Some people may think this is cool, or others may just roll their eyes. Either way, I’m going to throw this out there. I was in chess club in elementary school. Yeah, that’s right, and I wasn’t very good. Even so, there is something ancient and primal about chess. I know in today’s world chess is sort of a relic when it comes to games. I mean, why move pieces around a board when you can shoot people in Call of Duty? Why indeed, and yet even in your online matches, you still employ tactics similar to chess, do you not? Sure you may not intend to push your enemy into a trap, or that teamwork you perform with your friends to capture a point may seem like nothing, but it’s all strategy and it all boils back down to the oldest game of warfare.
Chess is the root of all strategy. It is the purest and simplest form of warfare known to us. Many may have forgotten it, or cast it to the side as an archaic game, but whether you know it or not, you use strategies in every game you play. You’re a chess player, and you don’t even know it. Now that your mind is sufficiently shattered to pieces after my calling your entire existence into question, we can start to talk about Pure Chess, seeing as how you’ll need it to pick up the pieces.
Hello Old Friend, We've Missed You
Pure Chess, as the name suggests, is a chess game originally on the PS3 and Vita, now ported to the PS4. For me, the last time I played a chess game on a home console was Chessmaster for the PS2, a game which I still own. Unlike modern franchises, chess isn’t something we see very often on the home consoles, or even on the PC. There are certainly games of chess out there, but they can sometimes over compensate with flashy animations or crazy boards. In other cases, they are too bland to be visually appealing. Chess is chess, there’s no need to dress it up, but there are plenty of ways to make it more interesting.
Pure Chess comes to us from VooFoo studios and features a nice price point, incredibly detailed graphics, and several options for how you wish to play. The game comes in two options for purchase. You can select a base game for $7.99 or you can choose a bundle that includes all of the DLC, currently on sale for PlayStation Plus members at $11.99, but the normal price is $14.99. The extra content consists of additional sets of themed pieces and different boards to play on. So, should a chess connoisseur pick this up for their PS4?
Come One, Come All!
My chess is incredibly rusty. That being said, when I booted up Pure Chess, I was delighted to see a tutorial option on the main menu. The tutorial was easy to understand and did a very good job of walking through each of the pieces, their moves, and went on to show basic set ups over the course of a game and beginner’s strategies for victory. It was a good mix of showing and telling, and I felt confident I was ready to begin when the tutorial was finished.
When I jumped into the game, I also noticed that pieces will show their possible legal moves on the board when you select them. It’s a great feature for beginners, and it can be turned off if needed. You can also enable the ability to undo the last move if you’re prone to mistakes. You can select a timer to keep the game moving when playing against the computer as well. There are a total of ten different difficulties to choose from. Everything from “Monkey” to “Grand Master”, with plenty of hilarious titles in between. The game really goes a long way towards inviting all kinds of players.
That being said, the difficulties seem to be a little unbalanced. For example, I am still playing on “Monkey” and the computer is quite proficient, resulting in my losing consistently. I had other people in my household play to see if they were as challenged by this lower difficulty as I was. In some cases, it was the same, while in other cases a few wins were had. Overall though, the consensus was that, for being the easiest difficulty, it was a little too challenging to win.
I pumped up the difficulty to the highest setting and found that the A.I was more subtle, but the overall flow of the game felt largely similar. I expected to be decimated in three turns or something of the sort, but I put up a solid fight before being utterly destroyed. There is certainly a challenge to be had here, but I would have liked to see less difficulties with more staggering differences instead of the spread out set up. This way it would be easier to gauge the challenge for specific players, as opposed to choosing from such a wide setup with little to go on in terms of the actual challenge.
As Many Options as There Are Pieces
As you can see, the actual set up for Pure Chess involves a lot of options, but they don’t end there. If you spring for the complete bundle, which I would recommend, you receive a wealth of options for boards, locations, and piece sets. The base game includes a few options, but they are a pretty standard affair. The DLC offers unique sets such as a Halloween set, a set of animal pieces, and even a set modeled after the stone face carvings of Easter Island.
Beyond this, when selecting a type of piece set, you can also choose what material you want them made from. Some offer stone, or glass. Others will give you a choice between metal and plastic. The piece sets are really varied and this makes the game visually very interesting if you own all the possible sets. You can even customize the music you hear while playing. In the options menu you can choose from four different genres, or you can let them all loop as they like. The musical selections add a certain level of atmosphere, which I enjoyed.
When choosing to play, you can play alone with the computer, online which we’ll get to in a second, and a selection of bonus games. The bonus games include the ability to set up a tournament of varying difficulties, or trying to solve a variety of chess problems. The chess problems were a unique idea, and the set up is intriguing with the option of trying to put the king in checkmate in as little as one move. The options here are staggering and offer a lot of ways to play, more than just a simple game of chess if you’d like.
It's Your Move, I'll Just Go Make a Sandwich or Something
The wealth of options that Pure Chess has to offer is one of the strongest points of the game. The gameplay is exactly what you would expect, but the online unfortunately leaves a lot to be desired. Part of this is due to the set up of the game, and part of it has to do with the community at launch. The actual set up of the online multiplayer is not in real time. This means that you’ll make a move and the game will put you on a pause screen while you wait for the other player.
In my experience, the other players would go for minutes at a time without making a move. This is understandable as chess is a very strategic game, but in most cases they would either leave mid game or have me waiting for up to ten minutes for them to make a move. I would have liked it better if the multiplayer was set up like the main game where everything happens in real time and I can see the opponent making their move as it happens. As far as the delays, this is more of the community than the developer.
The online is also lacking in the same customization options which I found odd. It would just pick a random setup each time I entered a game and options such as timers were non existent. I would have liked to carry over those kinds of options into the other mode. As much as I would have liked a strong online component though, I prefer to play chess with someone I can see, and the game certainly offers local multiplayer. While the online is kind of a bare bones experience, the core game still elevates the experience.
The PS4 Advantage: Alright, so When Does the Game Start? Wait, Those Are the Graphics?
Pure Chess is an absolutely beautiful chess game. Running at 1080p and sixty frames per second, the game can easily be mistaken for photo-realism at any moment. The right analog stick can be used to pan the camera in and out to really see the detail in each and every piece on the board. The DLC boards and pieces are especially impressive when viewed up close.
This kind of realism isn’t needed per se, but it certainly adds to the overall experience. In conjunction with the various instrumental music options, the game can be everything from intense and methodical, to quiet and serene. The piece of the presentation fit together incredibly well to form a cohesive package.
The Final Verdict
Anyone can be good at chess. Some people are great, while others like me are still finding their feet. Pure Chess is the best simulation of chess that money can buy, hands down. It also offers a lot of options for how you want to play and what pieces you want to play with. The online multiplayer is a let down, but that’s not entirely the developer’s fault. If you want to take a break from the modern era of shooters and explosions, Pure Chess is a great way to do so. Just don’t expect to play online a lot.
Final Score: 9/10
A copy of Pure Chess was provided by Ripstone for review purposes.
Article by - Bradley Ramsey
Insert Date: 04/15/2014