The Chaos Engine
|The Chaos Engine|
Chaos Engine cover art featuring (clockwise from top left) Navvie, Thug, Gentleman, Brigand, Preacher, and Mercenary
|Developer(s)||The Bitmap Brothers|
|Genre(s)||Run and gun|
2 player Co-op
The Chaos Engine is a top-down run and gun video game developed by The Bitmap Brothers and published by Renegade Software in 1993. The game is set in a steampunk Victorian age in which one or two players must battle the hostile creations of the titular Chaos Engine across four landscapes and ultimately defeat the Chaos Engine and its deranged inventor.
It was first released for the Commodore Amiga, with a version available for AGA Amigas, and later ported to MS-DOS, the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, Atari ST, Amiga CD32, RISC OS and Sega Mega Drive platforms. In the SNES and Sega versions, the character The Preacher had his clerical collar removed and was renamed The Scientist. The U.S. versions of these two ports were retitled Soldiers of Fortune. A sequel to the game, The Chaos Engine 2, was released in 1996.
The setting is a steampunk Victorian era England. A time traveller on a reconnaissance mission from the distant future became stranded in England of the late 1800s, and his technology came into the hands of the Royal Society led by Baron Fortesque (based upon Charles Babbage), a grand inventor. Fortesque then retro engineered many of the futuristic contraptions, creating an entirely different, alternate timeline.
Baron Fortesque then succeeded in his greatest creation yet - the Chaos Engine - which was able to experiment with matter, and the very nature of space and time. Unfortunately for the rest of the proud kingdom, the Engine then proceeded to become sentient and captured and assimilated its creator, then began to change the countryside for the worse. Vile monsters and destructive automata appeared everywhere, and even prehistoric beasts were resurrected. Telegram wires connecting the British Isles to the European mainland are cut, and any ship attempting to enter a British port is attacked. The British Royal Family, along with members of Parliament and a large number of refugees manage to escape across the sea, bringing with them many tales of horror. The British Empire is left in tatters, and the world in economic and political chaos. This lures a number of mercenaries on a potentially rewarding quest to infiltrate the quarantined Britain, find the root of the problem and swiftly bring a full stop to it.
The introductory sequence is displayed in text on the screen on the floppy disk based Amiga versions, but a slightly modified version is narrated with a voiceover on the Amiga CD32 version, together with some scene-setting animations.
Players choose two mercenaries from a group of six to take on the task of defeating the mad Baron Fortesque and the Chaos Engine itself. The playable characters have various qualities that affect gameplay, such as, speed and combat ability.
In one-player mode, the computer artificial intelligence controls the second player, so that one never has to fight the chaos alone. Control of characters cannot be swapped once chosen.
It is possible to play with only one character, by starting up a two-player game and killing off the second character. The advantage of this is that a single character will get more money and level up faster since it isn't being shared with another player.
The Navvie and Thug are the stronger and more expensive of the group. They have the highest health and most destructive specials but are slower than the other characters. The Navvie uses a bazooka, which fires straight and does heavy damage, whereas the Thug uses a shotgun, which is less powerful than the bazooka but fires many shots in a wide angle.
Brigand and Mercenary
The Brigand and Mercenary are the all-rounded characters, being slightly weaker than the Navvie and Thug, but having more specials and a faster speed. The Brigand uses a rifle which works the same as the Navvie's bazooka but not as powerful. The Mercenary uses a gatling gun that works similarly to the Thug's shotgun but with a different pattern.
Gentleman and Preacher/Scientist
The Gentleman and the Preacher have the widest selection of specials and highest speed but have the lowest health. Their weapons (the flame pistol and laser) are weaker than the others' but their shots can pass through enemies and hit what's behind.
In North American releases the Preacher character was replaced by a Scientist because the game's North American publishers felt that a priest killing people was offensive.
Levels of play
There are four worlds, each consisting of four levels. The worlds (in order of visitation) are "Forest", "Workshops", "Fortesque Mansion", and "The Cellars", each with its own dynamic industrial music score. The players must traverse through each level, picking up power-ups, gold and keys to pass through the various puzzles and mazes. A number of "nodes" must be activated via weapon fire to open the final doors at the end of the level. Secret routes and hidden items are plentiful along the way. At the end of every second level the player has a chance to spend their collected riches to upgrade their weapons, increase the number of hit points of their character, purchase new items and improve other character attributes. Finally, at the end of the cellars in the hall of machines the players will face up to the Chaos Engine itself in a last battle. Upon its destruction, the narrator of the game is revealed to be the Baron himself, trapped within the machine and studded with implants.
The game's coder developed the partner AI by observing play-testing of the game, then coding the AI according to his observations of the player's behaviors.
An early version of the game was previewed on the British TV show Gamesmaster, and some screenshots were featured in Amiga magazines of the time. The early version was reportedly "running on an Amiga 3000" and featured simultaneous three player action.
Electronic Gaming Monthly gave the Super NES version a 6.8 out of 10, summarizing it as "A decent overhead shooting game in the spirit of Technoclash and Gauntlet." They gave the Genesis version a 6.4. GamePro remarked of the Genesis version that "Overhead-view gunfighting has never played better", citing the heavy challenge, solid controls, and use of teamwork. They criticized the sprites as overly small, but also noted that the sharp artwork ensures that it is still easy to make out what is happening on screen.
Awards and accolades
- SEGA Awards 1994 Best Action Game
- SEGA Awards 1994 Best 3rd Party Game of the Year
- POWERPLAY Multi Player Game of the Year
- Amiga Power 11th best game of all time
- Mega 15th best Mega Drive game of all time
A remastered version of the game of The Chaos Engine, essentially a widescreen port of the Amiga AGA version (named AA version in the title screen) with the original intro and music intact, was released for Windows, Mac and Linux in August 29, 2013. The game retains all gameplay features, the audio and the graphics of the original.
The remastered version adds the option to play a remote two-player game through Steam. There is also a global high score list, and two optional graphics effects: a softening filter to alleviate the low-resolution pixelated graphics and a bloom effect on selected parts of the game graphics.
- Locke, Phil (December 2013). "Creating Chaos". Retro Gamer (122) (Imagine Publishing). pp. 71–73.
- "Review Crew: Soldiers of Fortune". Electronic Gaming Monthly (54) (EGM Media, LLC). January 1994. p. 44.
- "Review Crew: Soldiers of Fortune". Electronic Gaming Monthly (55) (EGM Media, LLC). February 1994. p. 40.
- "ProReview: Soldiers of Fortune". GamePro (53) (IDG). December 1993. pp. 64–65.
- "No Business Like Show Business". GamePro (57) (IDG). April 1994. p. 8.
- Amiga Power magazine issue 64, Future Publishing, August 1996
- Mega magazine issue 26, page 74, Maverick Magazines, November 1994
- The Chaos Engine at Bitmap Bros.