Chess is a game that has been around for centuries and has maintained popularity throughout all of that time. Chess has been played competitively across the globe, has had hit movies such as Brooklyn Castle (2012) and Searching for Bobby Fischer (1993) revolve around it, saw recent popularity in the Netflix show Queens Gambit, and it has seen a recent surge in popularity through the pandemic due to online sites such as Lichess. However, one thing that stays true to chess, is that the game rarely sees alterations to it, but that’s where ChessLocke comes in.

Creator Taylor “Loxxulus” Hatton grew up with a love for the game of chess and a love for JRPGs, so he combined them into one to create the game ChessLocke.

At first glance ChessLocke looks like a regular chess match, you have all of the same pieces that you would in a normal match of chess: king, queen, knight, bishop, rook, and pawn, but they all now have 3 unique abilities to use during a match. For example, the bishop acts as a typical JRPG white mage, so your bishop can learn abilities such as revive where you can revive any fallen piece on your team. These abilities range from piece to piece where you can appoint a new job to a pawn, freeze an opponents piece in place, or even put up a wall to block your opponents. Experience is earned from capturing a certain amount of pieces with a specific unit, winning matches, or simply just capturing opponents. After each match you can select what abilities to upgrade in the menu.

Upgrade Menu: ChessLocke

ChessLocke is played through a campaign mode that has 50 matches. Unlike a regular match of chess, you don’t lose when your king gets captured; the ways to win are by capturing all of the opponents pieces or landing on the opponents throne and staying there for two consecutive turns. Each match has different locations for the starting pieces, which makes each match unique. Both of these elements allows the player to go in to every match with a different strategy on how to win — especially with how you build your power ups. The AI plays chess really well, so it’s incredibly difficult to with by just playing chess, so you need to learn to use the power ups well to win these matches.

Once you complete the main campaign, there’s a bonus dungeon that you can play. In the dungeon there are more opponent pieces than player pieces so the difficulty curve has a significant increase. This mode is intended for the hardcore players.

Gameplay

Music is chosen through the menu and stays the same until you change it again. There are limited options when it comes to the music, but each song is differently paced enough that you can find a song that fits your mood.

The Verdict: 3.5/5 Stars

The Good: ChessLocke is an overall wonderful concept, and the execution is done well. I found myself really getting into the strategies of each match, which led to a rewarding feeling when I would win a match.

My Wish List: I do wish that during the campaign you could reset your pieces abilities and build them up again; I’d also like to see a little more music implemented down the road as well. Having the ability to revisit matches during the campaign mode would be a nice addition so the player could try to win with a different strategy and grind out a few extra experience points — every JRPG needs a grind. Additionally, this game could really use a multiplayer mode, which is currently in development according to the ChessLocke Twitter page, and interview with Loxxulus on BossRush 1v1.

Final Thoughts: Overall the game is wonderful, and just such a great concept. If you’re looking for a great chess iteration, or a cool JRPG-like then this is the game for you.

ChessLocke can be found on Steam, and the interview with creator Loxxulus can be found on the Boss Rush Podcast.

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