My personal love-hate relationship with chess began a little over a decade ago. I had suffered a stroke and was determined to recover by learning how to use my brain again. Games demanding intellect such as chess became a cherished port of call for me. Of course, finding people to play with was somewhat of a struggle and I proceeded to play numerous video games.
Artificial Intelligence – The Chess Test
The problem that I found with video games was that the quality of the AI always varied. There were games where the AI was poorly written. Even on the highest difficulty setting some games would throw out ridiculous moves. Some were so bad that they’d allow you to capture their queen with a pawn. On the other hand, there were some exceptional games written where the AI was so clever that it was almost unplayable.
In my experience with flChess, developed by Flying. Stone. Production, it lays firmly in the very intelligent category. This is a problem. I attempted playing the game with the difficulty setting at the absolute lowest setting. I tried playing with it at maximum. Unfortunately, I did not notice an iota of difference. The game does not make silly moves. The game is difficult. It is not newbie friendly.
For some, this will be a boon. For those who want to be challenged, you will get it here. In my first two games – at the lowest setting – the game made me feel like I was playing Garry Kasparov. I was anticipating a poor move. I did not get one.
The reason why I claim that it isn’t newbie friendly is the lack of a tutorial. The game’s tutorial screen is essentially a screen that teaches you how to move the camera. You were expecting a chess game’s tutorial to introduce you to the basic movements of chess, weren’t you? So was I. Not here, sonny.
The Vaunted Graphics
I’ve read through a plethora of the game’s reviews. Most of them are complimentary of the game’s graphics. Personally, I feel very differently. It’s not that I was expecting the Skyrim of chess games. But what I was expecting was something with a little more clarity, something that was easy on the eyes and not trying to purvey a futuristic tone. I’d opt for user friendliness over shine any day.
The graphics are too shiny, too plastic-y. Too busy. You can move the camera to suit but being forced to move them constantly to have a clear vision of the field isn’t a great thing. I would expect that from a billiards or snooker game. I don’t expect nor do I want that from a chess game.
Lack of Steam Features
Perhaps the most irritating aspect of the game from a dedicated Steam games is the lack of Steam functionality and features. The game has no Steam achievements. It does not drop Steam trading cards.
More significantly, gameplay-wise, it doesn’t even have multiplayer. By multiplayer, I mean any multiplayer. There is no online or local multiplayer. That means that the player is stuck with playing the computer with its unchanging artificial intelligence without a tutorial for a chess newcomer to learn the game.
The Gamephasis Verdict
If you’re a seasoned chess player and you find the graphics better than I do and do not require multiplayer then you’re going to like this game. That’s really the bottom line here. It’s a challenging chess game that has been designed especially for you. If, however, you’re not a wannabe Garry Kasparov then chances are you’ll regret your purchase.
My recommendation on this one, if you are a chess fan, is to buy the game. It’s only a couple of dollars. If the graphics annoy you or you find the computer’s AI to be vastly superior to your ability – which I did – then, by all means, make use of Steam’s 2-hour refund policy.
There’s a good game of chess to be had…. If you’re good enough!