Forging fragile alliances in Chaos Reborn

Chaos Reborn 2


Chaos Reborn 1

In Now Playing PC Gamer writers talk about the game currently dominating their spare time. Today, Matt casts a dwarf, casts a dwarf and then casts another dwarf in Chaos Reborn.

I’m a wizard! I can tell you’re impressed. Master of the mystic arts, conjurer of rats, wearer of robes and hats. Alas, Chaos Reborn proves that I’m less Gandalf the Grey and more Nuggets the Brown.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this. I was obsessed with Chaos, Julian Gollop's ZX Spectrum strategy classic, as a child. Coming back to it, I assumed there’d be some degree of muscle memory involved—that it would be one of those things you never forget, like riding a bike or pulling the legs off crane flies—but there really isn’t. I’m balls.

My first go is a bit scary. This is partially because I backed Chaos Reborn on Kickstarter and I want it to be incredible, but also because of the chat box. I call myself Mundas, a proper sorcerer’s name, and my opponent assumes I’m a roleplayer. I am, but I don’t like to admit it. We’re actually very polite to each other. Commiserations are exchanged when easy spells fail. I even congratulate him when he shatters my body with a magic bolt.

Chaos Reborn has changed a bit, so I read the FAQ and try to comprehend what’s new. As well as the world being a sliding scale between Law and Chaos, I can ‘burn’ spells to buff my staff, improving my casting chances. Awesome. My next game is against a very talkative wizard who has rotten luck. Most of his spells fail, and he concedes defeat. I’m slightly annoyed, since this robs me of the satisfaction of murdering him. The next game is even shorter: I use my newfound knowledge to immediately cast a giant and squash my enemy with a boulder.

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I decide that I love Chaos Reborn, but the best is yet to come. I enter a multiplayer game—like a WWE Fatal 4-Way match, except we’re frail spellweavers instead of steroid-pumped gargoyles. I’ve met two of these players before. One of them is the chatty guy who committed suicide; luckily, we’re still mates, because wizards are forgiving like that. The other is the chap I crushed. It quickly becomes clear he’s rubbish, leaving himself wide open to ranged attacks. The Chatty Wizard warns him “Mundas is going to kill you with a magic bolt!”, but it’s too late. I kill him with a magic bolt. Three of us remain.

By now, we realise that the fourth player is a beast. He’s assaulting both of us at once, like Nazi Germany fighting on two fronts, except instead of tanks he’s using eagles and skeletons and gooey blobs. Meanwhile, I’ve failed to cast anything other than dwarves, and Chatty is only alive because of his magic shield.

Our common enemy casts a hydra—a massive monster with insanely high defence, which can attack multiple targets at once. We team up, even though I don’t trust him. (He’s too chatty, you see.) There’s a magnificent, awkward moment where we cower together behind a protective wall of vines. We have to stand uncomfortably close, like two wide strangers sharing a urinal. The hydra smashes into our barrier of foliage. But suddenly, our salvation is at hand. I have a Subversion spell. If it works, I can turn our enemy’s beast against him. It will almost certainly kill him, leaving me in a position to stab Chatty in the back. It’s a brilliant plan that can’t fail.

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It fails, and the hydra kills me. I’m left rooting for Chatty as he survives attack after attack. He only has to last one more round, and it’ll be the sort of draw they write about on the toilet walls of metal pubs. Chatty meets his ignominious end at the teeth of a giant rat.

We share a moment of contemplation before moving on. It’s a different game to the one resting in my parents’ loft, but Chaos Reborn still has the same compelling blend of fleeting alliances and conjured rodents.