BioWare’s Infinity Engine was ultimately a pleasing compromise between the thrilling, second-to-second nature of real-time combat, and the more deliberate, strategic aspects of turn-based gameplay. It may no longer have the popularity it once held, but its mechanics are far from redundant and the absence of games melding turn-based and real-time combat is noticeable.
It’s for this reason the proposition of Cyanide’s latest game, Confrontation, looks so good on paper. A brand new dungeon crawler with a combat system similar to that of the Infinity Engine? Where do we sign up? Unfortunately, as entertaining as the prospect sounds, Confrontation simply fails to realise upon any of its promises.
The main campaign begins with some typically overwrought generic fantasy backstory that is soon forgotten the moment the game proper begins. All that you need to remember is that it is your job to take four heroes on a quest to destroy whatever MacGuffin threatens the existence of all. Well, that, and to kick a lot of evil behind on the way.
Combat really is no different to that of Infinity Engine games, in a superficial sense at least. You move your party members around by selecting them with the mouse and, when combat is inevitable, a press of the spacebar pauses time - granting you the opportunity to issues specific orders to individual units.
The system does have some faults. For one, it is never particularly clear where you should be clicking to access character information until you spend some time with the interface. Furthermore, there is a lack of feedback when it comes to spell casting, particularly from enemy units. Spell effects are muted, making it hard to discern what you need to counter. These problems aside, the configuration is relatively easy to get one’s head around, particularly if you have played other games with similar combat setups.
The problem is that what you do with this setup is not particularly interesting. Enemy tactics are far from varied and contribute to a depressing sense of monotony as you progress. This isn’t helped by a rather limited talent tree that never really makes you feel that you are growing in power.
Character customisation options are further limited by a lack of traditional RPG loot. Most of the time all you pick up from chests are bandages to help heal you in battle. Instead of upgrading your weapons and armour by finding pieces to outfit your team with, you simply choose upgrades that affect each member of your party as a whole.
Ultimately, it is the way that Confrontation limits your ability to make choices that condemn it to the distinctly average game it is. You never feel any sense of victory since every encounter is so rote. You didn’t win because of clever tactics, nor because you’d scoured every area of the map to kit yourself up in the most powerful equipment. With your agency in Confrontation diminished to hammering ability buttons in some generally correct order, the game is ironically disconnected from any sense of actual confrontation. Instead, you’re left with some rather dull busy work wrapped up in a lifeless presentation.
Originally published in PCPP#204.