Combat Chess by Empire Interactive is a decent clone of Interplay's venerable classic Battle Chess that is long on glitz but short on computer intelligence – the most important aspect of a computer chess game. The 3D-rendered animated pieces are fun to watch, and the fantasy theme is evoked quite well with dragons and knights on the battlefield.
Similar to other animated-chess-piece games, it takes some time to memorize which chess piece is which, although that is not a major concern. More important is the cumbersome user interface (which, among other things, require a few rapid clicks to undo a computer's move before it quickly moves again) and the woefully weak chess engine. I don't consider myself a good chess player by any means (I often lose in the easier levels of Chessmaster, perhaps the penultimate “computer chess for the mass.” Yet I can beat the computer player in Combat Chess regularly, even with the “computer makes mistakes” option turned off. Speaking of which, this option must be the dumbest option I've seen in a chess game – if you want to play with a computer that makes mistakes, you might as well not play chess, because it really is an insult to your intelligence (well, to mine anyway ;)). Another big problem is that the game's animated pieces, while very nice to watch, are a tad too big. This means they often obscure other pieces that are in front of them completely, making it impossible to see what is going on. Fortunately, you can play with the traditional 2D top-down view of the board next to the 3D isometric one. But then again, if you want to play chess in 2D only, Combat Chess loses much of its appeal. I actually ended up looking at the 2D board rather than the 3D one.
Overall, Combat Chess is definitely a below-average chess game that is probably only fun to beginners or casual players who care more about graphics pizzazz than gameplay. But although the animations are fun to see for the first time, they don't have the same charm as Battle Chess or the hilarious Chess Maniac 5 Billion and One. As it stands, if you want a challenging opponent, even Chessmaster is a better choice than this average game.
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