Chaos Rings II First Impressions

Chaos Rings II is an extraordinarily long game, and an expensive one, too. While we work through the full game for our review, we wanted to give you our impressions of the first few hours. Read on to find out if this Square Enix RPG is worth buying at full price, and check back soon for our full review.

Though Chaos Rings II bears the mark of a sequel, it seems to follow in the footsteps of a certain other famed RPG series from Square Enix, in that it seems to have little to do with the games which preceded it. At least, that’s what appears to be the case so far.

The beginning of the game is a bit confusing to figure out at first– in medias res in action. You are immediately thrown into what appears to be a final boss fight, facing down an enormous creature who has a bone to pick with you. Meanwhile you seem to have a significant number of Health and Magic Points, to say nothing of more attacks than you know what to do with– not that it matters, as it appears you are doomed to fail in this encounter.

All of this, and you don’t even know who is who yet.

The funny part of this encounter is that you aren’t really instructed in how anything works– they just let you have at it. But after you flash back a few days and take control of a familiar-looking swordsman named Darwin, you begin to receive instructions– a lot of instructions. It seems the game’s default assumption is that you have never played an RPG before in your life, and if there is a way to change that tutorial, we haven’t seen it.

In the first hour, there is a lot of story– perhaps more story than gameplay. Without going into too much detail, an evil presence is threatening the world, and you have been chosen (by accident, in a way) to be the person to slay five ‘pillars’– innocent people, two of whom are close to you– to ensure the world’s survival. Oh, and you get to go questing with each one beforehand, alone in a world frozen in time (mostly). Awkward…

But as it happens, the process of setting off for adventure with the guys and gals you’re going to eventually shank facilitates a series of team maneuvers between the two, such as having both attack at once, or having them move individually. The game implies that knowing when to have the two work together and apart is key to your success, though having an early boss take out our partner in one hit seemed to send a different message.

Incidentally, during the medias res moment mentioned above? There was only one guy fighting the big bad, so maybe it’s a good idea not to rely too much on teamwork.

The story in Chaos Rings II also reveals some interesting hooks when you venture into the library, where you discover that this is far from the first time the ritual has had to take place. Looking back at past instances sheds light on fascinating incidents which took place before: In one case, those to be sacrificed were leaders from the same country, and accepted their fate without protest. In another similar case, members from another country did protest their fate, which fell on deaf ears when it came time for a slave from that country to do his part for the sacrifices.

Overall, Chaos Rings II feels very solid, if not exactly outstanding. There are a few interesting mechanics, like a charging meter for some attacks and ‘Sopia,’ which are basically the game’s equivalent of magic, obtainable from allies and foes alike. The artwork is a little drab– not bad, but colors rarely tend to be vivid, which suits the somber theme. However, the same can’t be said for the bizarre mascot-ish shopkeeper.

Those are our immediate thoughts as we wait for our iPod to recharge. Stay tuned for the whole review.