Online Chess Kingdoms Review

Online Chess Kingdoms for the PSP is by no means a blow-you-away hit title, but it does an exceptional job at giving chess enthusiasts an arena to flex their mental muscle. It offers a few different modes of play, with a handful of adornments to make the the classic game of war a little more interesting.

As the name might suggest, the major selling point of Online Chess Kingdoms is its online competitive play. Making it even more unique is the way this online mode works. Rather than joining a traditional matchmaking sever where all available opponents just sit in a room and wait for challenges, players of OCK find themselves on a persistent gameboard, where territory is divided among the game’s five “kingdoms.” Before joining a server, the percentage of territory per kingdom is displayed, along with the number of active players on that particular map, and upon entering, each player must choose a kingdom. The point is to expand one’s kingdom’s territory by engaging in battles (chess matches) along it’s border. It is a very simple embellishment, but still serves to add a little something to the game.

Another interesting twist on the traditional game is story mode. Here, the player is faced with a grid, on which their armies are located, and must move throughout the field in order to to conquer the enemy. This map includes a few critical squares to watch out for. Cities can be taken over by moving an army into a vacant one, or defeating a controlling faction. These become important when trying to add more armies to one’s kingdom or perform one of the game’s “special abilities.” The other special node on the game board is the all-important capitol. This is where new armies spawn, and if it is lost, then “game over” is spelled out right in the gamer’s sorrow-laden face.

The kingdoms in OCK are represented by animated characters on the chessboard, with each faction having a distinctive look to the models. Additionally, each kingdom possesses its own chessboard and environment, so the scenery is somewhat fresh with each game. The problem, though, is that none of the models actually look very good, and their corresponding territories are not incredibly detailed or captivating. On top of that, viewing the character pieces on the chessboard makes it difficult to see how the battleground is laid out, and can lead to unnecessary losses. Luckily, the game offers alternative graphical representation, including a couple of 3D sets of traditional chess pieces, as well as a completely 2D board with default icons. These make it much easier to see exactly what you’re doing in heated battles of wits such as those that are so common within the kingdoms of online chess.

When it comes to challenge, OCK caters to a wide range of skill levels. Playing solo, there are four difficulty levels, but I found that if a semi-talented player wants any sort of competition, the game should be set to “advanced,” the second highest level. In online play, it is possible to get really engaging matches with good players, but on the other hand, some opponents are crushed within 10 moves. There ‘s a simplistic ranking system integrated into the online portion of the game, so it is possible to roughly predict an opponent’s skill before battle, but of course there can be no guarantees and you only truly find out on the gameboard.

Seemingly challenging when first attempted is the Battle mode of OCK. It’s a sort of free-for-all where both sides move simultaneously, in an effort to wipe out the enemy. Moves can be made as long as the on-screen “Power Bar” is full enough to allow them, and victory is based on points, rather than checkmate. In theory it sounds pretty interesting, but what it inevitably boils down to is getting the queen to the opponent’s rear line, then massacring the entire squad. A game takes little more than a minute, and requires only slightly swift thumbs. While it’s slightly exhilarating on higher difficulty settings, this mode is a sort of bust until played there.

The music in OCK is pretty good, but like Battle mode, can get old when you experience it too many times. There is a simple list of songs that, although fairly enjoyable, can get old relatively quickly. Other sounds, such as combat noises when pieces interact on the board, are generally pretty generic-sounding and offer little in the way of excitement.

And that is the main idea when it comes to Online Chess Kingdoms; it’s a solid game that does very well for what it is. It delivers single and two player chess games, and provides gamers the means for online competition. It even manages to add a few interesting touches to the ever-changeless game of chess, but ultimately, is simply a portable chess game, and not a whole lot more. If you already enjoy chess, go for it. If not, this game won’t really change your mind.


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Author: Eddie Inzauto View all posts by
Eddie has been writing about games on the interwebz for over ten years. You can find him Editor-in-Chiefing around these parts, or talking nonsense on Twitter @eddieinzauto.

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