Those of you lucky enough to dabble in the stratgy figurine filled worlds of Game Workshop titles like WarHammer or maybe the Lord of the Rings versions, will probably be at least somewhat intrigued by the impending release video game adaption of Confrontation – an ageing board game in the same vein as those titles. WarHammer has been getting the video game treatment for years, whether it be in the form of complex war stratagy titles or the recent third-person shooter, Space Marine. Now it’s the turn of Confrontation, and we had the chance to dive into its first two missions.
Set for release within the next few weeks, Cynanide Studios (the guys behind Blood Bowl and Game of Thrones), Confrontation is a hybrid strategy/RPG with a surprisingly refreshing, although not mentioned, dungeon crawl aspect thrown in for good measure. Confrontation tells the tale of the “Rag’narok”, a war between 4 rival armies across 3 factions for possession of the land of Aarklash. The age long war has shifted to the final region of the world for one last climactic confrontation, and rather than doing what most games do having you control massive legions of troops, you’ll control a small troupe of specialised soldiers to carry out controlled mission objectives from behind the scenes.
During the start of the campaign you’ll be briefed up on the war by a damn fine voice. Once you’ve had your ears melted with words you probably didn’t pay any attention to, you’ll be thrown into the barren desert wastelands controlling only a single hero, Darius. The first mission acts primarily as a tutorial to introduce you to the detailed UI and mechanics of the game. The drag selection is still present like most strategy games of the last 15 years and you’ll still be moving your guys very carefully with clicks from your mouse. The goal is simple enough – get from point A to point B. It may sound like a linear trawl, but remember we mentioned a dungeon crawl. It may not be evidently clear from the first mission, but in the second you’ll realise exactly what we mean.
We controlled Sir. Darius across only a few feet before we were stopped and briefed to the ever present ‘Fog of War’. For those unaware of the idea, Fog of War is commonly used to restrict your vision of enemies from across the map leaving you to tread in fear of what exactly lies at the end of a path. With only one man and no idea of how to use him, we headed forward and quickly came under attack by a stray enemy. Darius whacked away automatically at the enemy after a good right-click of his target. In the bottom left we were introdcued to his skills. While 6 sat on the tray beside us, only 2 of those were usable due to our character level, a periodic heal spell and a hit chance buff leading us to believe Confrontation was a game of classes and roles. Be ready to take that experience of PvE MMOs into a strategy game, you’ll be controlling a band of damage dealers, support characters, tanks and healers before you know it. And you’ll have to adjust pretty quickly to survive.
After a short dangerous stroll through the foggy wastelands, we met up with our two troubled comrades, Lothaire the Griffin Inquisitor and Zelia the Pyromancer. Once we commanded Sir. Darius to help out the fight the two were already engaged in, the enemies fell as well as our new-found squadmates. Worry not, once a character goes down, so long as they’re not hit with a chancy ‘Lethal Blow’ as their final strike, another squadmate can take their time to revive a fallen fighter so long as they don’t bleed out beforehand.
Toward the end of the desert stage we had reunited with our forth squad member, Lanwys, who was able to use his offensive powers and switch them from dual-swords to a single pistol to help out from afar in enclosed fights where our others wedged themselves in. At this point we had learned that most of our fighters had two sets of weapons by default, tools which could be swapped quickly between fights with the V button to change the overall uses of their talents. Darius has now switched his support staff in favour of a shield to better tank the stronger monsters getting a taste of our men while we utilized Lanwys’ dual swords in conjuction with Lothaire’s elemental embuing weapon buffs to supercharge our damage output while Darius’ periodical heal spell sponged some of the extra pain heading our way from the lack of buffs. Character resources such as Mana plays a key factor in Confrontation. Think for a moment “I’ll just pop every spell I’ve got” and you’ll have a huge mess on your hands. Each character will only have enough mana to cast two or three of their abilities in a single fight leaving you to plan each fight accordingly and judge from the enemies which spells are best suited to the job.
Speaking of strategy, the space bar on your keyboard plays another vital role in the planning and execution of your attacks. Just like how a board game has no time limits per turn, Confrontation has a special mode activated whenever you hit that huge bar on your keyboard. The mode essentially freezes the game while still allowing you to command your squad, leaving you with however long you need to perfect a survival strategy and queue up the spells needed to achieve those plans.
Entering the second stage of the campaign, the lab breeding many of the Scorpion faction’s troops, we found monsters be become much tougher, brawls to be in almost claustrophobic conditions and squad placement to be of the upmost importance. The dank, horrific breeding grounds were a maze of danger with a lot of camera twirling and deep searching being required to pinpoint all of the levers and switches controlling the doors of the fort and the entrance to our first boss encounter. Often hidden among stages are dark corners harbouring loot chests, stat/weapon upgrades and often times the means to progress. They’re all hidden within the fog and behind the walls.
Confrontation is shaping up to a seriously enjoyable and also challenging game of careful planning and pinpoint execution. Character levels and weapon upgrades brings upgrades to stats, ability powers and even weapon alterations, and you’ll need to plan these accordingly to your character’s talents and uses to really stand your ground. Judging from the unit painter on the menu, we hadn’t even scratched the surface of the characters and classes you’ll be able to add to your 4-man squad once the retail release hits. Hopefully the finishing touches will be minor unit path finding fixes and performance optimisations, which they often are, and we’ll have quite a fantastic little RTS title on our hands.