IGN Review of Chaotic: Shadow Warriors
Imagine that you and your friends are suddenly caught between warring factions fighting over an entire world. Each group is trying to gain dominance over the other, and is actively seeking any artifact that could potentially tip the balance of power in their favor. This is the basic setting of Chaotic: Shadow Warriors, the latest animated series and card game to be turned into a game. Unlike the recently released console version of the game which was a bit predictable and repetitive, the DS version has a bit more complexity because it sticks closer to its trading card roots
The plot behind Chaotic revolves around a digital game world known as Perim, where the holographic characters of the game are allied to four separate factions and constantly fight each other for control with the help of human players. Four of these players, Tom, Kaz, Sarah and Peyton, are tasked by the masters of the game world to use a new digital scanner to track down their favorite characters and items. However, as the four friends quickly discover, a significant theft of artifacts known as Battlegear has started to tip the balance of power in the game world, and the four are recruited to discover who stole the items before it's too late by selecting a faction to represent during their investigation. Fortunately, if you're not a fan of the show, you won't be kept in the dark, as the game comes with an almanac that tracks story, character and gameplay details. All of this info can be accessed at any time, giving you a chance to brush up on items you may have forgotten or don't understand.
Gameplay within Chaotic revolves around two separate phases: exploration and combat. Depending on the area of Perim that your group explores, you'll have any combination of the four friends in your party, each of which have their own elemental abilities. For example, Kaz can walk through fire and toss fireballs. To solve many of the environmental puzzles, you'll need to use the abilities of each character, swapping between them to clear areas so your team can proceed further into the world. The puzzles aren't terribly difficult, but they're not clever either, making these segments feel as though they take longer than they should. Along the way, your characters will collect scans of different items and characters, which are added to your forces whenever you get into battle.
Unlike the console versions of Chaotic, the DS version is a turn-based affair that harkens back to trading card games. Players initially choose their creatures to represent them in battle as well as the attacks and magical abilities available for your characters. During a fight, three attacks will be chosen from your deck at random, each of which causes differing amounts of damage based on the opponent you're targeting. The strength of these attacks can further be powered by directional slashes or defended against by hitting little shield icons that pop up on the touch screen. While that adds a bit of unpredictability to the gameplay, it also complicates play because the game won't always recognize your touch screen inputs even if you timed them out perfectly.
Another thing that comes up that hinders the fights somewhat is the fact that battles aren't particularly challenging due to the turn based mechanic. Everyone on your side is able to launch their attacks at an enemy until they've exhausted their actions, at which point it shifts to your opponent. While the random nature of your attacks and abilities cuts down on easy domination of enemy forces, players should be able to eliminate at least one opponent during their turns, which will frequently result in uneven matchups and an easy elimination of enemies. When you consider that you always start first during a fight, this is virtually guaranteed. The only time at which you'll start to face a challenge is later in the game during five on five battles, but since the same rules apply, you'll be able to figure out the weakest foes to target and eliminate to give your side an edge in battle.
A third issue with the game is that some stat attacks don't seem to do anything. Frequently, you'll read that casting a magical ability or using a particular attack will have the added bonus of lowering some stat. For example, you may lower their energy or bravery stat with a certain strike. However, when that creature's turn comes up, they attack as though there was no effect placed upon them at all. This happens regardless of whether you're playing the AI enemies or engaged in a multiplayer match against another Chaotic owner, which is somewhat disappointing – it's clear that the combat designed is deep and complex, but some elements are still a bit too shallow to elevate the gameplay to something memorable. At least in multiplayer, you can pick and choose between a number of characters, settings and teams to fight for..
What does stand out for a majority of play is the visual presentation of Chaotic. Narrative scenes are portrayed with character models that appear to be taken from a cartoon, while the character models during the exploratory and combat sequences are nicely drawn. There's more than ninety five separate characters that you can play as or against during the game, which will allow for a rather nice amount of variety. However, the biggest visual complaint is that the characters all appear to wield the same attack animation with the same visual effect, which is lame. You'd expect that an attack card with spirits on it would have a ghostly effect, but it gets a green treatment – the same as an attack card for water or fire cards. The soundtrack, however, is pretty lackluster, and you'll probably turn the sound down quickly instead of hear the same repetitive grunts over and over again.
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