Warcraft, StarCraft, and most recently, Command & Conquer: Tiberium Alliances. Lately, I’ve found myself pondering over the games that have taken inspiration or outright stolen ideas from the Warhammer universe, when a little game titled Confrontation made its serendipitous arrival upon my virtual doorstep. Sharing more than just a common history with Warhammer, Confrontation brings some fun ideas to the tabletop, but aspirations of grandeur make this game fail to execute these ideas to their fullest capacity.
Confrontation (2012): PC
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Released: April 4, 2012
Based on the tabletop fantasy miniatures wargame by the same title, Confrontation is a tactical squad-based RPG in which you control a party of four characters chosen from a selection of 12, each with different powers and combat roles — a premise that immediately won me over.
The game world isn’t your stereotypical fantasy setting, but it does bear similarities to Warhammer’s Dawn of War — a dark fantasy world with anthropomorphic races and an equal mix of steampunk, magic and religion. Familiar Warhammer language and visuals even sneak in, with words like Inquisition and Heresy spoken alongside characters with flintlock pistols and wide-brimmed hats. Combine that with similar gameplay elements, and at times, I felt as though I was actually playing a Dawn of War title, which lent the game a comforting sense of familiarity.
Confrontation opens with a barrage of fantasy names fired at you like a volley of flaming arrows, no doubt impressing fans of the tabletop game but leaving the neophyte to the franchise with more question marks than an MMO quest giver. It’s an info-dump so seeped in made-up vernacular that wrapping your head around the story is the game’s first challenge — and it’s a doozie.
Fortunately, you can pretend the entire introductory sequence was in orcish and catch up with the story as it unfolds throughout the game, where the narrative comes together and is related in the pleasant baritone of a trained voice actor.
But just as Confrontation’s story takes a step forward, it is quick to take two steps back. As high quality as the narration is, the story is principally related through mountains of exposition between missions rather than integrally tied to the action. “Here’s a part where you play the game,” says Confrontation, “now here’s a part where you listen to the story.”
The result is a disjointed experience in which the gameplay has some rudimentary context — such as “find the MacGuffin” — and the story becomes a roadblock to continuing the game. I found myself removing my headset as the narrator droned on so that I could speed-read through the wall of text and skip to the next scene — only to find the narrator still talking as the game resumed, refusing to be interrupted. The whole plot smacks of self-importance and detracts from the core gameplay.
Story aside, Confrontation takes you through a 30-hour singleplayer campaign that follows the heroes of one of the game’s four factions, slowly introducing you to new characters at a comfortable pace, giving you time to learn the ins and outs of their abilities until you eventually fill out a stable of a dozen characters. Meeting a new character is a mixed bag — maybe he’ll have exciting new powers and become one of your favorites, or maybe you’ll just be eager to swap back to another character. These heroes gain experience and level up, presenting you with tactical decisions to make on how to upgrade their standard RPG abilities like Strength and Intelligence, their combat skills, and their equipment.