Soldiers of Fortune

aka: The Chaos Engine
Moby ID: 933
Genesis Specs
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Description official descriptions

A time traveler from the future was stranded in Victorian England, and his knowledge of yet unknown technological inventions was passed to the Royal Society, headed by Baron Fortesque. With the help of this knowledge, Fortesque managed to construct an immensely complex artificial intelligence known as the Chaos Engine. However, creation rebelled against its creator, assimilated its mind, and turned Britain into a war zone populated by mad machines. Mercenaries are willing to enter this dangerous place and put an end to the chaos, hoping for an appropriate reward.

Chaos Engine (Soldiers of Fortune in the US) is a run-and-gun overhead shooter. Sixteen levels (in four groups of four) await the players in the game. The basic gameplay is similar to Gauntlet, but in an open-air setting, with bridges across rivers and other features in the maps. The visuals are in the 'metallic and blue' style Bitmap Brothers appeared to favor.

There are six characters available in the game, each with different strengths and weaknesses, and different starting prices. In two-player mode, each player chooses a character and plays co-operatively, but in one-player games, the player also chooses a character for the computer to control, with its artificial intelligence allowing it to open doors, pick up power-ups and take on enemies away from the ones occupying the player-controlled character.

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Screenshots

Promos

Credits (Genesis version)

28 People (19 developers, 9 thanks) · View all

Design
Graphic Design
Graphic Conversion
Original Code
Code Conversion
Additional Code
Original Game Music
SFX
Sound Conversion
Title Music
Project Management
Special Thanks
Product Manager
Testing
Instruction Manual
Marketing
Special Thanks
[ full credits ]

Reviews

Critics

Average score: 78% (based on 58 ratings)

Players

Average score: 3.7 out of 5 (based on 87 ratings with 7 reviews)

Bitmap Brothers - the recyclers

The Good
everything

The Bad
can't see anything except Bitmap Brothers being hibernating or something.

The Bottom Line
Bitmap brothers definitely are, or were, I don't know, one of the first teams that deposited real passion, art, and the concept of recycling making homage to (as Tarantino does in movies), on videogames. They were definitely mature indie game constructors, and they presented that on fluidity marrying graphics in an organic playable sense. The Chaos Engine is another game that demonstrates that. An inspirational classic game with direct passport to the hall of fame of Artistic games.

Windows · by ZeTomes (36301) · 2014

A great game

The Good
The Bitmap Brothers, a well-known game company based in the UK, produced good quality action games like Xenon 2: Megablast, Magic Pockets, Cadaver: The Payoff, and Gods, as well as this game, The Chaos Engine.

The story is self-explanatory enough. An experimenter with time space and early computers made a huge mistake of creating a bizarre machine, which he called “The Chaos Engine”. Soon the machine became very powerful and turned against its creator, causing a cloud of chaos to descend over the land and turning all humans and animals into beasts. And now The Chaos Engine must be destroyed in order to restore peace and beauty to the land.

Six mercenaries are offered the job: Mercenary, Brigand, Gentleman, Navvie, Thug, and Preacher. Each mercenary has their own advantages and disadvantages, and their own firepower. When players start the game, they have the choice of playing against the CPU or another player.

Once done, each player choose their mercenary. Whether that mercenary is good or not will depend on how much speed, wisdom, skill, health, and firepower they have got. Also each character has their own special attacks. For example, Gentleman can use maps to navigate his way through each level, while Navvie uses dynamite to blast enemies in a direction he is facing.

Once done, the game begins. Each player has low firepower and less speed, wisdom, health, and skill at the start, but can upgrade these after every second level, or obtain an extra life (with the maximum of 30). There are four worlds to complete with each world consisting of four levels, and each world has players navigating through forests, workshops, mansions, sewers, and cellars, and blasting beasts in the process. A password is given at the end of each world, which players can input that allows them to start at the beginning of a world.

The main objective of the game is to find and activate several nodes that are scattered through each level, and collect gold and silver keys that will cause bridges, a set of stairs, or secret passages to appear so that you can explore other parts of the level. The number of nodes you have to activate is listed in the middle of the status bar. Once all the nodes have been activated, the level exit is opened. In several levels, there is more than one exit, and players will end up at a different place in the next level, depending on the path they take through the level.

