The X-COM franchise has developed a cult following of devoted fans. Deep tactical gameplay that is turn based with soldiers to manage on and off the battlefield. It’s heady, serious and grim. Which limits its appeal to an extant. For those players with a more fantasy bend to their settings, there aren’t many options in the way of that genre of gameplay, especially ones that also feature your traditional RPG party roles. Enter Fort Triumph, a new tactical RPG in that same vibe that places its setting squarely in high fantasy, with a bright, cheery nature that doesn’t compromise on mechanics. The game is being developed by Fort Triumph LTD and recently entered a Kickstarter with a playable demo. We went hands on with it to see if it stays true to its inspirations.
Developed by: Fort Triumph LTD
Published by: : Fort Triumph LTD
Release date: Q2 2018
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC
Fort Triumph Features
- Hardcore tactical turn-based gameplay.
- Fully Interactive environments at your disposal.
- Heroes evolving by learning new abilities from their class skilltree.
- Non-linear, contextually generated missions and quests.
- Strategic gameplay and world map exploration.
Story & Setting
The world of Fort Triumph is being affected by magical forces that have gone wild. The gods have gone silent and the world’s landscape is changing, as magic leaks into the land altering the living things and terrain it touches. Things start to go topsy turvy, as the dead rise, people behave oddly and entire kingdoms begin to collapse. Criminal scum naturally emerges from this chaos and it’s up to you to find the root of the chaos and put an end to it.
Fort Triumph itself is an ancient fort located on top of a magic leak that was built for defense against unknown forces. It’s here where heroes from across the world gather to team up and set things right. You’ll pick your party and set out across the world, seeing villages, forests, volcanoes and even the underworld on your quest for truth.
The setting and design is very bright, cheerful and colorful with an exultant fantasy score. The names and dialogue of the characters are all very tongue in cheek and it’s clear the developers have a sense of humor that is self-referential.
Combat is the central feature in Fort Triumph’s gameplay and in that is where its X-COM influence really emerges. Despite the lighthearted fantasy world and humor, it is a tactical game at its core. You will take a party of heroes with their own abilities and roles onto the battlefield and will engage against a variety of foes in turn based combat.
Like X-COM, Fort Triumph is set on a tiled battlegrid and a strong emphasis is placed on cover. Each hero and enemy will take turn moving, making attacks and using abilities. The maps will be populated with obstacles and other gear that you can use to your advantage. This gives the game an added tactical wrinkle as you can do things like knock pillars down or set trees on fire in order to flush out or outright damage your enemies.
The missions all play out on procedurally generated maps, making every launch a unique setting with a different layout to keep things fresh. Further adding to that freshness is the campaign that changes events, locations and quests based upon the choices you make. According to the developer, each playthrough will be unique as a result, allowing for a variety of paths and outcomes. There are fields, dungeons, and other venues right from the pages of fantasy.
You’re not taking a collection of fodder soldiers into battle, instead you are bringing a party of heroes along. This is where the game bends towards the RPG genre. You have 4 classes: Savage, Paladin Ranger and Mage. The Savage is a melee focused character, the Paladin is your support, leader role, the Ranger provides distance archery capabilities and the Mage is your brittle but powerful battlefield controller and damage dealer.
You can have multiple members of the same class in your party and each one of these heroes is defined by traits which allows you to customize them within their classes. The traits themselves can both help and harm, and are personality quirks that you’ll have to consider. One of your heroes may be loud and draws attention, which can be bad or good depending on your tactics. Others may be affected by the success or failure of others around them. This kind of trait definition allows for a little of the random and unexpected.
You gain experience as you go which allows your heroes to learn new skills and abilities. The more advanced abilities allow you to do a variety of interesting things to handle the game’s increasingly complex battles.
On the battlefield, your heroes can combine their abilities in concert to achieve your beast killing goals, which allows for some teamwork based tactics. As mentioned before, these abilities can be combined with the interactive nature of the environment to do even more things like knock a tree over with a wind attack or summon cover for an exposed ally.
The missions themselves have a variety of objectives. In some you will be recovering a special item, others may be hunts of big game like dragons or you may be engaging in some heroics like rescuing allies or saving a village from an attack. Although not in the demo, they do have plans for that strategic layer similar to X-COM between missions where you can engage in some of the more deeper management functions like recruitment, development and mission selection.
Demo Hands On
Upon booting up the demo you will immediately understand the fun, almost satirical approach to the setting. There are some tongue in cheek references to Harry Potter and other fantasy conventions. The art style is very vibrant and colorful, almost so much so that it seems like a kid’s game. This changes once you launch the tutorial and mission as you see things unfold in a very X-COM like way. You choose where you want to move with an arrow which shows spots you can get to within this turn. Once you do, you make your action if able, and the turn passes to the next unit. There is a bit more camera control here, although with all of the obstacles and closer perspective it can be a little difficult to work with the camera to get a tactical overview and often I felt cramped and not quite sure who was in cover and who wasn’t.
There are some more X-COM conventions in here as well, with abilities like overwatch at your disposal and once you get into a match, it unfolds in a similar chess like fashion. You expend your points on movement and actions, and the game lets you know how complete your cover is. When initiating an attack you can see % hit chances as well as the damage range. You can move and attack in a turn or you can blow your wad on an entire move turn if you need positioning before combat. The classes all handle as expected and bore similarities to how they function in D&D and I found that using them the way I would during a tabletop session worked pretty well.
Playing these kinds of games always reminds me of the holo-game played by Chewbacca and R2-D2 in Star Wars IV, and in a good way. It brings to life that gridded board game setup in a way that’s really engaging and a lot of fun. The art style during combat still seems out of place, especially when you actually kill something. A game this vibrant just seems too cheery for death! But that’s something that dissolved over time. Once I got in the groove, killing Goblins, skeletons and others was the norm and enjoyable.
Using the environment is fun and not always intuitive, which is not necessarily a bad thing. You’re just not used to having outside the box options at your disposal. Once you realize you can do things like knock over cover, set stuff on fire and toss enemies into others, you see you have a lot of choices at your disposal and there are a lot of different ways to clear a mission. The campaign unfolds with text narrative for now, with no voice acting and the story is very basic with a lean towards genre humor. Between turns, it will tell you that your opponents are plotting, scheming and cackling maniacally and this all matches the bright style and contrasts with X-COM’s often serious tone. I’m not sure if that bright tone creates a dissonance with the tactical gameplay core just yet, and if it does whether that gets in the way of enjoyment. For me, the jury is still out but I suspect it’s something I’d get used to in time.
Fort Triumph has potential to be a fun tactical RPG in the X-COM vein, albeit from a completely different perspective. It’s clunkier than its inspiration but it’s still in its very early development stages. Regardless I would not expect it to evolve along the lines of a Phoenix Point that is shaping up to be a 1:1 emulation of X-COM and instead see Fort Triumph staying closer to its fantasy RPG elements while building upon its highly interactive environments. If some of the camera issues can get sorted out and if the story can deliver an engaging yarn, Fort Triumph could be a very fun journey for fans of tactical games.