Auto Chess PS4 Review – There’s a new game genre that’s been rising in Esports since it’s inception in 2019. What started as a mod for DOTA 2, quickly formed its own category known as the Auto Battler. Developer Drodo helped form this new genre with Auto Chess, the original Auto Battler. Now Auto Chess is available to PS4 players, allowing them to join the ranks with PC and mobile players in worldwide tournaments as Season 10 kicks off.
Since the game has been out for a couple of years, this review will just provide an overview of the game mechanics, features on PS4, and my overall opinion when compared to other Auto Battlers. This is my first time playing Auto Chess, although I’m familiar with the genre, having played DOTA Underlords on mobile and become very experienced in Teamfight Tactics.
Auto Chess has a solid foundation with its gameplay mechanics. However, does it showcase enough personality and unique feature sets to stand out amongst its ever-growing competition?
Auto Chess Review (PS4)
When starting up Auto Chess for the first time, you will be asked to set up your username, avatar, and chess player. PlayStation Plus subscribers will have access to a unique chess player, Chiyome Mochizuki.
Upon completing your profile, the game loads you into a Tutorial guided by a female centaur. This was actually a relief, as it allows you to learn the basic gameplay mechanics and some of the chess pieces before hurling you into the online competitive mode.
There can only be one…chess player remaining. That’s the name of the game. Take out the other players by beating them in mini-battles using curated pieces that form synergies based on class and race.
Before each round, you will have access to a shop to purchase from a randomly generated selection of chess pieces. Chess pieces have stats and are marked by class and race and have a tier in price. Your first chess pieces will cost between 1-2 Gold, and as you level up, higher-tiered champions will become available in the 3-5 Gold price range.
You can upgrade your chess pieces by buying three of the same piece. Merging three 1-star pieces into a single 2-star piece. The final form of a chess piece is a 3-star, by merging three 2-star pieces. Generally, your goal is to hit at least two or three 3-star pieces on your board to have an upper hand in battle.
Players earn gold at the end of each round and victories provide you with an additional 1 Gold bonus. The economy is very important in any Auto Battler. It allows you to purchase needed pieces, re-roll pieces in your shop, or buy experience to level up and put additional pieces on your board. One strategy is to hold as much gold as you can until hitting 50, as you earn 10% interest on your gold each round. So at 50 gold, you earn an additional 5 gold per turn.
When creating a synergy with your pieces, it’s important to check their class and race. Having a certain number of pieces on the board that are of one class or race will provide a statistical bonus for those pieces. For example, six Glacier provides all allied Glaciers with 75% boost in attack speed.
In my first online match, I got first place with 6 Warriors and two Witchers. In most of my playthroughs, I found success with having a combination of tanky frontliners (Warriors or Knights) with long-range attack pieces or assassins in my backline. Overall, the game has a pretty good balance in chess pieces, whether you’re choosing Druid, Feathered, and Beasts or Mechs, Mages, and Shamans. There is quite the number of variations you can run between creating synergies based on class or race.
Another important factor in winning a match is combining and equipping the right items on certain chess pieces. You choose base items after creep rounds, which can include things like a Wooden Club for 15% attack speed, a Dracula Mask for 5% lifesteal, or a Broken Sword for +20 attack. Combining certain items will also create more powerful tools and take up less space in your equipped inventory. Generally, you want to put your best items on your higher-tiered or starred chess pieces as they’ll do the most damage with them.
Also, don’t forget about placement. Winning a match in Auto Chess is heavily reliant on the placement of your chess pieces. As previously mentioned, you want pieces with higher health and items relative to reducing damage on your front line. Your pieces that have low health but high damage output, you want to safely place on your backline.
If you’re running a synergy like Assassins though, you’ll want to carefully place them in areas where they’ll jump to the enemy’s backline and take out their high damage dealers first. Placement can often be a neglected part of your strategy but it’s very important. You will want to keep track of what your opponents are buying and where they are placing their pieces.
A Glossy Finish, Not To Everyone’s Tastes
Auto Chess reportedly received a facelift for the PS4 release. However, since I’ve never played the PC or mobile version before, I don’t really have anything to compare it to. I will say that compared to DOTA Underlords and Teamfight Tactics, the chess boards, menus and animated cinematics do seem to be on par or better in some aspects than their competitors.
Although, I wasn’t that impressed with the chess piece animations and spell casts during battle. The chess piece animations seemed clunky and uneventful. The chess boards are the most visually appealing part of the game, but most of them are locked behind a purchase.
The graphical aesthetic in Auto Chess is vibrant and cartoonish. It’s themed around being cute and adorable, both in audio and visuals, especially when compared to DOTA Underlords or Teamfight Tactics. While colorful, the visuals didn’t really wow me. Auto Chess seems to be geared towards more of a younger audience, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
I, personally, just found the visuals kind of bland. It would be more interesting if there was a strategy camera for placing pieces, with the ability to zoom, change angles, or adjust the field of view. I’d like to see the chess pieces up close and be able to enjoy various viewpoints of the chessboard.
As with any competitive game, your goal is to climb the leaderboards in ranked or Casual. Auto Chess has several game mode options to choose from. One of the unique game modes that Auto Chess provides is the ability to play ranked or casual in Duo mode. Duo allows you to team up with a friend, share health and fight three other teams.
In addition, there is Fantasy mode, which cycles out weekly with variations on gameplay. And lastly, Quick Mode, which is a sped-up version of Classic, allowing you to focus on the main battle.
If you jump over to the Events section in the main menu, you can partake in various special events when they take place, earning chests with rewards. Auto Chess hosts dedicated Esports tournaments as well that you can check up on regularly in the main menu.
Unlike many free-to-play games, you are not required to purchase in-game currency in order to have an advantage. Nearly all in-game purchases are purely aesthetic. Chessboards, chess players, chess piece skins, chat emojis, avatars and more can be unlocked either by purchasing donuts or with a rewarded currency like candy or cookies. I respect the developers for not making this a pay-to-play title, but rather one that can be enjoyed without spending boatloads of cash.
A Fine Addition For Free
The makers of Auto Chess created the Auto-Battler formula. While the basic game mechanics are solid, there just wasn’t enough pizzaz and personality to keep me entertained for long. The strategy in forming synergies, maintaining your gold economy, placement of pieces, and keeping a watchful eye on opponent builds is all there. It really came down to the battles for me.
The animations in character movement, attacks, and spellcasting were dull. I didn’t feel invested in the pieces themselves and their abilities. I know the developers are attempting to build lore behind their chess pieces, like the recently released Pandaman race, but I’m just indifferent about it. Auto Chess is free-to-play, so I’d suggest at least giving it a go. It’s the only Auto Battler available on the PS4. If you end up not liking it, then it’s easy to uninstall, and it didn’t cost you a dime.
Auto Chess is available now on PS4 and playable on PS5 via backwards compatibility.
Review based on the free download via the PlayStation Store.