughout nearby wilds, and then each pair must fight the others to the death. The last remaining pair will be granted immortality.
Complicating matters, the main character is Vieg, a member of his realm’s king’s guard who was brought here with his very pregnant wife. Worse, his wife’s parents have also been abducted– so in accordance with the rules, they’ll have to fight one another to the death. That is, if everyone plays by the rules. As far as iPhone game storylines go, this is easily among the best. Some of the dialogue has been clunkily translated, but even still, you’ll quickly start to care about the characters and feel invested in their struggle.
Hardly a fair fight.
So as the game kicks into gear, you control Vieg as he and his father-in-law go off into the wilds to collect the chaos rings, leaving the women at the mansion to go about their baby-birthing business. At this point, the game’s traditional Eastern RPG gameplay mechanics take center stage. If you’re familiar with the genre, you’ll feel right at home here– although the gameplay in Chaos Rings Ω is deeper than almost any other RPGs on iOS.
Like in most RPGs, you’ll engage in random battles against a variety of monsters, solve puzzles, and use magic– only here, you learn spells by killing monsters. The more monsters of the same type you kill over time, the more of their spells you learn. There’s also an elemental system that makes some spells particularly effective or ineffective, depending on the type of enemy you’re facing. On top of this, you can fight enemies by having your party use solo or paired attacks. In short– exactly as in the original– there’s a lot of depth in the gameplay, and choosing the right strategy for enemies and bosses is part of the fun.
To say the graphics are wonderful is a bit of an understatement. It looks every bit as good as a PlayStation 2-era Final Fantasy game, which is to say that the characters are made up of a ton of polygons, and the backgrounds are hand-drawn. Everything is Retina-display optimized, so it looks particularly good on newer devices. The music is equally impressive, with a rousing score that accents the gameplay perfectly.
Surprise! You’re on a giant submarine.
One of our biggest issues with the game is that it’s easy to get lost in the complex environments. The wilds are diced up into separate areas that are connected by portals, and the map included in the game is laughably hard to read. Of course, our other complaint is that, aside from the characters and their particular struggles, Omega is almost the exact same game as the original Chaos Rings.
But to us, the great triumph of the Chaos Rings series is that it’s found an interesting and new formula for RPGs that doesn’t center around roaming a large world map, and going from town to town, doing good deeds as you fight the empire. The fighting and leveling mechanics might not be all that different from traditional Eastern RPGs, but the setting and focus are, in very refreshing ways.
How similar Omega is to the original Chaos Rings is bound to disappoint some people. But for all other RPG fans, Omega will be love at first sight. The only question is whether or not to wait for the inevitable price drop before downloading the game. In every sense of the phrase, Chaos Rings Ω is a genre-topping game.