Online Chess Kingdoms has quite a few aspects to it which make it a lot of fun to play. In the single player mode you can either play a quick match, or enter into a unique story mode.
There are five different chess sets that you can choose from: Order, Chaos, Magic, Reason and Spirit. Each set of chess pieces has its own unique look and is fully animated. The game plays like the old Battle Chess game, when a piece captures a piece from the opposing side it does so with a combat animation. Each piece has its own “capture” animation as well as a specific animation for how it moves from square to square. Some hop, some fly, some glide and some slither.
In addition to the uniqueness of the pieces there are also 5 differing chess boards one for each “realm” and within each realm there are three different environments that the chess boards can be placed in. This gives the game an ever changing visually stunning effect.
While playing the game there is also background music that plays. Though the music is interesting, and in a different game setting would be very appropriate, it is especially distracting from the game of chess. For the most part while playing the game I would turn the music off since it just doesn’t fit in with the game being played and it made it difficult to concentrate at times.
Now then, here is where Online Chess Kingdoms becomes unique in its own right. You have two options when playing the game, one is to play a traditional chess match (if you are unfamiliar with the game of chess, follow the above link to the Wikipedia and learn all about it) your other choice is to play in Battle Mode. In Battle Mode the game is not played in turns, you basically move the pieces as fast as you can until one of you wins. The chess pieces still follow all the movement rules set down for that particular piece, its just not turn based.
The story mode for the game is set up as a large tactical map where you move your “armies” around the board capturing squares for your realm. To capture the square you must win a game of chess. The story mode has its own lore which explains that the five realms had been separated by the creator of the universe, Phrenos, to keep them from fighting amongst themselves. Then, as time moved on, the barriers began to come down and the realms had contact with each other again and the conquest begins. The story mode can be played either in the Classic style or battle mode.
The AI for Online Chess Kingdoms is not anywhere near the best I have ever played against, even in the Master Level it has severe limitations. Usually when I play a computer at the Master Level I loose within a few moves, here I was able to play nearly to a stalemate. The AI at all levels is very predictable in its movements, game to game, it will repeat moves and play styles to the point where I was able to anticipate its moves and take advantage of them.
Online Chess Kingdoms also, amazingly enough, has an online aspect which uses the wireless mode of the PSP to connect to the internet. I’m sure you were all wondering when the Online part of the games name was going to be commented on. The online multiplayer function of the game takes you to an online zone where you select which “realm” you want to play, then you are dropped into a conquest map that is similar to the story mode for the single player game. Next you select a square to conquer and then wait, and wait, and wait, and eventually get bored and turn off your PSP. What are you waiting for? An opponent to notice that their realm is being invaded and to step up and take the challenge. After almost a week of play I never did successfully connect to another player online to have a game of chess with.
The online mode does not allow you to search through a list of available players and seek out an opponent, nor does it allow you to arrange to play with a friend over the internet. So far as I can tell, the person that you may potentially connect with is selected completely at random. I suppose its possible that I missed something about the online mode, but so far that part of the game has been severely disappointing.
Overall I would say that Online Chess Kingdoms is an ok game, and for those who are looking to learn how to play chess it will give you the chance to do just that. But if you are an experienced chess player looking for a good challenge, this is not the game for you. Though if you are looking for a chess game for the PSP that you can take on a trip and play another living person in a hotseat mode Online Chess Kingdoms is good for that.