5D Chess With Multiverse Time Travel is smarter than me. I accept this because it is able to calculate legal chess moves for thirty separate, full chess boards all at once, in as many as four separate spatial and temporal dimensions. I, on the other hand, start losing track about three turns in to a regular game of chess.
The unique selling point of 5D Chess is in its expansion of traditional chess into the realm of time-travel: in addition to manoeuvring pieces across the board in the usual way, you can also move pieces back in time and across parallel universes. An example would best illustrate what I mean.
In chess, the knight piece can move two squares in one direction and then one square in another: two forward and one to the left, for instance. In 5D Chess, knights have that same ability, but now they can move two squares forward and back in time one board, or two boards back in time and one square in any direction, and so on. The key to understanding the game’s timelines is to think of spacetime as just another direction that a piece can move in the otherwise usual way.
The game does a good job of illustrating how it all works through its offering of puzzles that you can solve: tests of chess skill that require you to mate your opponent in as few as one or two turns by utilising 5D Chess’ unique mechanics.
With that being said, none of this advice is going to save you as a beginner going into this game. You can scan through the tutorial instructions, and listen to every YouTuber under the sun tell you that it’s all about turning your way of thinking around, but the simple truth is that 5D Chess is hard to wrap your head about. When you go back in time, and often when you move between dimensions, you create a new, separate timeline to accommodate your actions, and those new timelines add up. Fast.
It’s common to be making moves on ten separate chess boards at once, which means that often you’ll be spending more time desperately trying not to let your king from eight turns ago get checkmated rather than coming up with a grand strategy to defeat your opponent by weaponising their turn history against them, at least at an entry-level. (Did I mention you can check the king across time? It’s very important to pay attention to how your king moves, because your pieces’ histories are immutable: if you’re mated in the past, it’s game over. As weird as that sounds.)
I don’t want all of this talk to put you off the game. Something about it is strangely compelling: even if you don’t have a clue what you’re doing or what’s going on, you feel like an absolute galaxy brain genius moving chess pieces around on so many boards at once, jumping back and forth through time and space so often the BBC might end up writing a 38-season TV show about you.
It’s a very clever game, too – even when you lose because a king of yours got placed in inescapable check what feels like eternities ago, it never feels unfair; you always have some understanding of what series of events led you to your defeat.
This doesn’t mean the game is perfect – I found a few times that the game, when you start playing at higher numbers of boards, experiences long delays as it calculates potential legal moves that you can make. I’m still impressed that it’s able to do so at any speed at all, but it does rather significantly impact the flow of proceedings.
My real gripe with the game is its “undo move” function. As games expand, you’ll find you have to make a lot of moves in one turn, and often, especially when playing against other people, I’ve found that I’ve made six or so moves before realising that one of my first ones placed me in check. You can’t simply “undo” that first move – you have to undo every move in order of play before you can reset the one you were actually interested in reverting, by which point, frankly, I’ve forgotten what moves I was even planning to make, anyway.
These technical flaws don’t prevent me from recommending the game at its current price point of £9.29 on Steam, though it may take a bit of patience with its limitations and a good few tries to work out 5D Chess’ system. If you fancy yourself a strategic mind, and regular chess just isn’t hitting the spot like it used to, 5D Chess With Multiverse Time Travel might be the right move.