I’m not much for fantasy movies or books, but I can definitely get sucked into fantasy games. Between the Diablo games and Torchlight, I have spent more hours than I can count clicking the mouse button to make monsters die. Confrontation is similar in setting to those games, but replaces the hack and slash action RPG combat with a tactical, squad based approach. The concept is interesting, but it never comes together, and the result is a game that tries to blend genres but doesn’t do either one well.
Confrontation is based on the board game of the same name. You command a squad of warriors fighting against three separate factions, all competing for control of the land. At least, that’s what I think the plot is. A narrator, reading static text on the screen, tells the story in Confrontation. The story is typical fantasy material, with lots of exotically named places and peoples. With no animation or images to bring it to life, though, it’s easy to get lost in all the names, lose track of which faction is fighting whom, who you are or what you’re fighting for.
It’s a problem that comes up constantly during the game, which seems to assume that you’re familiar with the universe from the board game. I felt like I started watching a movie series mid-way through, and was always struggling to figure out what was going on in the plot and who the characters were. It doesn’t help that there were multiple instances of the narrator’s script differing from the on-screen text, which was a distraction when I was trying to read along.
The combat in Confrontation is tactical, so planning is vital to success. The camera can be moved in any direction, allowing you to see enemies up ahead and plan your attack accordingly. Each member of your squad has unique characteristics and spells, suiting them for different styles of combat. With four members in the squad at all times, and more characters to choose from as the game progresses, keeping track of everything can get complicated. Fortunately, Confrontation keeps things simple when it comes to upgrading. Your weapons stay the same throughout the game, and can be upgraded in one of two ways every five levels, provided you have found weapon upgrade points throughout the game. Armor works the same way, and both weapon and armor points are communal, meaning that you can decide which characters to focus your upgrades on. Glyphs can enhance weapon or armor upgrades at each level, and are also shared amongst your team.
Each character has six skills, which will unlock as you level up. Gaining a level produces skill points, as well as traditional attribute points (both character specific), so you can upgrade to suit your style. There’s no notification when you level up, though, so I would occasionally go to the character screen and find that I had a few levels worth of points to distribute that I didn’t know about. Before, or during, combat you can pause the game and lay out your plan of attack, giving each character a set of instructions to carry out. However, since the skills are predetermined and limited in number, I found myself using the same attack patterns for each character in every fight. That got pretty tedious, and I wish that I could have set up macros for frequently used attack combinations.
As you progress, you will encounter enemies with magical abilities that, if not countered correctly, will end a fight quickly. After a character is knocked down, they have a period of agony, during which they can be revived by another character. If they are not revived in time, the game ends. There is a quicksave option, and the manual gives good advice when it suggests you use it a lot. Encounters with foes create an entry in the Codex, where you can view enemy types, including the spells they can cast. It’s useful for planning combat, but inexplicably it’s only available from the main menu, meaning that you need to quit your game in order to get information about the enemy you’re having trouble with.
For a game that emphasizes tactical combat, the decision to separate this information from the in-game experience is nothing short of awful. Even when you plan correctly, combat is not a sure thing, as characters will occasionally stop attacking and just absorb punishment until they die, get caught on walls or other characters on their way to a fight, or run in circles for no apparent reason.
Graphically, Confrontation looks dated, with soft lines and muddy textures. The character and enemy designs are nice, but their execution is dull, which stands out when the camera is pulled in close. Likewise, the environments, particularly indoors, have a flat look to them. Games like this certainly don’t depend on graphics, but it’s worth noting. The sound is solid, with battle and spell effects that sound like they’re straight from a Torchlight or Diablo game. The character voices are terribly annoying, though. The lead character in your party says a phrase every time you move them, and you will move them a lot. To make it worse, there aren’t very many phrases, and they’re the same for all characters. After the 20th or so time hearing “For the temple!” I started searching for the mute button.
Poor execution keeps Confrontation from ever really finding its stride. With an inaccessible story and no loot to serve as motivation, I had no real incentive to press on. In general, the game lacks polish – for example if all of your characters are knocked down, you still need to wait for one of their agony bars to run out before the game ends, even though there is no way for you to revive them. If you’ve never played a tactical RPG before, this game isn’t going to convert you. For those who like the style, better options exist. If you’re a fan of the board game and want to see the world come to life, it’s a passable game, but anyone else should look elsewhere.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.