Normally, when players kill an enemy, the enemy will leave behind gold or silver coins, which can be used to upgrade both mercenaries. The number of coins that each player collects is displayed next to the number of nodes. Also there are more items that players can collect rather than just coins. If players collect a yin-yang at a point in the level, for example, they restart at that point if they die. There’s also food to collect that will award extra health, power-ups that will upgrade firepower, special attacks, and of course, extra lives. When a level is complete, a screen of statistics comes up telling how many enemies they’ve destroyed, the number of nodes activated, how many coins the party collected, how many gold and silver keys that were collected, and so on.

The graphics are great, and the sound effects in this game are awesome. The music in the Amiga version is much better than the DOS version. I like the fact that the music changes whenever you explore different areas of a level, because this way you don’t get sick and tired of hearing the same music over and over again.

The Bad
This game can be difficult if neither of the mercenaries that were selected have the right firepower to take enemies down, especially the final boss. It isn’t easy to beat him, and may take you several hours to figure out how to beat him. It took me two days to find a tactic on how to beat him, and stick to it.

The Bottom Line
Overall, great game with excellent sound and graphics. If you finished this game already, it may not be over for you. There are other characters to choose from, and different firepower to equip them with. Also this game has different paths and alternative exits that you could take. Followed by a sequel. ***½

Amiga · by Katakis | カタキス (43093) · 2002

The Bitmaps' latest classic in 16 bits.

The Good
The Bitmap Brothers once had a real nag for making first-class action games at a somewhat slow but regular interval, and The Chaos Engine was the last of these achievements during the 16-bit era. As was common practice, the ST version hit the shelfs shortly after the Amiga release and came with a number of small confinements to make the game fit the ST's more limited hardware capabilities. Those will be mentioned in the second part of this review. What sets The Chaos Engine apart from most action games is its focus on the individualities of each of the six mercenaries you can choose from. You get everything from the brainless bully to the smart but fragile thinker, whose attributes are sorted into the usual set of categories such as weapons power, speed, size of the health bar and intelligence. At the beginning of a new game you will have to pick two characters, one to be controlled by the player, the other by the computer. Except, of course, you play with a friend, in which case both players get their own character. In multiplayer, the game is significantly more fun, especially since what would later be known as co-op mode was still something of a novelty until the early nineties. All the characters carry different weapons, including a gun plus an extra weapon. Basically, however, every standard gun is one out of two basic types; they either shoot one to four straight and parallel bullets or an increasing number of spreading bullets, the impact being depended on the upgrade level. Were they differ, apart from the fact that none looks like another, is the initial value of their penetrating power. This alone will leave you thinking for a while about which of the characters you want to play with and which one you will trust as your AI companion. It also gives the game some considerable replay value, since the difficulty of the game is set rather high and you will have to come up a slightly different strategy for every combination of mercenaries you send into the field. This is also were the intelligence level comes into effect. The more stupid the AI-players get, the more you will have your hands full fighting off your foe. The more intelligent they get, the more help they will give you, but as the smarter ones also are more vulnerable, you will have to take good care of them in return. More tactical finesse is required when having to be quick at deciding on whether you or your comrade-in-arms should pick up one of the precious power-ups. He might have little health left, but so do you. And can you still save him when you forfeit that huge green drink in the lower corner? The same holds true for the distribution of extra weapon pick-ups. Those secondary weapons range from huge medikits to powerful special shots and such that eradicate every non-human sprite on screen. Most interestingly, The Chaos Engine offers a genre-mix with RPG elements of the kind that you find in many of the more recent games. That is, every second level you are given the chance to upgrade your character according to the amount of money, which is left by some of the monsters after you have killed them. You can increase every of the four main abilities of both players as well as spend an extra life saver or two on every one of them. If all the strategy and tactics and thinking that these features bring about make you wonder where the action comes in, make no mistake; the Chaos Engine never strays from its premise to be a first-class action-packed arcade-style game. Once in a level you will be constantly pushed by monsters and defense installations to move on, look for power-ups along the way and decide which path to take. The latter again increases the replay value, since most of the levels offer slightly different paths that you can take. At the very least they often have various valuable extras, which you can reach only by blocking off the way to another. All of the above is being rendered in state-of-the-art quality. The Bitmap Brothers induced their unique, comic-like style into every byte of the game. And although four worlds, each offering four levels with almost exactly the same graphical appearance, might be considered a rather minimal approach as far as creating a game world goes, the strength of The Chaos Engine is not so much the expanse of the playing field as it is the emphasis on detail. Particularly impressive are the characters designs and animations of friend and foe. They almost appear to be 3-dimensional puppets - no exaggeration here.

