Release Date: Out Now!
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Thanks to Focus Home Interactive for providing a copy of this game for review.
Wax on, wax off. If little Danny LaRusso could be taught the basics of polishing, why is it that so many game developers seem to skip over this simple lesson? The latest perpetrator for this is lesser known developer Cyanide Studios, creator of the table-top faithful PC version of Games Workshop’s Blood bowl. On the outside, Confrontation seemed like a breath of fresh air into the stagnant world of real-time tactical games but as you scratch away at the promising exterior something rather grotesque lies beneath…
Confrontation is based on a table-top game of the same name, revolving around what should be an epic and all together interesting conflict on the fictional world of Aarklash. As you would expect the world is in turmoil, with your favourite blend of fantasy nasties such as Orcs, elves and the undead attempting to destroy each other, and especially humanity, in an all out war. Before the actual game even starts however, you’re greeted with a cutscene that attempts, and fails, to grab your attention to the game’s setting. With some great artwork that is unfortunately ruined by the boring presentation and overused ‘THIS-IS-EPIC’ DEEP VOICED NARRATOR! What is an entirely enthralling setting outside of the game loses all its meaning as the narrator bombards you with factions, locations and historical events that the average player hasn’t got a clue about.
After the initial confusion you’re set upon by another narrator who explains the upcoming skirmish. Again the presentation is entirely forgettable, with nothing but a wall of text and the speaker’s posh British drone to attempt to sell this ‘epic’ conflict to you.
You command a squad of four humans from the zealous Griffin faction, a fanatical army of humans who worship Merin, the god of fire. Rather than your usual goody-two-shoes paladins you’re looking at the medieval equivalent of Space Marines, xenophobic warriors who prefer to “BURN ALL HERETICS” first than wonder how burning down an elven orphanage might affect them later. As you might imagine you’ll find the usual Demon hunters and Inquisitors that will eventually make up part of your squad.
As you run around the world looking for heretics to slay you’ll come across most of the factions that Aarklash has to offer, from the perverse Technomancer “Scorpion” faction to your average Orc and Werewolf rapscallions. As you advance you’ll eventually get access to 12 different characters to fit into your squad as you see fit, each with distinct abilities and roles. When you do finally get into the action however, things take a turn for the worst.
Combat is made up of mostly real-time tactical combat, with the additional option of pausing that action to queue up abilities. While the general roles and skills of each character are interesting enough, with your usual support, damage and tank roles all filled, the actual execution of the gameplay leaves a lot to be desired. There’s plenty of challenge to be had, with the AI making good use of the enemies the game throws at you to keep you on your toes. When it comes to actually controlling your own squad though, you’re usually better off yelling at your screen, which you’ll most likely do anyway, rather than trying to use the often bugged controls.
Aiming abilities in the heat of battle is a challenge unto itself, even when pausing the action, and don’t get me started on the path-finding. Enemies and allies alike run into walls, characters get stuck trying to pass one and other on bridges that could accommodate a herd of elephants while the mere notion of diverting from a strictly direct route to a target seems incomprehensible to everyone involved. Granted, if you’re a sucker for micromanagement, you’ll have no problem making those tiny adjustments to movement patterns in order to guide your characters around such insurmountable obstacles as a pebble or tree.
And the problems don’t stop there, even though path-finding is one of the most glaring issues. Characters have selective hearing, meaning they’ll occasionally attack the wrong enemy when ordered to or completely ignore the goon they were just beating on to attack someone else in the distance. On top of all this the combat feels uninspired at the best of times, with both friends and foes smashing away at each other with the same jittery animations for ages, making you wonder if the loser died of old age rather than a hammer blow to the skull.
With a mention to the jittery animations which are present in all actions from running to straight up combat, there’s also the graphics to consider. While the sometimes lengthy loading times would have you expecting something magnificent you’re instead treated to what you’d expect from 2006’s Titan Quest rather than anything near Diablo 3 and even that’s pushing it. Even on Very High there’s not a lot to inspire those treated to the modern compendium of games. Sound is similarly lacking, with voice acting confined to that of the unenthusiastic narrator and the occasional mutter of “FOR MARIN!” or “DIE HERETIC!” from your characters when you eventually batter a foe to death.
And where would a tactical RPG be without its level ups and loot? Well you’re covered on level ups, with that being one of the few things Confrontation has done right. It’s your standard affair of increasing base attributes of strength, constitution and so on to get increased damage, with some additional upgrades to armour and weapons that give some bonuses. You’re unable to choose abilities however, with each character getting a set 6 that you’ll unlock occasionally but the variety makes up for it.
Even if you do stick with it, getting past the boring combat as glaring flaws the level design is yet another obstacle to overcome. Backdrops and scenery, after the first few missions anyway, are relatively unchanging and there’s an extreme sense of copy-paste going on. Eventually, and quite early on in fact, you’ll find yourself fighting the same enemies, in the same dark depressing room you were in a few hours ago, except now you’re in “Super Secret Enemy Base 002-1” instead of “Super Secret Enemy Base 001-4”. Admittedly the variety of characters can mix up the challenge if you purposely make random squad choices, with the end level making you utilise all 12 of your potential squad members in 3 separate squads but it’s a little too late for spicing up gameplay when you’re on the final stretch…
Singleplayer aside though, there’s not much else to tell. Coming back to the multiplayer element everyday for the past week since release, there’s next to no activity. I found it near impossible to find a match, with the chat room devoid of life for the duration of my attempts. After eventually coaxing another player into trying it out I immediately regretted the decision. All the problems from the singeplayer experience are back with a vengeance, meaning path-finding is even more impossible to navigate, abilities rarely hit their intended target and the inability to pause the action make it an even more frustrating experience than before.
It’s safe to say that Confrontation might possibly be the most disappointing, flawed title since the infamous Duke Nukem Forever. What should have been an intriguing and challenging RPG set in an interesting and original world is all but a husk of random RPG mechanics laden with flaws and slapped on top of an existing setting.
While some might enjoy the unnecessarily drawn out combat encounters which are reminiscent of old school RPGs you’ll find none of the flair, immersive narrative or actual fun of those titles. Confrontation is best avoided…
+ Interesting Setting
– Numerous Gameplay Flaws
– Poor Graphics and Animations
– Very Linear and Repetitive Missions
Littered with jittery animations and graphics that might have been impressive back in the early 2000’s there’s not much to like here…
When it’s there the voice acting is lifeless with the narration feeling out of place as the characters give often forced and unconvincing combat dialogue. The occasional clang of steel is all to offset the otherwise terrible voice acting.
If you can keep up with the story it’s relatively interesting but the only place it’s available is either in the briefings before missions or the codex that make it feel more like you’re reading a novel than taking part in the action.
Get past the frankly stupid path-finding, inept targeting and general boring nature of the combat and there could be a likeable experience there. Unfortunately, there’s just not enough to detract from the massive flaws…
Survive your first playthrough, not because of difficulty but by sheer willpower to stick with it and you’ll be left with little reason to replay. There’s more life in a graveyard than the multiplayer lobbies so you may as well discount that avenue of replayability.
The Verdict: 3
What should have been an enjoyable and wholly interesting experience to tide us over till Diablo 3 is instead a game that leaves you disappointed and wondering how something from a studio that showed so much promise could see the light of day…