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Fort Triumph

WHAT TO EXPECT:

Indie made game. Fantasy themed strategy. Multiple act single-player campaign. Narrative-driven quests split between multiple acts. Hit and miss writing. Visually pretty and colourful graphics. Impressive adventure amplifying soundtrack. Rogue-like structure when transitioning between acts. Dynamically generated 2.5D maps. Multiple party management. Only four character classes. Tough turn-based tactical battles. Unorthodox combat. Over-reliance on physics based environmental and cascading damage. Focused skill-oriented combat system. Steep learning curve. Unbalanced enemy groups. Auto-win battle feature. Single-player and multi-player skirmish mode.

ACHIEVEMENTS: PROGRESSION AND; PHYSICS AND COMBAT BASED.
STATUS: COMPLETE. SOME SUPPORT CONTINUES.
WHEN TO BUY: MAY APPEAL TO FANS OF INDIRECT TACTICAL COMBAT. WITH A FOCUSED DESIGN APPROACH.

More info below….

THE LOWDOWN:
Fort Triumph (FT) is a quest-driven strategy game of adventure with a focus on turn-based tactical battles. It bears more than a passing resemblance to Heroes of Might and Magic (HoMM). Where players lead a party of characters instead of armies of creatures, across a dynamically generated fantasy world. One full of hostile creatures guarding lairs, production facilities, scattered rewards and shrines.

A light witty, narrative in the form of written dialogue carries a minimal plot forwards, between quests and acts. Graphically the game possesses a similar colourful aesthetic to that of Torchlight. A jovial soundtrack laced with an epic quality reinforces its fantasy ambience. The GUI has a lean design that presents its features in a format that should be familiar to many strategy gamers. Modes include a single-player campaign and skirmish for both single and multi-player.

Played across several acts, numerous characters from four basic archetypes are controlled as a party. Armed with just their skills and a small inventory of key items, they must complete a series of quests to progress from one act to the next. Barbarians, Rangers, Mages and Paladins can be recruited to form several parties to fight battles, and to protect or siege enemy fortresses. Each class can gain a range of skills to define their own roles in battle. The proficiency of which can be increased as experience levels are gained.

The initial party begins outside its primary fortress. Moving across a dynamically generated 2.5D overland map towards locations of interest or quest objectives. Up to their daily allotment of action points. Clearing the area of hostiles as go. Collecting the resources necessary to upgrade their fortress with up to nine structures in order to increase protection or augment resource generation. Guild disciplines can also be obtained to enhance hero capabilities. While new characters can be procured to create additional parties to protect the local area, chase down rival parties or replace dead allies.

Turn-based tactical combat takes place on an tiled procedurally generated 2.5D battlescape, similar to those encountered in X-COM games. A breadth of factors are intricately utilised around a layered physics system where characters use skills to manipulate the environment to the detriment of enemies. Such factors include; buffs, de-buffs, positioning, use of cover, damage, stunning, other delaying effects, and area of effect or chained attacks. Among others. Skills require cooldowns to be re-used which are reduced as character grow more potent. Inventory items found on the party’s travels can be used to complement character skills. These are divvied out from a global to a personal inventory.

Not all battles need to be fought, as there is an option to auto-defeat enemies significantly weaker than the player’s force. Performances in battle are graded giving a higher resource reward to purchase Guild disciplines. Enemy factions change with every new act. New heroes become available at fortresses every seven game days. Permadeath is an optional fixture which can be disabled at the start of a game. A wise consideration given the four difficulties the game can be played at.

THE GOOD:

  • Well designed and balanced strategy layer. Similar to HOMM.
  • A strong foundation of indirect combat options. Based on interactive and destructible environments to inflict damage on opponents.
  • Lots of tactical nuances through inventory, character attributes, skills and positioning.
  • Battles can be auto-resolved when enemies are outmatched.
  • The auto-assignment of overwatch for all characters through a single button.
  • Optional perma-death.
  • Visually pretty and colourful. Similar to Torchlight. With an impressive soundtrack.

