The cyberpunk genre has been done, redone and overdone for years but, every now and then, someone gets it right. Chaos Overlords is a case in point here as it manages to pull a lot of things together to make a really fun, complex game without ever becoming tedious. It succeeds, in many ways, because it doesn't try to wow anyone with flashy gimmicks or high system requirements. On the surface, Chaos Overlords is a very simple game with a simple idea -- hire gangs to take over a futuristic city for you.
This, at first, sounds fairly good but not particularly exceptional. Where Chaos Overlords succeeds is in its depth. There are so many aspects to this game that it is virtually impossible to list them all. Each gang that you hire is rated in many different areas. Some are great at fighting hand-to-hand while others excel with ranged weapons. Some gangs are terrible in combat but generate a lot of money or are superior in gaining control of city sectors. Each gang also has a tech level that indicates the particular power of additional items they can get. Additionally, gangs can carry three items -- a weapon, armor and a miscellaneous item that adds or subtracts to the various group ratings.
Chaos Overlords is made even more challenging as each city sector contains three buildings that can be influenced to generate more income or serve other needs and, therefore, affect gang ratings. Hospitals, for instance, give bonuses to healing while a sector with a factory offers a discount on equipment.
Another way in which Chaos Overlords stands apart is in the overall feel of the game. It's possible that this project began with an eye toward making it a collectible card game and there is that sort of feel to it. The game feels even more like a play-by-mail strategy game. The game is also deep enough that the different scenarios require different tactics. In fact, in the four timed scenarios, the best path to winning depends on the length of time selected. A six-month game of the Greed scenario is completely different from the same scenario played for two years.
Each turn, you can hire one of three gangs or dismiss one from the group of those available. Each of your gangs can do one thing on every turn. Some will need to heal, others can influence structures or take over new sectors, equip themselves or attack enemy gangs in the same sector. Chaos Overlords doesn't feature incredible graphics and, in fact, there is virtually no animation in the game at all. The music, however, is top-notch and doesn't repeat too often.
But there is more to life than killer animation and Chaos Overlords has it where it counts. The computer AI is very good, even on lower difficulty levels. There is no other gaming experience quite like Chaos Overlords, which is a shame. There should be more games like this since it marries turn-based strategy and tough decisions into a seamless whole. This is good stuff and worth playing.
Graphics: Acceptable for a modern game with virtually no animation.
Sound: Tremendous mood music that works very well. The sound effects are decent, too.
Enjoyment: This is a tough, intelligent game with a lot of factors to keep track of.
Replay Value: 10 scenarios, 4 of which have 4 time limit possibilities + four difficulty levels + multi-player possibilities = you'll play forever.
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Central Intelligence, Centurion: Defender of Rome, Chaos: Remake, Cavewars, Celtic Kings: Rage of War, Castles 2: Siege and Conquest, Celtic Tales: Balor of Evil Eye, Burntime
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