Hoyle Majestic Chess impressions

We check out Vivendi Universal's innovative new chess game at its pre-E3 event.

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Vivendi Universal was showing a new chess game at their Pre-E3 event today. Gamers may roll their eyes at the title and just pass it off as another chess game, but there's actually quite a bit of content in Hoyle Majestic Chess. The developers intend to create a game that will teach you about chess. They aren't referring to reading a manual about how a knight moves or how to advance your pawns. Instead, there will be gameplay mechanics in the adventure mode that will show you strategies, and then force you to use them in a practical situation.

The adventure mode is reminiscent of the Heroes of Might and Magic series. There is a large map with lots of places to visit, and is story-driven. Your hero in this case is your king piece, and the goal is to defeat the opposing player's army, which is essentially just a full set of chess pieces. You can't defeat that with a just a king piece, so you have to explore the map and gather your own army of chess pieces. You'll receive pieces by completing tests, finishing quests, or purchasing them with gold. Gold is acquired on the map or through quests, and can also be used to purchase artifacts. These artifacts can be used in various matches. For example, the hourglass artifact will slow down time in a clock match against the opponent.

The matches themselves are where the learning puzzles appear. One test will have you checkmate a lone king with only two rooks and your own king. You'll first practice setting up the mate, and then the actual test will set up a mock game situation. You'll have one move with a rook to enter the opposing king into checkmate. By completing six of these situations within a minute, you'll win the test. The goal of the game is to involve players through a hands-on approach to the learning process rather than just forcing them to learn by trial and error. The final bosses of each of the eight scenarios will force you to apply the knowledge gained in the game.

Of course, there is plain chess for those who just want to play a simple game of chess. The single-player game pits you against a computer-controlled opponent. There are approximately 20 difficulty ratings, giving a challenge to absolute beginners and experts alike. There are multiple personalities to choose from. For example, one opponent may tend to favor bishops over the other pieces, or it may be more aggressive with its opening moves. You can also login online to play against other human players. There is a ranking system, and you can also observe games as well.

Hoyle Majestic Chess is being developed by Fluent, and will be available in summer 2003. It is tentatively set to be released at the end of July.

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