CHAOS RINGS II Review
- Lovingly detailed world and luscious visual style; perfect mix of fantasy / techno / Gothic influences to create something elegant and intriguing.
- Deeper combat system; battles given more complexity through new features including new enemy types, character traits, 'limit-breaks' and 'summons'.
- Well paced storyline that doesn't obscure details; gets straight in to the meat of things.
- Plenty of optional side-quests for those who need a break.
- Bug concerns; none experienced on iPhone 4S, but reported commonly enough to cause concern - includes a possible touch registration issue as well as crashing.
- Hard to sympathize with certain character reactions in the story; odd responses that either pad things out / forcing situations that require more explanation.
- Characters not given lip-synching for the audio; an odd oversight despite the detail present in the visuals.
The iOS platform matures once more thanks to the Chaos Rings series as the third title in the series proves itself to be a true sequel complete with revisions and tweaks to the basic formula, while adding more depth the the gameplay and managing to pace itself with confidence; it's not a match for the greats of the genre, but it's without peer on this platform.
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When people ask about 'Triple-A' titles for the iOS platform, SQUARE ENIX and Media.Vision's 'Chaos Rings' series invariably works its way in to the conversation. In some ways it's an unfair example and not to diminish the importance of the first title, but it doesn't hold up compared to similar titles in the genre across other platforms.
Omega, the sequel, acted more as an extension of the story of the world the characters inhabited, switching up the central focus and giving a stronger narrative as a result, but again, it shared its limitations from the first game.
Now we have Chaos Rings 2 - a sequel deserving of its number as it takes the incredibly simple, yet perfectly considered 'Pair' combat system to new heights, while also addressing the narrative pacing problems of its forebears.
The rich, pseudo-Gothic / techno world the characters inhabit has been given a facelift, albeit a minor one, but where the almost completely pre-rendered environments of the past looked cheesy, they now serve a narrative purpose - your planet has been frozen in time, making for incredible vistas ranging from waterfalls stuck in time to war-ravaged cities set ablaze and splashed with blood in a never-ending display of horror.
Of course it's up to you to fix things by resealing the demon that threatens to break its cage. This involves human sacrifice (of a sort), so understandably everyone involved is less than enthused about the situation. Cue an apocalyptic story filled with lofty allusions to celestial battles; angels, demons, horsemen of the apocalypse, and the creator with a plan none can truly understand - it's standard-fair for the genre, but early concerns such as the petulant way in which the central character Darwin and his sister Marie handle the death of their elder brother are swept away once things get in to full swing.
Aside from the wonderfully dramatic soundtrack and near perfect translations of the Japanese vocal work, the real gem is the game's combat system.
Initially players are presented with the same base system of allowing the player to choose between solo or 'paired' combat where the damage dealt is increased, but damage taken is now shared instead of being dealt to an individual. Similarly, the rock/paper/scissors system of elements has returned along with magic abilities (referred to as 'Sopia') that can be earned from monsters and leveled up to unlock new powers (think a mix between games like FF:Tactics and FF7).
What's new is a collection of features - some we've seen before, such as charging bars that allow for limit-break attacks (or 'awakening') - that add more depth to the combat. Aside from each character developing their own unique talents and traits, equipped 'sopia' can also impart bonus statistics (though a 'formula' must be unlocked for the best of these passive traits). Enemies can now come in 'armored' varieties, requiring paired attacks to break through their defenses; 'awakening' attacks not only have unique effects, their 'paired' version also allows for 'summons' to be used against the entire field; and Darwin can effectively double-up his duties by utilizing the personal 'sopia' of anyone in the game, making for some interesting pairing combinations.
In terms of challenge, most RPG veterans will find themselves cruising through the bulk of the game, though you're more than welcome to boost the challenge by modifying the level of the enemies you face. That isn't to say there aren't some moments that will give you pause as the game regularly ensures the battles in story sequences have some level of disadvantage (such as enemies that counter your party setup), so one misstep and you can face a game over. As such grinding feels almost non-existent, though some level of replay is encouraged thanks to each area having unlockable zones that require specific party members to proceed, meaning you can expect at least one trip back to each zone if you want to grab everything.
Chaos Rings 2 feels like the sequel the series deserves - it's still a step back from the depth and complexity to be found in larger console titles, but from its improved mechanics, pacing, and environments (and don't forget the new wildlife and enemies!), this title walks and talks like the original, but has a distinct air that comes with more maturity.
If you were a fan of the originals, make sure you eventually pick this game up – playing the previous titles isn't a necessary requirement by any means though and well worth it for any RPG fan after something perfectly suited to the iOS platform.