“Probably worth picking up if you want to play chess on your console”
Review: Chess Ultra: Ripstone brings their second chess title to the Xbox One. After Pure Chess, players can now sit down with Chess Ultra. Is this gambit of releasing a second chess game going to secure the win? Let’s analyse!
- There are ten levels of CPU opponents, all of which are grandmaster approved, this means that any player will be able to find a suitable challenge against the computer.
- There are five timing options when you set up a game. This includes the much requested Fischer timer.
- Tournaments are an important part of the chess experience, and you can set up your own with friends with all the choices for timing and such. Alternatively, you can join an official Ripstone tournament. However, do read the negative point on this.
- There are quite a few tutorials, which show you all the legal moves and give some basic strategies. You will be hard pressed if you actually have to learn chess from just this, but I think it’s definitely possible if you put in the work.
- The visuals are both great and not so great. The pieces have a lot of detail as do the environments you are playing in. However, there are some weird filters, like a film grain, that actually make it look less attractive. It seems that the visuals were designed for VR and since we don’t have VR it actually hurts the attractiveness.
- After playing against several computer opponents, my Elo reset back to 1200 for some reason. I’m assuming this was just a reset before release day and won’t happen again now the game is out.
- The music sounded rather nice and relaxing, but I turned it off quickly as I found it distracting. Worse is the playing room sounds. I get that it could add to the atmosphere, but I really don’t want to hear the wind blowing while playing. The worst is the room with a mobile phone on the table that keeps buzzing very frequently which is just horrible. I can’t imagine why anyone thought that was a good idea.
- When playing in a tournament, information is lacking when it comes to timing. I’ve won games because, supposedly, my opponent ran out of time. Not sure why as they should have had 40+ minutes available still. I lost in the official tournament in round three. Sunday night 10 pm my opponent still hasn’t made his move, Monday night at 7.30 pm I check back and the game informs me I lost the game when I log in. What? Why?! It doesn’t make any sense and really ruins what is otherwise a great feature. Live play tournaments with friends won’t have this issue of course.
- I just went over most round one and two games in the official tournament and opened them only to discover none of the ones I checked made it past move 2 or 3. This proves the timing issue is rampant and ruining most, if not all, matches in the tournament.
- You can’t change your board or chess set in an active game. If you really dislike the chess set you chose, you’ll either have to suffer through it or resign that game. I frequently found myself doing the last as for me the only combination worth picking ended up being Woodburn Manor with Staunton pieces in wood material. Not very original know, but the rest made playing the game harder.
- On the console, there is no export option after your match. If you want to analyze the game, later on, you better have a notepad handy as there is no option to e-mail the game history or something.
- This may be just a bug, but the CPU Elo ratings are a real mess right now. I don’t think why they would even have dynamic ratings, I feel they should be at a fixed level. At the time of writing the highest opponent has Elo 1418, which is ridiculous, this should be 2500 or greater for Grandmaster, and I think it was that when I first started the game up. This really needs to be fixed.
- When looking for a single game and matching against friends, it created a matchup against someone not on my friend list and automatically started the game. You have no option not to create the game, and you either have to go through with it or resign. If none of my Xbox friends have the game, I’m happy with a no match found result or something, instead of defaulting to matching with random people without informing you.
If you are looking for a good chess game for the Xbox One, there are not many options open to you. Ripstone brought us Pure Chess first and now Chess Ultra. It’s not perfect, and upon closer inspection, you’ll definitely find some issues underneath the shiny polish. The way the official tournament turns are handled, for instance, is really terrible and brings down the overall experience. Ultimately though, it’s probably worth picking up if you want to play chess on your console, especially considering the low asking price.