One of the biggest reasons chess has remained popular for hundreds of years is its nearly endless possible combination of moves and strategies. Zatikon, a free online indie game, taps into the infinite strategies of chess while also letting you customize your armies, adding another deep layer of strategy to the gameplay.
Played entirely on a familiar chess-like board, Zatikon gives you a base at one end of the board (roughly where the king would be in a game of chess) and tells you to attack the enemy’s base at the opposite end. How you do that is entirely up to you, and you get many different types of units to accomplish your goal. Games consist of building units, deploying them from your base and strategically attacking your enemy’s base while defending your own.
The most fun part of Zatikon is learning all the different units in the game and the best way to utilize each one. There are archers, knights, pike men, even some legendary creatures like dragons and lycanthropes. Every unit moves and attacks differently and has its own strengths and weaknesses. Victory requires not only picking the best units but knowing how best to deploy them.
The game is so much like chess, in fact, that playing online the first few times is likely to be very similar to learning chess. That is to say, you’re likely to lose over and over and over. At least, that was my experience. However, Zatikon has some of the politest online players I’ve ever come across. Many of them offered helpful advice and said “good game” even after my army was thoroughly trashed.
It’s a good thing, too, because there’s but one single-player mode in Zatikon, a series of matches against an increasingly difficult computer that is best used only for becoming familiar with the game and preparing for online battles.
Zatikon is free to download and worth checking out, especially if you love chess or other strategy video games like Advance Wars or Fire Emblem. However, the bare-bones presentation and lack of an in-depth tutorial will probably turn off some people. If you’re a hardcore strategist, though, Zatikon is pure strategy all the way.