Fantasy Sport games are nothing new but they don't seem to come along very often, making fans of the style wait quite some time between drinks. Games such as Mutant League Football have kept fans interested in the style but Digital Jesters along with Cyanide are hoping to change up the genre and attract some new fans. Having gone hands on with a build of the game, they are well on the way to achieving this goal.
Chaos League is a hybrid sport of Gridiron and a typical RTS war game. The best way to describe it is American football but in an ongoing fashion without a playbook or a number of downs. The aim is to get the ball to the end zone and how you get it there is up to you. The game will feature two primary game modes; exhibition and tournament. In the exhibition mode you will be able to choose two teams, their skill level and which field to play on before having a one off match but the meat of the game will definitely come from the tournament game mode.
In the tournament game mode you will have to build everything from scratch. You start off with a budget and must buy a number of players to be able to field a team which will obviously be on the verge of rank amateurs due to your low funds. Then your task will be to build this team and form a championship winning side. This level of depth will be welcome to some players but the fact you can't just choose a generic side and work with that may work against the game in the long run especially because it will reduce the pick up and play aspect.
If there is one thing that makes Chaos League stand out from the rest of the pack its the control system. You don't directly control the players via the keyboard, instead a RTS style mouse interface has been included. To move players you will have to drag a box around them or click them individually, then click where you wish them to move to. It takes a little while to become accustomed to, but it definitely allows you to control more players at once and also keep an eye on the whole field. The rest of the interface also resembles an RTS style game with icons representing traits of players such as the ability to run. The game can also be setup in two fashions; turn based or real time. Turn based gives you ten seconds to give orders before five seconds of play occurs. We found this to be the more intuitive of the two as it allows you to keep an eye on the action rather then just focus on the ball, and strategy will have to be used because ball chasing not only gets you beat easily, but your players hurt.
There are basically no rules in Chaos League even though a referee is depicted on screen and even he can be bribed. In a recent interview, the developers commented that players will be able to do things which real world sport frowns upon. Steroid injections are available, the referee can be bribed and you can also injure and kill opponents, although this is more difficult then some players will expect. This can be risky however because the AI may choose to bring in drug testers and if you're player is caught using performance enhancing drugs he will be expelled from the match. It works both ways and you will be able to pull the same trick on the AI, at a price of course.
The players are the most important aspect of Chaos League and will be the main focus of the game upon release. Because you begin in the lowest division (Division 4) in the tournament, building a team for the higher divisions and premiership will be a long task. As the athletes play in more matches they gain experience and become better at their game. So like in the real world it will be possible to get a player cheap, nurture them well and turn them into a superstar of the sport. Seventy different characters are featured in the game across nine races ranging from humans to ogres and goblins.
Players however also have to be looked after and keeping an eye on the action at all times will be imperative as they can be injured and ultimately killed on the battle field. Even though the rules stipulate players on the ground must not be harmed, and the referee does enforce this unless bribed, the AI is not afraid to put the boot in so to speak. Players also will also have special moves they can use called master powers. These are basically options such as striking an opponent with lightning to cause damage and confusion, or creating a fog of war to confuse the enemy. You will find towards the end of the match that positioning of players will be the key to victory, because many will be sprawled, knocked out on the field.
Cyanide also developed Pro Rugby Manager 2004 and it looks like Chaos League will be using the same impressive engine. It allows for direct control of the camera, although this is restricted to zoom in and out without any rotation possible but this allows you to see the impressive character models close up. At any one time there could be two or three fights happening around the field and it will be easy to forget about the ball altogether. The characters already animate well and the graphics engine is impressive to say the least with a stunning effect used for water throughout the game. Fields are set in diverse places such as a sewer and castle and will have cheering fans who can influence the game, at the right price.
There is no doubt that Cyanide has drawn inspiration from games such as Mutant League Football but it also looks like the final game will have a unique touch from them added to it. It's already playing in a unique and interesting fashion and we predict the tournament mode to become quite addictive, especially once you reach the upper echelons of the game such as the premiership. If the preview build is anything to go by, Chaos League will offer a unique sporting experience and may entice an RTS fan or two into the fold. Chaos League is set to ship July 2nd 2004.