Might & Magic Chess Royale is neither chess nor royale

99 players but we ain't one

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It’s auto chess, but not. It’s battle royale, but not. It’s chess royale! What does that mean, you ask? Well, I’ve sunk quite a few hours into Might & Magic Chess Royale now and to be honest, I’m still not really sure.

It has all the trappings of an autobattler, apart from the 99 other players sitting behind duplicated avatars. This, as far as I can tell, is the only thing that supposedly makes this a bit like a battle royale. But instead of sprawling across an appropriately sized map picking each other off, we’re a sea of faces squeezed into a single screen that is far too small for us. The intimacy of other autobattlers is lost in this attempt to impose an arbitrarily chosen hallmark of a totally different genre.

Autobattlers and battle royales have nothing in common apart from being vogueish. They don’t complement each other, and by merging them, the result is both confused and confusing.

As an avid player of Hearthstone Battlegrounds, among other autobattlers, I enjoy developing silent grudges against other players, especially if they take a chunk out of my health and I have to rethink before facing them again. It’s not personal, it’s competitive. But Might & Magic Chess Royale doesn’t give me any time to prepare for these grudge matches.

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Instead I’m thrust into new games without the chance to think about what makes sense to play or even who I’m playing. It strips the game of any competition or tension. There’s also very little explanation of what’s going on, and the tutorial doesn’t kick in until I’m nearly dead, which makes me think this isn’t designed for new players to the genre. I came third in my second game, but I didn’t feel victorious or proud – just lucky.

Using coins to purchase units, you slowly develop your board. There are a couple of things to consider here. First, the synergies between your units and ensuring they are positioned properly (usually, next to each other) to activate. Secondly, the unit’s type, which determines whether it belongs on the front lines like the Tank class, or at the back providing backup, such as Healers and Support classes.

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You can sell units back to free up some room, but I never found myself short on coins, even after I’d purchased all the spells in the spell book (which grant unit buffs and a number of other perks). The principle is the same as other autobattlers: combine three of the same unit and you get a superior, two-star version with better stats. You start each game with three health points, and if you win, you earn extra coins on top of a basic payout with which to recruit more units. On a loss you are deducted one HP. If you lose all three HP, then you’re out. This continues until one person is left and is declared the winner.

The fights themselves are a flash of red and blue until victory or defeat appears across the screen. This time is put to best use thinking about your next move, because Might & Magic Chess Royale is designed to be quick – each game is just ten minutes long, in fact. I suppose this is tempting for those who haven’t got the time for a hefty gaming session, which is a helpful compass point to chart our way to this game’s intended audience. Another might be those who are desperate to see two popular but not especially complementary genres combined – who knows.

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There’s definitely nothing here to appeal to fans of Might & Magic. The days are sadly very long gone when this series could be associated with classic old-school RPGs or, to quote one of our own Might & Magic fans, “two of the very best fantasy TBS games ever” (lore reboot notwithstanding). Like Commander Keen, Command & Conquer, and too many others before it, Might & Magic is now another icon of PC gaming cynically slapped on an cynical attempt to cash in on trends set by games that did it first and better.

the two genres don’t complement each other, and by merging both, the result is both confused and confusing

Although the Might & Magic label does offer some skin-deep nostalgic comfort in Chess Royale’s admittedly pretty creatures and heroes, it doesn’t make up for the fact that Might & Magic Chess Royale is clearly made for mobile. It’s for quick games lounging on the sofa when there’s a spare ten minutes in the day.

There’s no expectation of your commitment, and while I can imagine the appeal of such a game in helping mobile users unwind, it’s not a good fit for PC. Those that want the strategic challenge of an autobattler, the thrill of  battle royale games, or to return to Might & Magic’s rich setting will be disappointed.

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