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October 2022

Might & Magic: Chess Royale

Platform(s): Android, PC, iOS
Genre: Strategy
Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Ubisoft
Release Date: Jan. 30, 2020

About Jared Hall

Jared started playing computer games in the '80s on a Commodore 64, moving over to PC gaming in the era of Wolf3D and Doom. Favorites include Dark Souls, Mass Effect and Civilization.


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PC Review - 'Might & Magic: Chess Royale'

by Jared Hall on April 17, 2020 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

Might & Magic: Chess Royale takes classic units from the Might and Magic franchise and strategically places them into a fast-paced auto chess experience.

Might & Magic: Chess Royale hopes to take advantage of the rise in popularity of both the auto-battler and battle royale formats. Available in both desktop and mobile formats, the game functions primarily like an auto-battler, but each game consists of 100 players, and the last man standing is declared the victor. Despite the name and the board shape, Chess Royale has virtually nothing in common with traditional chess.

Chess Royale adheres closely to the standard auto-battle format. Each round begins with purchasing units from the shop. The shop offers five units chosen at random, and you can pay a fee to re-randomize the available units. Once units are purchased, they are placed on your bench, and from your bench, you can place them on the board to do battle. The board has three rows per side, so you can place your tougher melee units up front and the ranged units in the back. The number of units allowed on the board is determined by your level, which increases as the game progresses, starting at two units and ending with eight or nine in the late game. Levels can also be purchased with gold to increase your unit cap.

After the purchasing timer expires at around 30 seconds, battle commences. All units are controlled by AI and attack whatever is closest to them, building up mana, and casting the unit's associated ability once mana is full. There are some exceptions, with assassin-type units leaping into the opponent's back line to cause havoc on their ranged attackers. Combat is automated, so the player can sit back and watch the fireworks. There is also a chart showing overall damage done for each unit to analyze your army's effectiveness. At the end of combat, the losing player loses one hit point. Lose three hit points, and you are eliminated. To further complicate the issue, there are five different tiers of units, each unit can be upgraded twice, and each unit belongs to two alliances.

The tiers affect the cost and power of units, starting at one gold for a white unit and five gold for legendary orange units, with and a color spectrum of green, blue, and purple in between. Each tier is increasingly more powerful and rare, with many orange units never appearing in the shop throughout the course of a game.

Once a unit is purchased, it begins as a bronze one-star unit. To upgrade to a silver two-star unit, you must purchase three copies of the same unit. At this point, the three copies merge into a more powerful single unit. Three copies of a two-star unit (nine purchases total) can also be merged into a very powerful gold three-star unit.

Finally, each unit belongs to two alliances, indicated by two square, colored icons. These alliances provide special bonuses once their requirements (usually possessing a certain number of units belonging to that alliance) are met. For example, possessing two assassin units will give all assassins a chance to critical strike, and four assassins will increase the critical strike chance and damage bonus.

Chess Royale's unique offering, aside from the 100-player game format, is the addition of spells. There are six spells available in a game that is randomized daily. These spells fall into three tiers, and each tier is unlocked after a certain number of players have been eliminated. Once a spell is purchased, it remains in effect for five rounds of combat. Purchasing another copy of the same spell refreshes the duration and increases the effect. Spells seem to have an impact (in theory) on the standard meta game, keeping things fresh from day to day. For example, one spell reduces all healing for both allies and enemies, which lowers the value of any healing strategies for the day.

What most auto-battlers devolve into — and Chess Royale is no exception — is a slot machine. Players pull the randomize lever on the shop, hoping to get copies of what they already have, or gain particular units that mesh with their current composition. In some games, you get super lucky and get a three-star unit on the third round, and in other games, you can't upgrade a two-star unit to save your life. There is a lot of RNG involved in determining the victor. You'll get trounced in some games no matter how experienced you are, and sometimes even a complete newb can steal a win.

This particular auto-battler strikes me as simpler than other offerings in the genre, and it's possibly a good place to start if you are new to auto-battlers. There are no items to equip on units, there are no hero units to manage, and there's no interest on held gold. There are fewer decisions to make when compared to something like Dota Underlords, and for a new player, that translates to fewer opportunities to make a poor decision.

There is a rewards system, so you can unlock things as you play, but the unlocks are currently limited to avatars, borders for your avatars, and emotes. This brings me to the battle royale screen, which is unique to this auto-battler. Between each round of combat, the chessboard display is hidden, and a screen of all 100 player avatars in the game is shown. This would be the screen where you show off your unlocked avatars, borders and emotes. You can also display a national flag, which I thought was a neat perk, and a constant reminder of how ignorant I am of the many flags in the world.

While I understand the battle royale screen is supposed to display the state of the game, how many players remain and how many hit points each have left, it seemed more like a feeble attempt to make avatars, borders, and emotes valuable. However, with 100 players all spamming silly two-word emotes, and 1 hp of damage flying back and forth between various players, it becomes a jumble of nonsense and isn't very engaging. I would prefer to use that time to consider my army and strategy rather than this screen constantly interrupting me. This would be a perfect time to read unit stats and spells to understand the game, but you are forced to look at everyone's avatar.

The 100-player format also makes having a responsive strategy nearly impossible. You can see other players' units on the battle royale screen, but you don't get to see their army layout, and there are so many players that creating a counter-strategy is basically impossible. In a smaller format, you can keep tabs on who the top dogs are and adjust your strategy to deal with their particular setup.

All in all, despite Might & Magic: Chess Royale being free to play, I have a hard time recommending the game as anything other than an introduction to auto-battlers or a very casual experience to distract a few minutes while waiting in line. It's overly simplified and displays little in the way of character. With several games of this nature on the market, it's difficult to see how Chess Royale could compete.

Score: 6.7/10

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