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Chess Ultra

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Strategy
Publisher: Ripstone Publishing
Developer: Ripstone Publishing
Release Date: Nov. 2, 2017

About David Silbert

I'm a recent college graduate from Boston, MA. When I'm not writing for WorthPlaying, I'm probably researching Celtics trade rumors or struggling to keep up with the growing library on my Nintendo Switch.

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Switch Review - 'Chess Ultra'

by David Silbert on Jan. 3, 2018 @ 12:00 a.m. PST

Chess Ultra is an Unreal Engine 4-powered chess game, featuring a variety of game modes, and intuitive online play.

Chess is one of the most timeless games of all time. Dating back to the sixth century and originating from Eastern civilization, chess continues to be played by millions worldwide at both the casual and professional level.

Chess Ultra, developed and published by Ripstone, takes the game of chess online, offering players the ability to play anyone anywhere. With its robust tutorial, soothing visuals and music, and flexible gameplay capabilities, Chess Ultra is a fun, accessible game for newcomers and a fantastic tool for veterans looking to improve their skills.


When players boot up Chess Ultra, they are welcomed by the tranquil sound of an orchestra and a slow camera pan over a chessboard. Much like chess' real-world reputation as a gentleman's sport, Chess Ultra takes care to offer a sophisticated portrayal of the game to its players.

This sophistication carries over to Chess Ultra's wide range of game modes and options. People who are new to chess can jump into a lengthy tutorial covering everything from movement and board control to openings and triangulation. While brief, the tutorial does a great job of familiarizing players with the various game pieces and gives them a chance to practice playing in manageable, bite-sized chunks.

Meanwhile, those who are familiar with the basics can jump into a game or tackle one of Chess Ultra's numerous challenges. These additional puzzles task players with reaching a checkmate in a predetermined number of moves. With over 80 puzzles to complete, there's a sizable wealth of content awaiting players before they even play a full-fledged chess match.


When it comes to matches themselves, Chess Ultra provides a myriad of useful customization options for players. Games can be played against either a real opponent or an AI one. Computer opponents range in difficulty from Novice all the way to Grandmaster, ensuring that players have a ceiling of challenge that is practically infinite. Of these 10 difficulties, dynamic Elo ratings demonstrate how players are progressing compared to the computer. Lose a match to an amateur opponent, and expect to see your Elo decrease and the AI's increase. Have a surprise upset against the expert level, and expect to see your Elo skyrocket.

This Elo score is important when it comes to Chess Ultra's online matchmaking. Players can compete against one another in a variety of formats determined by an in-game chess clock. Players familiar with competitive chess can play with either the standard timer (45 minutes per player) or the "Fischer timer," which grants each side 30 minutes to start and adds 30 seconds per move made. Casual players looking for a more relaxing experience can either play without a timer or use the "Marathon timer," which allows a full 24 hours to make a move. Finally, for those looking for a true challenge, there's the "Blitz timer," which allots only five minutes per side.

Combined with matchmaking that matches players with similar Elo scores, the inclusion of these timers makes for a compelling online suite with games that are challenging yet fair. The clocks also allow for a welcome degree of variation to how players approach different matches. At the same time, however, I wish Chess Ultra's online mode included filters for players looking to play in real time. The game supports the ability to play up to six different matches at once, resulting in inevitable delays between moves made, not unlike experiences found in mobile games like Words With Friends or Draw Something. With that said, whenever two players do end up playing in a single-sitting, a game of Chess Ultra is just as captivating as its real-world counterpart.


In terms of the gameplay itself, the game is chess: You've likely played it before, and if you haven't, you've likely seen others playing it before. For the completely uninitiated, however, the objective is to corner the opponent's King piece using a variety of different pieces with different movement capabilities. The Queen is the most valuable piece next to the King, followed by the Rook, the Bishop and Knight, and finally, the Pawn. The game hasn't changed in several hundred years, and those who aren't fond of it in real life won't find much to change their minds with Chess Ultra. However, those who enjoy chess and those looking to learn and improve at the game will find plenty to like here.

Making moves in Chess Ultra is self-explanatory when docked to the television: You select where to go with the Joy-Con and confirm it with the press of a button. Outside of movement, players can also control the camera to view the board at different angles and review past moves with the click of a button. In portable mode, Chess Ultra offers the same control scheme while providing the added simplicity of navigating menus, controlling the camera, and moving pieces via the Switch's touch-screen. Regardless of whether you prefer playing while docked or while on the go, Chess Ultra's gameplay experience is simple and intuitive.

For those looking for couch play, Chess Ultra also allows two people to play against each other using Joy-Con controllers. During local multiplayer, the board takes a bird's-eye view to give both players an equal look at both sides of the board. When docked, the experience is similar to playing online, albeit with restricted camera movement. Undocked, however, Chess Ultra mimics a real-life chessboard, complete with touch support for movement and the ability to lay the Switch flat on a table between two competitors. While simple, these small inclusions go a long way toward making Chess Ultra both accessible to players and adaptable to their needs.


Tying the experience together is Chess Ultra's gorgeous presentation. For a game whose gameplay involves moving small figures on a static game board, there is a surprising amount of personality injected into Chess Ultra's world. Before each match, players can choose from a list of locations. From the cozy interior of Woodburn Manor to the dark depths of Gomorrah, Chess Ultra's locales range from elegant to nerve-racking. Regardless of location, the game always manages to look beautiful, both on the television and in handheld mode.

Chess Ultra's musical score is equally impressive. A mix of original and licensed tracks, the soundtrack to Chess Ultra nicely complements the locations found in-game. From the dreary ambiance of wind blowing and drum pats played in Gomorrah to Schubert's timeless "Ave Maria" in Woodburn Manor, Chess Ultra's music and sound design give shape to its world while serving as welcome background music for players planning their next move.

Chess Ultra is a great chess game and a welcome addition to the Switch's digital library of titles. Its in-depth tutorial offers a useful starting point for those new to the sport, while challenges, AI difficulties, and customizable matches ensure that established players have the tools needed to improve their game in a variety of formats. While the lack of a real-time filter for matchmaking is a bummer, Chess Ultra more than justifies its budget price tag of $12.50. Whether you are a grandmaster or a complete novice, Chess Ultra is a worthy entry into the world of virtual chess.

Score: 8.5/10



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