the writings of a mind

Title: Chaos League
Genre: Sports
Big Word: Neutral
Strap: Fantasy Football, but slightly less hideous than Frank Skinner and David Baddiel

As a fantasy American football sim RTS/TBS, Chaos League already deserves a place in the Museum of Gaming Obscura, before any criticisms are thrown around. Imagine a cast looking similar to those found in certain popular fantasy RPG board games – goblins, elves, humans, dwarves, etc –playing in the bastard offspring of the NFL and A War. All controlled via traditional RTS mouse and hotkey instruction, including spell-casting, squad formation, and the option of a turn-based approach. Then throw in the ‘tween match management parts, and you’ve got yourself something of an idea of what’s going on here.

But each element does not stand proudly. The depth of detail about each of the races, individual players, myriad spells, skills and adjustable specialisms is mightily impressive, but their implementation is very clunky and never coherently explained. The RTS/TBS controls are instantly familiar, as you’d expect to find in any battle-focused title in the genre, and just about hold their own in the frenetic play. But as a sports simulation, it just doesn’t hold itself together.

Players are pitched in bloody battle, with barely a rule around. Think Speedball. With magic. The aim is to carry the pig-skin over the opposition’s line, but getting there involves the players beating seven shades of shepherd’s pie out of each other, magical explosions, and the crowd lobbing fiery barrels at the pitch. But it’s all let down by a misbalance of ball-skills and fighting technique. Your players will do nothing without your immediate command, all apart from fight each other to the death. Which means they’ll either stand next to the ball waiting for you to tell them to pick it up, or ignore the ball altogether in order to pick a fight.

And it’s remarkably hard, with no concept of a difficulty curve. Thankfully, quite a few games in the single match mode will eventually teach you the skills to begin surviving in the full season play, which the tutorial certainly won’t have.

Chaos League aims to be a comedy, before anything else. But this comes at the expense of so much. The written descriptions and dialogue are pretty funny, and the commentators’ lines occasionally get an out-loud laugh… the first couple of times you hear them. However, with numerous bugs and glitches, such as the Championship mode’s crucial flaw (not enough money won means you can’t replace dead players, which means you can’t play, all unacknowledged by the game), random sections left in French, and all matches suddenly ending with an unceremonious dumping to a limp "MVP" screen, the weakness of the game itself cannot be forgiven on the grounds of the game’s novelty. It’s a great idea, and parts of it work reasonably well, but it just doesn’t shine in any department.

 Fantasy sporting bloodbath, that doesn’t hang together.


Tech Specs:

Publisher: Digital Jesters
Developer: Cyanide
Minimum System: PII 700, 128Mb RAM, 32Mb 3D card
Recommended: 1.4GHz, 128Mb RAM, 32Mb 3D card
Multi-player: Lan, Internet (not working at time of review)
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