THE BAD:

  • Campaign is limited to the human faction.
  • Generic battlescapes become familiar all to quickly. Nothing stands out.
  • Tactical combat missing more satisfying direct offensive options.
  • Not enough character types. Only four. With only the tiniest number of sub-classes defined through skill selection.
  • Rogue-like design aspect when progressing to the next act. Only able to take forward limited assets.
  • Quests on rails. No options to choose different missions.
  • Unbalanced encounters where the party is outnumbered and outmatched. A lack of healing options does not help.
  • Cannot save while in battle. These can take quite a while.
  • No deployment phase. Characters are auto deployed.
  • AI factions will spawn continuous enemy parties to keep the player busy.
  • Possible to mis-click GUI when on the combat map.

AND THE REST:

  • Single-player campaign and skirmish modes. Plus skirmish for multiplayer also.
  • Small inventory adds additional tactical options.
  • Four factions to choose in skirmish mode.
  • Graphically good looking but basic in complexion.
  • Four difficulties.
  • Subjective quality writing of short bursts of witty dialogue-driven narrative.
  • Well programmed AI. Will remain stationary when coded to defend. Will look to attack with superior numbers and fall in traps.
  • A decent enemy roster. Limited to the same four classes as the player’s heroes.

ANALYSIS:
FT suggested an experience that combined the strategy layer of HoMM and the tactical combat of X-COM. Taking elements of both games and incorporating them together in a fantasy setting of its own. Giving it an appealing look and feel to fans of those games and the chance to invest their time and energy into its familiar playing-style. (A real enticement for this fan of those titles.) A high level of production and polish provided additional promise, inflating expectations even higher. At least initially. As progress through the game was made and more of the game was played, a clearer picture formed. One that caused those expectations to nose-dive and fester into disappointment and eventually apathy.

To be fair FT proved to be a competently made game. Attention-grabbing during the first act. Visually the game looked pretty and colourful. Reminiscent to an extent of the first Torchlight game. Added to by an appropriately impressive sounding track. One that was enjoyable, as well as capturing the game’s adventurous nature and amplifying its setting. The writing was found to be as generic as the missions it framed. Not invoking any significant response apart from the desire to skip past and continue playing. An initially impressive design provided a familiar gameplay structure, reinforcing the play-styles of those previously mentioned and cherished games. Something which unfortunately waned as the game’s exact nature revealed itself.

Piggy-backing on the HoMM playstyle worked a treat to deliver a strategy layer with enticing exploration. One supplemented with decent randomisation and a fair array of interesting places to visit. These formed a solid base with potentially good replay value. However they eventually became all-to-familiar when enough levels had been played and restarts made. Base-building a staple of HoMM appeared to start on a parallel. Clear cut, but becoming shallow. Resulting in formulaic strategy with no alternatives to create fortresses with their own distinct specialisation. Another highlight of HoMM. Given that once the optimum build path was identified it would not need to change for other forts. At least through the first few acts. Which was all that could be managed before apathy took over my willingness to play. Neither aspect would reach the level of involvement that matched my memories of playing HoMM. The biggest issue here was the AI ability to continously afford the creation of parties to send out every turn after previous ones had been defeated. Compared to being able to afford only one hero every other turn and managing resources to obtain structure and guild upgrades, it proved one of the aspects that put me off playing.

The tactical layer also seemed a well made component. Again only initially. The decision to opt for an XCOM style battlescape and combat system was welcomed. Demonstrating signs of the potential detailed battles that would be played out instead of those hex based engagements from HoMM. Conjuring memories of simplified brute-force Chess. This raised the hope of a different combat experience. One with a deeper tactical aspect that fans of X-COM would appreciate. This turned out to be short-lived when after a few encounters the over-reliance on indirect combat and environmental damage became obvious. Taking what could have been an exciting game mode and delivering a combat model that felt unrealistic, artificial, and gimmicky. The sum of my experience with the physics in this game. Other players may have enjoyed it implying the combat in this game may turn out to be a different kettle of fish for other interested parties.

