Despite being someone that truly enjoys strategic games — particularly turn-based RPGs like Final Fantasy Tactics — I’ve never been a big fan of chess. The one caveat being a short-term love affair in my younger days with Battle Chess, which filled in the gaps in my imagination by having pieces come to life and kill each other in actual combat.
Nonetheless, with my brand new Ouya ready for a test run, the first title on my list is Ludeme Games’ aptly named Chess 2: The Sequel. At first, I figured I was in for an updated version of the aforementioned Battle Chess, but this goes in a completely different direction with a focus on changing the rules behind the game of chess itself rather than simply infusing it with animations.
While tweaking the formula of a game with a lineage centuries long is a daunting task, the folks behind Chess 2 have done an admirable job of introducing new ways to play. The biggest change is the game’s six armies: Classic, Animals, Empowered, Nemesis, Two Kings and Reaper.
Each one offers a twist on the traditional game (except Classic), allowing you to pick an army that suits your play style. Your opponent does the same, creating more than 20 unique matchups. It’d be a lengthy exercise to break down each of the six armies, but suffice to say none of them feel overpowered relative to the others and each has unique strengths and weaknesses.
In terms of gameplay, Chess 2: The Sequel has another trick up its sleeve: dueling. Each player starts with three “stones,” which are the currency for dueling, and you can hold up to six. A duel can be initiated by the defender (the person whose piece is being captured) as long as they have at least one stone remaining, forcing both players to blind bid a number of stones with the higher bid winning the duel — the defending piece is lost regardless, but the attacking piece is lost as well if the defender bids more than the attacker. It works surprisingly well and adds another layer of strategy to matches.
Another major change eliminates draws, as here you can not only win by achieving checkmate but also by moving your king beyond the midpoint of the board; provided he doesn’t enter into check by crossing that threshold. It offers those that are low on pieces a viable chance to win matches, and the fact that it guarantees a winner — if you can’t make any legal moves you lose — is appreciated.
There are several A.I. levels available that should accommodate any desired challenge, though not being anything resembling an expert I can’t say that for certain. What I can say is that online is more fun and is the preferred way to play, assuming there are people around when you’re ready for a match.
Traditionalists may not embrace the changes, but there are countless digital versions of chess that do nothing more than simulate the experience. Chess 2: The Sequel tries new things, and the result is a more aggressive variant that doesn’t require hours to complete.