Confrontation

Review

posted 4/30/2012 by Tom Bitterman
other articles by Tom Bitterman
Platforms: PC
When I was kid there were no tanks or aggro or crowd-control specialists or any of that other new-fangled RPG stuff the kids have nowadays.  You were a fighter, thief, magic-user or cleric, the way Gygax intended it.

Well, times have changed and there are debuffs and DPS and cooldown and many other terms and that's the way the game is played now.  There is nothing wrong with this – every style of game must change or die.  A side effect, however, has been that RPGs now feel more like small-scale RTSs.  Once the combat mechanisms pass a certain level of sophistication it becomes easy to view a character as just a collection of stats.  Their individuality gets lost in a pile of weapons, abilities and hit points.  The RPG character becomes, in short, an RTS unit.

“Confrontation” takes this trend to its logical conclusion.  You are put in charge of a four-member party which goes on various quests which play out in pausable real-time.  Along the way you will encounter various enemies which you will need to defeat in battle.  There are different types of loot laying around that your party can use.  Defeating enemies and finding loot provides your party members with experience points which they use to gain levels.  Gaining level gives your characters better attributes (e.g. they get stronger or smarter), more hit points and better, more powerful abilities.


This does not sound like a radical departure from the standard RPG framework.  In fact, there are roughly a zillion games out there that work exactly this way.  Throw in a decent world/backstory and you have a game.  The thing that made “Confrontation” stand apart for this reviewer was the sheer cardboardness of the characters and their setting.  I simply did not care about these little computer beings or their little computer world.  That something was going on was not in doubt – there is this voice over that tells you all about it – but I never really understood what it was, or why I should care.

No matter what was happening outside, my little guys were going to do the same thing – march down a narrow hallway and kill whatever was in front of them.  When all you have is a sword, every problem looks like a battle.

The battles are by far the best part of the game.  You pick up additional party members along the way, but can only take four at a time on an adventure.  This is the first interesting choice to make: melee vs distance damage, magic or brawn, there are all sorts of combinations available.  And once you are engaged in combat this can be a pretty good game.  Encounters are generally well-balanced, with enemies that are neither too strong nor too weak.  It is important to know both your own and enemies' weaknesses and the combat system puts a premium on the correct and judicious use of your characters' special abilities.


After some initial beatings, I realized the best way to look at the battles was through an RTS lens.  My guys were simply units – that guy is a tank, this other one is artillery, here's a scout, and so on.  When played this way, things started to make more sense.  I stopped worrying about character development and plot and concentrated on small unit tactics.  And if that's all you're looking for out of a game, “Confrontation” is not a bad game.

The problem with this game is that there are other parts to the game.  First off, the pathfinding is bad.  There are too many times when there is an open path but a unit cannot figure out how to negotiate it.  This leads to lots of micromanagement as one must continually stop the battle, re-point the unit, then let it run for a few seconds until the unit gets stuck again.

The loot is rather disappointing for such an exotic-looking locale.  Generally one finds bandages (for healing, whee!).  What self-respecting adventurer gets excited about finding bandages?  There are also glyphs that can improve weapons or armor, but no awesome “+10 Sword of Smiting Mine Enemies”.  This part of the game could have used some work.


The look and feel of the world is acceptable.  It starts out looking pretty good, but settles into repetition fairly early on, which blunts the effect.  The voice acting is not good.

In summary, “Confrontation” is a below-average tactical fantasy slugfest.  At its heart is a decent tactical combat engine, one that can provide some worthwhile challenges.  Its problems stem from everything that surrounds the combat – bad pathfinding, shallow characterization, poor voice acting, and an irrelevant setting.
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