The Bad
In comparison to the Amiga version, the ST release offers a little less colorful experience. In terms of what an ST can do, though, The Chaos Engine could not be better looking. The same holds true for the sound department. Although impressive for ST standards, one crucial aspect, namely the voice acting, is missing in this version. All the other sounds are well done and add to the impelling atmosphere, but since characters play such an important role in the game, having their voices been cut is something of a disappointment. Other than that one more thing needs mentioning. Fortunately, though, it does not overly distract from the fun the game delivers, but serves merely as a small annoyance for first-time players. What I am talking about is the fact that you get the code, which includes all the progress you made in the game as well as the upgrade status of your players, only every four levels. Since the code system was changed from a two-level to the four-level interval during the last days of the game development, my guess would be that The Bitmap Brothers realized only late along the road that their game would in fact be rather short. However huge the levels may be, there are only 16 of them. So instead of making you learn two stages at a time and then have a new starting point for the following ones, we are now being left with having to master four levels, including all their secrets and shortcuts, to advance further.

The Bottom Line
Overall, The Chaos Engine is one of the most enjoyable action games ever made. It comes with six nice character profile cards, an intro tune that stays in the ear for years and one of the most intoxicating, if a bit short-lived, gameplay experiences ever.

Atari ST · by G'Kyl (50) · 2004

[ View all 7 player reviews ]

Discussion

Subject By Date
Level Editor released + first custom level lilalurl (734) Jun 26, 2010

Trivia

Advertisement

Shortly after the game's release, Renegade took out a full page advert in trade magazine CTW, which simply said "The Chaos Engine. So good, even that bastard Stuart Campbell liked it", referring to a British journalist who had a habit of not liking much-hyped games, including previous Bitmap Brothers titles Xenon 2 and Gods, but gave this one a great review. Ironically Campbell later worked for CTW (as of 2004).

Development

The original beta version (as seen on TV in many countries) was a three player game (not two).

German index

On March 31, 1995, The Chaos Engine was put on the infamous German index by the BPjS. For more information about what this means and to see a list of games sharing the same fate, take a look here: BPjS/BPjM indexed games.

Passwords

A quote from the manual addendum lying in the game box:

Please note - In order to continue the time-honoured Bitmap Brothers tradition of mucking around with the password system at the last minute, The Chaos Engine now only awards passwords at the end of every world rather than after every Equipment Screen.

Sorry.

Version differences

  • In both the SNES and Genesis versions of the game which are named Soldiers of Fortune, the game's ending credits still call it The Chaos Engine.
  • In the console versions the Preacher was changed into a Scientist due to Sega and Nintendo having a policy of censoring any religious material in games for their consoles.

Awards

  • Amiga Joker
    • Issue 02/1994 – #2 Best Genre Mix in 1993 (Readers' Vote)
  • Power Play
    • Issue 02/1994 – Best Multiplayer Game in 1993

Information also contributed by Johnny "ThunderPeel2001" Walker, Martin Smith, Timo Takalo, WildKard and Xoleras

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  • MobyGames ID: 933
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Contributors to this Entry

Game added by Derrick 'Knight' Steele.

Atari ST, Genesis added by kametyken. Antstream added by firefang9212. Windows, J2ME, Amiga CD32, Linux, Acorn 32-bit, Macintosh added by Kabushi. BlackBerry added by MAT. SNES added by Katakis | カタキス. Amiga added by Rantanplan.

Additional contributors: Macintrash, -Chris, kametyken, Martin Smith, Patrick Bregger.

Game added February 29, 2000. Last modified January 28, 2024.