If Castlevania, Dynasty Warriors, and Devil May Cry had a love-child, it would be called Chaos Legion. Borrowing beasties, bodyguards, boobies, and big guns from all these series, Chaos Legion puts them together in a presentation I just can’t get enough of.
You start out with bits and pieces of the story, most of which doesn’t make sense (nor does it have to), and you’re dropped into a level with the task of dispatching denizens of evil that come in all shapes and sizes. At your side is Thanatos, the Ultimate Legion, who serves as a bodyguard to Sieg, the hero of our tale. As you chip timidly away at these nicely animated, organic looking monsters, you’ll notice Thanatos is having a blast trashing critters left and right without breaking a sweat, helping you out when needed. This team play makes it more meaningful when you lose Thanatos and set out not only to vanquish evil from the land, but to recover the pieces of the artifact from which Thanatos is summoned. Of course, you won’t be going alone.
Enter Guilt (Sword), Hatred (Power), Malice (Arrow), Arrogance (Shield), Flawed (Claw), and Blasphemy (Bomb). These are your Legions, each type unique, and they will be accompanying you on a quest to crush skulls, and do a great job of it themselves. Whereas Dynasty Warriors never made your bodyguards very useful or powerful, being able to summon these Legions of undead to your aid is not only beneficial, it’s absolutely required lest you get your ass kicked. Any two can be equipped at a time, and only one may be summoned at any given moment. They have a range of attacks of their own, can be directed to attack or stand their ground at your side, and use competent A.I. to decide what and when to attack if left to their own devices. Different Legions are stronger against certain types of enemies (mechanical vs. organic) and each Legion, once leveled up a bit, gives Sieg new abilities and moves when equipped, like double-jumping, a shoulder charge attack, a backflip that knocks enemies into the air, a Scorpion-esque “Get over here!” yank, and many more. All of them are useful in their own way, and often are necessary to overcome specific types of enemies or environmental obstacles.
Sieg’s style on his own is reminiscent of Dante’s flair in Devil May Cry. However, the two aspects of Dante’s offense – melee and guns – have been split here into two characters. Sieg’s female counterpart Arcia only comes into play on certain levels, but her hand cannons get the job done nicely. Sieg also sports a flowing, tattered coat that moves a lot like Dante’s overcoat. The character and his clothes look great in motion or standing still, as Sieg strikes the pose of a pensive bad ass when left immobile. It’s a sight to behold when he stands perfectly still, commanding his Legions to slay all around him with reckless abandon.
Weapon effects and character animations are also very easy on the eyes, and despite having humongous boss characters and dozens of enemies on-screen at once, the frame rate never falters.
At its core an action game, Chaos Legion is a little light on story, but makes up for it with developing the Legions as they gain experience. Each Legion is useful in its own right, and they’re all worth spending the time to evolve, though I imagine you’ll pick two or three you use the most (I did).
Assisting with the leveling up process is the ability to play a portion of a past level and quit, keeping all experience gained up to that point. I eventually found a level where the enemies respawned forever, and just stuck it out as long as I could in that one area without trying to move ahead. I leveled up most of my Legions to the max in a couple of days this way.
Leveling up is necessary, as the difficulty ramps up significantly the further you get into the game. Not only do you face more enemies, but they get smarter, attack in groups, and have new types of attacks you’ll have to learn to defend against. There is no block button, but Sieg is very agile. While in some instances I lament not having a block technique, odds are that while you were blocking, someone would hit you from behind. It would also make the game less exciting. Staying on your toes, monitoring the health of the Legions as well as your own, and dispatching all those who would rather see you dead?now this is my kind of real-time strategy!
All the sound effects fit well here, giving punch to the weapons and strange, gurgling noises to the oddities you’ll be slaying. Often times there’s an easy way and a hard way to clear an area. The easy way is to destroy the enemy generator directly, which becomes weaker the more enemies it creates. Thus, you can fend off many, or make a beeline for the generator and try to take it down without getting mauled in the process.
The enemy designs are creative and impressive, as are the boss battles. Every encounter was a breath of fresh game play, and not once did I think, “Yeah, I remember those guys from (insert game title).”
The CG cut scenes are very well done, too, even if the story they convey doesn’t make a lot of sense till the end. The mouths follow the voice acting (which is also decent), and everything looks about as good as it can.
Camera control is handled with the right analog stick, and can be automatically recentered behind the player with the R1 button. R1 also enables strafe and dodge motions, as well as locking on to whomever you’ve chosen to be locked on to. Pressing Circle throws out a bolt of electricity that, if it hits an enemy, allows you to lock onto them. It also stuns the enemy for a second, so using the lock on repeatedly during combos lets you do much more damage in considerably less time. The lock-on system is creatively done, and well executed. My only gripe with the camera is it auto-centers vertically, so when I’d rather have a bird’s eye view of the action, I can’t get it without backing myself into a corner, and that’s never a good idea.
A multiplayer mode, especially one with Sieg and Arcia together (or adding more characters in general) would have been a great addition, but is sorely missing. Combos with Sieg on sword and Arcia firing dual pistols would have been sweet. As it is, maybe the great visuals of the game limited the versatility of the game engine, or maybe the developer had no plans for anything but the single player game. If that’s the case, they should have put together a more interesting story. At least they have compelling game play. One out of two ain’t bad.
Melding some kick ass bodyguards who are a real part of the game instead of something you had to baby sit a la Dynasty Warriors with swordplay that is somewhere between DW and Devil May Cry yields one of the flashiest and best action experiences to be found these days. Solid in virtually every way, it’ll more than tide you over till Devil May Cry 3 comes along.