In 1995, New World Computing released an excellent game that strove to unite elements of comedy, strategy, and science fiction with complexity and a mafia theme. Luckily, they succeeded. With finely balanced elements, the result was more than anyone could have hoped for. Chaos Overlords is a game that really should have been more widely known, as it had some innovative ideas, excellent gameplay and a very clever AI. Best of all, it worked perfectly as a turn-based boardgame.
The goal is to conquer the city you live in, together with the organisations of rival cyberpunk mafiosos. The victory may be achieved through several different paths which can be selected in the "New Game" menu. You win the game by eliminating the "right hands" of rival mafiosos, or simply by conquering the whole city, square by square. Altogether, there are ten possible starting points and goals to choose from, and they differ enough to prevent feelings of déjà vu.
The city is made up of several squares (representing different areas) that can be controlled. Each of these squares features three different buildings that can be influenced after conquering. Each of these buildings, after being influenced, gives notable benefits to the mafia organisation holding it within its grasp; mainly, this will be money, but it can also be tolerance from ordinary people. "Tolerance" allows you to create even more chaos on the square in question, thus increasing your bank account or support; this will make it harder for rival mafiosos to seize the control of a square you own.
The main part of the gameplay is built around orders and tasks that you give to your lackeys and mercenaries. These orders are carried out at the end of each turn. When the turn is over, you will need to give them another task in order to take advantage of all their skills. However, you may also give continuous orders that your lackeys will repeat each turn, thus saving you the time that would be spent on micromanagement. Altogether, there are fourteen different orders in the game, starting from bribery, research, snitching, and control, all the way to attacking and hiding. Basically, you run your whole imperium through continuous orders, especially with the "chaos" command, as it will be your main source of cash.
The lackeys -- or mercenaries, depending on how you see them -- are a unique addition to the game. First, they come as gangs that always differ from each other and which all have their own abilities. These abilities range from unique stats to weapon handling and researching. Second, they are funny. To be specific, they are inventively funny, and not because of their character portrait or name, but because of their small picture representations in their gang-screen which have been created with lots of imagination and vision. Finally, they are very well-balanced, so you will always get what you want for the money you spend. Also, the upkeep of your forces will be directly proportional to their abilities.
Overall, the difficulty is challenging even at the lowest level, and it lies mostly in the balancing of your empire and in keeping your own area secured while moving further into your enemies' territories. The computer will be quick to invade your zone if you leave it unprotected, and far from your main combat team. Another challenging task will be the successful balancing of your account in the earliest stages of the game, as your mercenaries will leave quickly if someone forgets their monthly paycheck.
The graphics are surprisingly good, but then again animations are very scarce, meaning the game mostly consists of still pictures. The gameplay, however, is excellent, and along with the game's strategic elements, it creates a successful combination. I believe that Chaos Overlords is an excellent game: perfect for anyone who is interested either in turn-based strategy games or cyberpunk fiction. Even if you do not belong to either of the previously mentioned categories, the game is still worth a try, as it is a truly unique piece of work.
There are a few things to note as far as game performance goes:
- The music is missing.
- Unzip the files to c:\chaos.
- After unzipping the game, run chaosreg.reg.
- Games should be saved to the game's own directory, otherwise they won't work.
- If you are experiencing problems with the cursor, switch off the in-game music.