Engaging tactical RPGs are a dime a dozen this generation. Especially so when it comes to ones set in a fantasy realm rich in lore. Now lore is something of an attraction for me, and Confrontation looks quite promising. Developed by Cyanide Studio and based on the miniature role-playing board game of the same name from the now defunct Rackham Entertainment, Confrontation seems to be a pretty nice blend of active time action and deep tactical role-playing mechanics, complete with a rich and fantastic lore to back the setting up.
Confrontation is set in the fantasy universe of Aarklash. Consumed by Rag'norok, the realm is split into four factions: the Griffin, Scorpion, Wolf and the Jackal, with the Griffin and Scorpion waging war against each other for decades since Rag'norok's prologue. Players take on the role of a group of elite warriors from among the Griffin, who are sent behind enemy lines to put a stop to the Scorpion's evil plans.
Taking control of my newfound party, it was a relatively simple affair navigating the labyrinthian battlefields. Controls are similar to most games that fall under the same genre. You can click on a character to select him or her, or drag your mouse over your party to select all, or certain units. Right-clicking will send them to the desired location or target.
Enemy units populate each map and encounters are an interesting mix of real-time and good old pause-and-play action. Fogs of war will shroud the map in darkness, only revealing the surrounding area around your party, making exploration a tricky affair. That said, exploration is rewarded. When you encounter an enemy party, pre-empting them is a generally sound strategy. However, get too close and they'll quickly pre-empt you.
The pause-and-play combat system allows queuing of attacks, spells and whatnot. It's as simple as holding down spacebar. Doing so brings up a command menu where you can quickly select your unit and queue up your commands. Each party member has their own unique class spells and stringing them together is a pretty exciting affair. It's also worth noting that timing these combos can make all the difference in a desperate battle for survival. It's satisfying to say the least to witness a pre-emptive stun from Zelia, while a simultaneous buff from Darius boosts your party's survivability, followed by attack buffs and long ranged focus attacks from Lothaire and Lanwys.
Paying attention to what's going on with the enemy party is just as important as planning and timing your own attacks. Enemy units that are about to attack are surrounded by colour-coded auras. Red auras signify high damage spells, while green auras spell annoying healing moves. Take note of these and you can easily negate the enemy's next move. Anticipation and counter-attacking the enemy's moves are part-and-parcel of Confrontation's tactical edge. That said, it means that you're in for a very slow-paced experience. It's like chess. You know, with spells and blood.
The battle system also comes with a relatively simple, if a little uninspired, character progression system where you can invest points to upgrade attributes, skills, equipment and armour. Uninspired may sound disappointing, but what's there works well and makes sense. The flexibility and customization was a nice surprise too. Characters are equipped with two weapon sets and can switch between them on-the-fly. So not only are you able to upgrade character attributes and skills, but weapon and armour proficiency as well.
I mentioned earlier that exploration is rewarded. You will be able to upgrade to higher tiered weapons and armour passives by scavenging the battlefield for shiny magic glyphs. These passive abilities come in quite handy and benefits your characters with party-wide buffs, be they armour, accuracy, magic, or attack buffs. Unlike most role-playing systems that accommodate freedom over choice, Confrontation's ability trees are just that, trees that branch into two paths where choosing one passive within a level tier will forfeit the other. It may put off the more contemporary role-playing fans, but it's nice to see Cyanide stick to their guns.
Several niggling issues include the sluggish feel of the camera and mouse, as well as the frustratingly long load times. But hopefully that's all fixed by the time Confrontation hits stores on April 5. Oh, and the game comes with a nice unit painter that allows for unit colour customization. It's not nearly as awesome as painting miniature figures in real life, but it's still a nice nod ad the game's roots. Cyanide may not have the best field rep, especially after that Game of Thrones strategy game, but at least this one shows some promise. You can learn and check out more of Confrontation at confrontation-thegame.com.