Original X-COM co-creator Julian Gollop announces Chaos remake

Julian Gollop returns to bedroom programming with a game that's part remake, part sequel, all wizard.

Before he created Rebelstar 2 and Laser Squad, and co-created UFO: Enemy Unknown (called X-COM: UFO Defense in the States…you should know this by now) with his brother Nick, legendary UK games developer Julian Gollop made a fun little game called Chaos: Battle of the Wizards for the venerable ZX Spectrum in 1985. Having now recently left Ubisoft, where he served as Creative Director on Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation, Gollop has announced on twitter that he’s now solo-developing “Chaos Reborn”, a “part sequel, part remake” that aims to preserve the essence of the original game with some new features and tweaks.

The original Chaos was a turn-based affair set in a single-screen arena with 2 to 8 wizards dropped into it, smiting each other with magic spells and summoned creatures until only one remained. It was a lot of fun, especially with friends, and for a relatively simple game it surprisingly required a fair bit of strategic thinking. All your available spells were randomly allocated at the start of the game and you could only cast one spell per turn. The bulk of them were the summonable creatures ranging from lowly rats to Vampires and Dragons, but you could also get spells that provided a temporary fortress (a Goodly Magic Castle or an Evil Fortress of Doom), equipped your wizard with a magic sword, or gave your wizard wings with which to fly about the arena.

Chaos’ most unique mechanic was that each spell successfully cast shifted the arena’s magical alignment closer towards Law or Chaos, making spells of those alignments easier or harder to cast. So if you had a spell to summon a Red Dragon (a chaotic creature) and all your opponents were throwing around chaotic-aligned spells like confetti, they were all unwittingly helping you unleash a can of scaly whoop-ass on them in a few turns. Assuming one of them didn’t sic a vampire on you first.

But that vampire could be an illusionary one easily-banished by the Disbelieve spell all wizards had as standard, revealing a seemingly dangerous threat to be little more than a cheap attempt at psychological warfare. Conversely seeing your Disbelief spell bounce harmlessly off a very-real Golden Dragon was a gut-wrenching experience, since it meant you’d wasted a spell-casting phase better spent trying to summon your own dragon to deal with it.

Chaos was a lot of fun, particularly with more than one player, but it wasn’t perfect and Julian Gollop plans to address its ““many flaws, quirky bugs and poor graphics” in his remake-sequel. He also intends to include some features familiar to fans of Lords of Chaos, the 1990 sequel-of-sorts to Chaos, like a single-player campaign where you can build up your very own wizard by defeating enemy wizards and finding artefacts to learn new spells. The Campaign map as well as its regional battle maps will be randomly generated  with the option of sharing each world with other players.

What really seals the deal for me is that Chaos Reborn will allow asynchronous play, meaning a friend and I could take turns at our leisure over the course of several days like a genteel game of chess. Modern “timeout” play similar to speed-chess will also be available for those who simply have to settle their wizard duels right there and then. More information on this feature and others can be found in this high level feature list Julian posted today on his blog, where he also explains some of his reasons for revisiting Chaos and  returning to his bedroom programming roots.

With this news, the success of XCOM: Enemy Unknown, the forthcoming Xenonauts, we’re looking at a long-overdue renaissance in turn-based gaming that’s got me grinning like an idiot hopped-up on Psilocybin. I’m also damn chuffed to see Julian Gollop going back to his bedroom programming roots. The game is being developed in Unity for Mac, PC and iOS, and will be ready when it’s done. In the meantime you can play a nice and faithful flash remake of the original Chaos here. I recommend listening to this song first to get you in a properly-wizardly mood.


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Matt is the irresponsible degenerate behind bitscreed.com and the sarcastic writer, editor, director, presenter and tea boy of Pixel Burn.