If you would have told me that a Chinese mobile game would be my latest obsession only three months ago, I would have had a hard time believing you. Sure, I’ve dabbled in mobile gaming before, but I usually prefer to play puzzle games like Sudoku or Picross over more complex games. Then, Auto Chess caught my attention.
I just so happened to be browsing Twitter one fateful day when I read a Tweet about a popular DotA 2 mod turned mobile game. Players were arguing that Value and Riot Games shouldn’t be so quick to copy the hard work of devoted modders by releasing their own official Auto Chess game modes. Word through the grapevine was that anyone who respected the hard work of the mod community (e.g. me) should support the official version of Auto Chess released by Dragonest Co. Eager to try it out, I downloaded the app on my phone and dug in.
Not only is Auto Chess essentially an old Warcraft 3 map brought back to life on my smartphone sixteen years later, but it’s also a fantastically addictive mobile game to boot. Those two things are exactly what I need in my life right now, as weird as it sounds. One of my favorite aspects of the Warcraft 3 modding community that I sorely miss is the propensity towards designing games that essentially play themselves. This, combined with the theme of snowballing power creep brought me immediately back to playing custom maps on Battle.net.
Since the game was originally developed as a DotA 2 custom mode, each “chess” piece is based off a hero from Defense of the Ancients. If you’ve spent any time playing either DotA Allstars or DotA 2, you’ll feel right at home in Auto Chess. If you haven’t, don’t worry; the game is actually quite simple once you get the basics.
In Auto Chess, you select a chess piece from among a random selection of five different pieces each round. You place pieces on the board and at the start of every round the pieces you’ve played come to life to fight against either another player’s pieces or a selection of A.I. controlled “creeps.” Sometimes these creeps drop items which you can equip to specific chess pieces. Each chess piece has a role, similar to their DotA counterparts, and both a race and a class associated with them. These identifiers make up the core mechanic of Auto Chess, and essentially boil down to a game of mixing and matching colored symbols. Combining chess pieces of specific races or classes provides your whole team with special bonuses. You can also combine three or more of a specific type of chess piece to upgrade their rank and increase their stats.
If you can understand a gambling game about matching up three of a kind, you can play Auto Chess.
Some of my favorite aspects of Auto Chess are also tied directly to its design towards mobile. For example, I get a great sense of pride from performing well enough in Auto Chess that I can actively ignore my phone and know I still have a good chance of winning the match. It’s also handy to not have to constantly be paying attention to a mobile game since you are encouraged to play them on the go and are therefore more prone to being interrupted.
Let’s go back to that hypothetical that I started this all with and flip it around. If you went back to my high school self and told him that I would be playing what was essentially a Warcraft 3 custom map on my phone and having a blast, he would probably be ecstatic. This jenky little mobile game has stolen my heart at a point when I really needed a pick-me-up. Do I think I’ll be playing this game in 6 months? For my sake, I hope not. That being said, I’m having a ball right now and will enjoy the hell out of this ride while it lasts.
I give Auto Chess 4 George Costanzas out of 5.