Chaos Chronicle: a Great Game Gated by Terrible Anti-Consumer Practices

Where to download

Chaos Chronicle has been out for awhile now. It released for both major mobile platforms back in August and was still celebrating its grand opening with special launch packages when I first picked up the game last month. Now that it’s October we’ve had quite a bit of time to gauge what direction Wing Studio might go in terms of developing the title and how Nexon as a publisher intends to handle the game’s delivery and consumer base.

And from what I’ve seen, as much as I hate to say it…neither look particularly pretty. Which is a shame because Chaos Chronicle actually has some fun ideas. Perhaps if it wasn’t being handled by the mixed bag known as Nexon the game might have kept me invested.

What is Chaos Chronicle? The premise.

The idea behind Chaos Chronicle is simple: you are the head of a noble house tasked with restoring peace to the world by raising an army of vassals to fight under your banner. The game begins with the player having to solve the mystery behind a mechanical golem going on a rampage. Interestingly enough rather than peg a single hero design to represent the player, we get our choice from one of four characters: Lone, Masha, Arvento, and Karin. Each hero is actually a character you can recruit within the game itself, however the one you pick will be your first unit as well as the main character whose eyes you will view the story unravel through.

Conflicting art direction takes away from the game rather than help it.

One of the first things I noticed right away was the rather jaunting disconnect between the art styles used in the game. The majority of Chaos Chronicle is portrayed through very charming and bright sprites for all of the characters, like in the screenshot below:

Your four potential starter heroes locked in tutorial combat.
Your four potential starter heroes locked in tutorial combat.

As you can see the sprite work is full of energy and character, complete with unique facial expressions and meticulous details on their clothes. I actually really enjoyed watching battles take place on the screen because all of the characters are beautifully animated, including the baddies I had to fight. You can tell a lot of heart went into making each sprite stand out. Even better, from what I could see, every character in the game is given this same level of visual detail regardless of rarity or place in the game’s meta. That’s really nice and something a lot of mobile developers just don’t do.

But you don’t get the same picture once a “main” character in the story appears in the dialogue box. Instead we get something more akin to the art style found in the game’s advertisements and starting screen:

Lone talking to Mono should you choose him to be your starter.
Lone talking to Mono should you choose him to be your starter.

That’s not to say the character portraits are badly drawn. For the most part the artwork is well done and even the portraits have smooth (if unneeded) animation just like the sprites have.  However there’s a huge difference between the two styles and it makes for a confusing art direction overall. The issue is only compounded further when you realize that only a handful of characters in the game have these portraits: everyone else just gets their battle sprite placed above the dialogue box to signal that they’re talking.

So when your hero is talking to a character that doesn’t have a special portrait it’s pretty noticeable just how different the two styles are. To me that’s more annoying than it is pleasing, especially since rather than paying attention to the story I’m comparing the differences in their artwork.

I honestly wish that Wing Studio had picked one of the two styles and stuck with it rather than give us this odd mish-mosh, as both convey very different atmospheres. The portraits give off the feeling that this game is supposed to be a rather serious and dark RPG. And while it most certainly can get dark, the overall presentation of the story is one filled with a lot of humor and charm, an image that their sprite style conveys much more clearly.

This is why one solid art direction is very important for products like video games: it’s a medium that relies very heavily on visuals to convey messages and the overall voice of a product. So if your art direction is confused, the player will also be confused in turn. I know I personally nearly skipped over Chaos Chronicle entirely because we have too many “dark and serious” mobile apps that just don’t deliver on the promise their artwork gives. However a quick look at the screenshots added on the app page changed my mind.

What the game does right.

Fun gameplay: easy to pick up with a surprising amount of depth

If you’ve played Netmarble’s Seven Knights then you will feel right at home in Chaos Chronicle. Your team of vassals will travel from the left side of the screen to the right, fighting monsters and bad guys along the way. They will engage the enemy all on their own without any input from the player. However the strategy of the game comes in the following ways:

  • Knowing when to execute special attacks
  • Counter attacks
  • MP management
  • Pacing the rate of killing mobs and knock-back skills to avoid being overwhelmed

Just like Seven Knights you can either auto battle or retain control over your characters’ special ability usage. Every character in the game has a special attack that consumes mana points (MP) which is represented by a blue bar underneath each character’s portrait at the bottom of the screen. To use a special attack you simply tap that character’s portrait. Once the skill has been used it usually goes into a cool down timer until you can use it again.

However unlike other games that use similar mechanics, Chaos Chronicle throws in a few twists to keep the player more engaged. Some ranged attacks require you to tap the screen a second time in order to properly aim. Others have you tap and hold your finger on the screen to build up power. Yet by far the one mechanic that was made to capture your attention is the counter attack system.

Your heroes are not the only characters on the battlefield that can use these special attacks. The enemies you face will sometimes be able to use them as well, and will clearly telegraph when they’re about to use one through a MSG style exclamation point along with a “ding!” sound effect. As you can imagine these attacks can put a real dent in your party’s health and you’ll rarely be able to kill the enemy before they set off their attack, particularly at the start of the game.

The counter system explained in game.
The counter system explained in game.

That’s where counter attacks come in. To counter an enemy’s special attack you simply use one of your own, both cancelling their attack while doing damage. Timing and placement are key here. If you can land a special attack right before the enemy’s can hit you, then it counts as a “perfect counter” and will deal more damage than normal to the enemy.

As for placement it’s important to remember the range of your character’s skills. For example Lone (our red-headed swordsman) is a melee character. So unless the path is clear for him to reach an enemy archer or mage, he won’t be able to cancel their specials because he simply can’t reach them. However your own back line characters can more easily get the job done as long as you kept their skill off of cool down, or even use another teammate’s special that knocks back enemies to push Lone into range to use his skill.

