What a beautiful way to end the world
Chaos Rings II is the type of game that doesn’t make a great first impression. Players are plopped into an ill-defined world with a couple of characters they know nothing about and expected to figure it out as they go. Furthermore, at first blush the combat system looks identical to the original Chaos Rings, leading players to wonder if they just spent $18 on re-skinned characters and an incomprehensible story. Those who stick with it, though, will be richly rewarded, as Chaos Rings II introduces a terrific cast of characters, a beautiful world and a combat system which has evolved quite nicely from its predecessors. The price tag may be steep, but it’s well worth it.
Right off the top it’s important to note that Chaos Rings II is a sequel in the same way Final Fantasy XI is a sequel. That is to say, even though this game shares a name with the other titles in the franchise, it’s not really connected to them. Though the mechanics and basic gameplay are the same, the cast and story are completely different and totally unconnected from the other games. If you head in expecting a continuation of the previous storyline, then nothing but confusion and anger awaits.
The game is set in a world frozen in time. The Destroyer is attempting to break free of his bonds and ravage the world, and the Creator and his minions have frozen time in order to forestall the doom of the world. In steps Darwin, the human chosen to be the Nominator, as well as a handful of other people who must be sacrificed as Pillars to save the currently frozen world. The premise is as old as RPGs themselves (unlikely hero chosen to save the world from ultimate destruction), but it’s executed well and the characters are all given such love and attention that by the time it’s over you’ll likely feel a deep connection with all of them and genuinely care about their fate. Square Enix has always had a knack for storytelling, and they nail it once again here.
The combat system, though similar to the previous Chaos Rings games, has added a few welcome wrinkles that add a great deal to the experience. First off, solo and pair attacks return, allowing you to issue commands to characters separately or join their powers together to boost their abilities but also subject them to shared damage. The system has evolved now though, adding Awakenings and Advents to the mix. These new elements play off the revamped Chain Gauge, and as each segment fills you have the option to unleash a super-powerful attack or summon upon foes. It’s by no means a revolutionary approach to combat, but it’s a lot more fun now to engage in battles that provide more excitement than merely tapping the attack or magic button until you win.
I would be remiss if I didn’t take at least a moment to talk about the game’s visuals, because they are stunning. The way Chaos Rings II depicts a world without time is breathtaking, with droplets from frozen waterfalls hanging suspended in space and time and cherry blossom leaves hanging in midair, their voyage to the ground interrupted. This is the sort of game that makes you wonder just how impressive games can look on an iPhone, and if we’re just scratching the surface of what the device can truly do.
For all the glory of Chaos Rings II, there is still the painful reality of the price tag. Square Enix has made a premium game, and at launch they’re charging a premium price of $17.99. It’s understandable if you balk at that figure. It can be hard to justify spending that kind of money on an iPhone game. But the upside is that once you buy it, there are no in-game purchases to further drain your wallet. If you can get past the price then you’ll discover a game which proves not only can true RPGs exist on the App Store, but that they can thrive there.