Lords of Chaos is a cult favorite from the early ’90s that predated X-COM and a blitz of other turn-based tactical RPGs. It’s actually the sequel to Chaos, following a wizard who can cast powerful spells and creatures to do his bidding. Originally released on both 8-bit and 16-bit platforms, it’s now seen a high-definition rebirth via iPhone and iPad. There’s nothing truly HD about it other than the fact that it’s constrained to a small square in the middle of the screen, and it certainly hasn’t aged well — but if you’re hankering for hardcore tactical RPG action, you’ll find something to love here.
Hidden behind an unattractive couple of splash screen that smacks of amateurish design and a massive wall of text that acts as the game’s manual is the actual game. You’ve got to click through these screens to finally get started, and once you do you’re greeted with a less than attractive interface that places the controls beneath the game screen itself. It’s not aesthetically pleasing in the least — in fact, the game is public domain now and just looking at how the controls are set up, it’s tough to want to recommend this edition for $1.99.
Once you’ve gotten in, you’ll be asked to design your own wizard. While the wall of text is wordy and rather lengthy (intimidating as well) you’ll want to refer to it in order to have any real semblance of what to do. Mana, action points, combat, defense, and stamina are just some of the categories you’ll need to assign, aside from spells. Once you’ve created a suitable wizard, you can choose a scenario to tackle. Each level finds your wizard questing from point A to point B across a grid with square tiles representing spaces that can be traversed.
The goal is a portal that appears after a number of turns have passed. In order to get the portal to appear, the wizard and any accompanying creatures travel across each square on the grid that represents a different type of terrain. There’s a set number of action points that are spent to accomplish these movements, and they’re depleted when your wizard fights, uses a ranged weapon, moves across the map, or completes any other action. While gameplay is essentially simple to understand, the interface is cumbersome and the pace plods. It’s tough to stay engaged, and while the retro aesthetic doesn’t hinder gameplay at all, it certainly feels far too dated to truly enjoy.
There are three scenarios for players to eat up, but this isn’t a game for casual players or anyone looking for an engaging RPG narrative. It’s mired in classic game mechanics of yesteryear, and for some that’ll be an open invitation for more. For others, it will prove a frustrating and muddled affair reserved only for those with an alarming amount of patience. It’s an ambitious game to be sure, but if you’re really curious skip out on this copy as it is public domain.