On top of this characters have a set amount of MP per stage, and unless they carry traits to help refill the gauge, there are no items to replenish it. And once a character no longer has enough MP to launch their special, well…you can’t use their special for the rest of the stage. Between the counter mechanic and set MP amounts the game forces players to more actively manage their cool-downs compared to similarly built titles, and it’s a change that I greatly welcome.

Finally the dungeons aren’t separated into stages like it is in similar games like Seven Knights. The enemies will come at you from the right continuously as you either kill or push back the enemies currently on your screen. This adds another layer of strategy: if you use knock-back skills too much you risk swarming your team with more enemies than it can handle. However if you don’t advance at a good pace you risk allowing the enemy to pair bosses up together rather than lure one to you with its trash mobs.

When you combine all of the above together you get a surprisingly fun battle system. You could argue that the counter system is basically a series of quick-time events, and I wouldn’t necessarily disagree with that. Yet it does bring something a little new to the table compared to other titles that use the automatic dungeon crawling mechanic.

There’s a lot of content right out of the gate. Four modes to experience gameplay: story mode, tower, PvP arena, and raids.

The story mode campaign map
The story mode campaign map

There’s definitely a lot to do for new players joining the game. The story campaign spreads nearly 20 chapters with more on the way, and each chapter is further split up between ten or more separate missions. On top of this there’s a single-player tower mode you can challenge for some nice prizes to jump-start your early game. Raids unlock a few chapters into the main story in which you can help take down big monsters your friends discover for extra loot, and vice-versa.

Finally the PvP arena is fully functional and has been since launch. I’ll be talking about this part of the game in more specific detail later. For now I will give Wing Studio and Nexon kudos for having so many features available at launch. Usually with mobile titles (hell, sometimes even with PC MMOs) you have to wait for a few months before seeing similar modes drop. So knowing that these various gameplay modes are already here means that Nexon and the development team can focus on different upgrades and mechanics rather than try to rush to get these modes out. Now whether or not the teams use this opportunity wisely, only time will tell.

Combine all of these modes with the multiple mission types (growing your noble’s house, beginner’s missions, achievements, log-in bonuses, etc.) there is both plenty of content and several reward systems in place to keep players engaged and happy.

Vassals: multiple ways to earn them

The heart of all games is by far their actual gameplay. However when it comes to gacha games, the characters and other pixels you can collect through their slot machine summon mechanics are definitely the blood which helps the rest of the game run. Your luck with said characters can also set the stage for what your account’s lifespan within the game will look and play like.

In Chaos Chronicle you can recruit characters, or vassals, to fight for your noble house. The game uses a star rarity system that goes from one to six, with five being the highest you can recruit through gacha summon. You obtain said heroes in multiple ways:

  • The typical gacha summon in exchange for premium currency
  • Friend point summon
  • Free summons once a day or every few days
  • Log-in gifts
  • Farming through completing certain story stages
  • Completing beginner missions
  • Hero trading
First week log-in rewards.
First week log-in rewards.

The most obvious way to summon a new character is through premium currency, which are Rubies in Chaos Chronicle. 30 rubies will net you a single summon while 300 will get you a 10+1. However the game follows the currently growing trend of providing a free premium summon once every few days. As a reward for logging in on your seventh day of play the game will also gift you a 5-star character, and a pretty good one at that. Though reader beware: you can glitch out on the seventh day and miss your free Ceris entirely, as that’s what happened to me. Only thing you can do is contact Nexon and hope they’re willing to send her to you directly.

All of the other ways to obtain heroes are more or less standard these days when it comes to these games. However Chaos Chronicle offers a new mechanic that’s a very welcome change. As one would imagine the actual chances of obtaining a 5-star character, let alone the one you want, are both unknown and most likely abysmally small. Yet unlike a lot of other games where your common 3-stars and lower rarity characters are either automatic experience or gold fodder, you can instead use them to trade for other heroes of higher rarities.

Here’s how it works:

The hero information menu.
The hero information menu.

To understand the requirements for hero trades, you first have to understand how to equip and upgrade your heroes. Every character in the game can equip gear (shown with the slots on the left side of the screen) and also equip what are known as enhancement crests (the hexagon on the right). When you equip a hero with an enhancement crest a +1 is added to the end of their name. For every crest you add after that the number goes up for a maximum of +6.

To be able to trade you need two heroes of the same rarity level (so say, two 3-star characters). Both characters must be max leveled (so level 30, for example) and must also have reached +6 with enhancement crests. That’s it. You then tap the trade menu to select your two heroes and trade them for a random hero of the next rarity up. So if you trade two 2-star heroes you’ll get a single, random 3-star hero in return, and a random 4-star hero in exchange for two 3-stars, so on and so forth.

I won’t lie: there is a lot of grinding involved in this process. However this trading system allows for players to take the characters they’re not using (or certainly the massive amount of 3-stars your 10+1’s netted you) and allow them to exchange the characters in the hopes of something much better. Once you start exchanging for 5-stars the pool of potential characters shrinks considerably, making it much more likely to land the premium character you want. It’s still all up to RNG of course. Yet the player community readily agrees that hero trading is definitely the best way to obtain top-rated heroes. In theory those that are diligent and patient can find themselves with a very capable team without spending a dime thanks to this one mechanic, and I’d love to see more of this within the platform done correctly.

But of course, no game is perfect. And unfortunately it is very common within the mobile and F2P platforms to take a game with great ideas and turn it into a mess. Chaos Chronicle is no exception to this. Head onto the next page to see where this game and Nexon fails while raising some troublesome red flags.