FT possessed some positive aspects to its tactical combat. Skills to buff and de-buff heroes and enemies. The ability to delay enemies. To overwatch. Positioning and the need to take cover. Even a tiny inventory that gave a few tactical alternatives or boosted hero stats. Anyone looking for a more traditional direct experience may find the gameplay gimmicky at best. Perplexing at worst. Unsatisfying either way. If on the other hand, having access to a focused range of skills that must be intelligently used in a coordinated manner appeals, then the combat in this game may provide some fun. It is was not my cup of tea but could be stimulating for the right gamer.

The game’s balance also seemed off-kilter. Initial battles were easy to win. Though after the first act the reliance on unlocking as many Guild disciplines as possible. In order to augment the characters abilities and skills to a level they could compete at. Especially when outnumbered. Something that happened a fair amount in the second act. Moreso when outmatched in a growing number of encounters. This hinted at the need for synergising skills and coordinating attacks to a greater degree. Another indication that tactical variety did not truly exist. One that would prove frustrating as battle after battle could not be auto-won and had to be played out. Again emphasising the reason for having so few character classes. With small pool of skills. Indicating on the need to rely on the same techniques. Stifling any hope of developing different tactical strategies.

Ultimately all of the above funnelled FT’s gameplay loops into a distinctly narrow design theme. A reliance of replaying the same core experience. Over and over. It began with every new act. The feeling of having to restart the level with virtually all the progress made in the previous act, left behind. The limit of four character classes added to this. Their fixed range of skills restricting possible tactical strategies that could be employed in combat. The required to always gain as many guild disciplines and fortress upgrades as quickly as possible. All required to keep pace with the beefed up challenge. All of it felt as though the same one level was being replayed throughout the two acts that were played. In all likelihood to be repeated for the remainder of the campaign. Unfortunate but the disappointing reality for me.

That said it is entirely possible that some of you reading this will disagree. There is a core game here that is playable. Some qualities to enjoy. If only it were cut and dried one way or another.

VERDICT:

FT was a game that promised alot but failed to deliver a HoMM inspired strategy experience with X-COM style tactical combat. For me at least. It became lacklustre, lacking the depth to develop enough variety of tactical strategies and a constricting design theme that forced the gameplay in first two acts at least, to be essentially the same experience.

While alot of the game’s individual components may divide opinion; from being good to bad depending on individual preference, I felt its biggest issue was a combat system that restricted choice and was locked into physics based environments. Add the issue of imbalance and the feature that should have been the core draw did not compel me to play it beyond the writing of this review. Even though the soundtrack was a big plus for me, everything else from the competently made strategy layer, somewhat humorous writing and pretty graphics where inconsequential when compared to the disappointment of tactical combat.

Despite my personal feelings and the fact FT did not meet my personal expectations as described above there seems enough of a consensus that some players will enjoy what FT has to offer. Therefore there is the possibility of a game here worthy of attention for those who can look past the aspects that disappointed me. In this respect while I am way off from giving FT a ringing endorsement for others, this MAYBE a game that is worth taking a chance on.

Good
  • Well designed and balanced strategy layer. Similar to HOMM.
  • A strong foundation of indirect combat options. Based on interactive and destructible environments to inflict damage on opponents.
  • Lots of tactical nuances through inventory, character attributes, skills and positioning.
  • Battles can be auto-resolved when enemies are outmatched.
  • The auto-assignment of overwatch for all characters through a single button.
  • Optional perma-death.
  • Visually pretty and colourful. Similar to Torchlight. With an impressive soundtrack.
Bad
  • Campaign is limited to the human faction.
  • Generic battlescapes become familiar all to quickly. Nothing stands out.
  • Tactical combat missing more satisfying direct offensive options.
  • Not enough character types. Only four. With only the tiniest number of sub-classes defined through skill selection.
  • Rogue-like design aspect when progressing to the next act. Only able to take forward limited assets.
  • Quests on rails. No options to choose different missions.
  • Unbalanced encounters where the party is outnumbered and outmatched. A lack of healing options does not help.
  • Cannot save while in battle. These can take quite a while.
  • No deployment phase. Characters are auto deployed.
  • AI factions will spawn continuous enemy parties to keep the player busy.
  • Possible to mis-click GUI when on the combat map.
6.5
Fair

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