12/7/04 by King_Ghidra
For someone who was as big a fan of Games Workshop’s classic blend of fantasy and American Football, Blood Bowl, as I was, then the prospect of such a thing being brought to the PC was understandably exciting. Chaos League is not Blood Bowl of course; rather it is the unique creation of French Developer Cyanide, but to say it owes its origins to said game would be a massive understatement.
Everything from the Games Workshop classic is here: the pseudo-American Football rules, the violence, the cheating, the fantasy races and creatures, magic that can be used on the pitch, cheerleaders and fan intervention, etc., etc.
So far so good then. Now, whereas the tabletop game was a strictly turn-based game, the transition to PC power has enabled an upgrade to a real-time game. Indeed Cyanide bills Chaos League as ‘an RTS game at heart’. With all credit to them, they have taken pity on the less twitchy of us and implemented three distinct modes of play, RTS, Turn-based, and a third mode which is a hybrid of the two. More of these modes later.
Chaos League contains a small and perfectly formed Tutorial Mode to introduce the basic concepts and control methods of the game. Considering Cyanide deigned to send an instruction manual with their review code I was pretty much forced to use the Tutorial, and I was very impressed with it. Not too long, plenty of info and plenty of opportunity to try things out for yourself. Thumbs up.
Buy Chaos League!
Graphically, Chaos League borrows heavily form the Warcraft school of design, with bright, almost cartoonish models. As in all RTS games the major requirement of the graphical design is that all your ‘troops’ are easy to distinguish once the fists start flying, and Chaos League succeeds admirably in this regard.
Chaos League features four different stadium types. These encompass four different fantasy locations, and although predictable enough, they are well executed and deliver the appropriate atmosphere.
Each team can field up to nine players on the pitch at any one time, and a further six on the bench. Whether Cyanide eschewed the traditional eleven-a-side concept for gameplay or technical reasons it is difficult to say, but nine-a-side does seem to lead to both a fairly open game with plenty of scoring opportunities, and one that also gives ample opportunity to control your team effectively.
Each game is accompanied by a running commentary from an English-sounding announcer and an American sounding co-commentator. My first reaction to these two was somewhat despairing, I feared for corny lines and poor attempts at humour. However as I heard more I came to enjoy their comments. As in any game of this type the commentary becomes somewhat repetitive at times, but after more than a dozen games I didn’t feel any desire to turn them off.
In true RTS fashion, your players can be selected and controlled in several ways. Players can be selected directly by clicking on them; by dragging a selection rectangle over them (also used for selecting multiple players); and also by clicking on their portrait on your menu. In reality, clicking on players on the pitch directly can be quite confusing and clumsy. When the players bunch up into a brawl it can be hard to pick out your man from the melee. Ditto the ball, which can be hard to select when it runs free in the more hectic moments.
As I mentioned previously, there are three different modes of play available. In turn-based mode, every few seconds the game pauses and you have ten seconds to issue your players with their actions. The Blood Bowl fan in me naturally gravitated towards this mode, although it often proved challenging to issue all nine players their actions in the time available. A downside to this mode is that the average ten-minute game takes maybe more than twice as long to actually play.