We recently got our hands of a preview build of Confrontation, a tactical strategy / RPG hybrid from Cyanide Studio, the French developer who is also working on the upcoming Game of Thrones RPG. Confrontation is based on a board game of the same name (unplayed by me), and it takes place in the world of Aarklash, where four factions are battling for supremacy. The preview build only included the first two missions in the game, which took me a couple hours to complete, but it contained enough content to give me an idea about how the game will work, which I'll now try to relay to you.
In Confrontation you control up to four heroes in a series of missions. The game uses a fantasy setting, and so your heroes have familiar roles like tank, healer, damage dealer, and utility. The preview build only had four heroes total, making it easy for me to pick my squad for each mission, but from the codex in the game it looks like you'll eventually gain access to a dozen heroes, each with a unique complement of abilities.
The characters in the game have a fixed set of equipment, including up to two weapon options, plus six spells or skills, which they gain as they progress through the game. Each time characters gain a level, they receive a point to improve their attributes (strength, constitution, agility, vivacity, intelligence and wisdom), and every two or three levels they receive a point to improve their skills. As you explore the world, you also find special chests with glyphs in them, and these glyphs are what you use to improve your characters' equipment (enemies never drop anything). Each glyph gives you a choice between two possibilities, such as increasing physical versus magical protection, or improving one character's damage versus the entire squad's damage.
As an example, the squad you start with in the game includes Darius, the leader (and perhaps main character of the game), who can use skills like Exaltation of Soldiers to improve the to-hit bonus of his squad, and Frontal Assault to damage and taunt opponents; Lanwys, a "thallion," who can use Divine Favor to heal nearby allies, and Cleansing to debuff and heal; Lothaire, an inquisitor, who can use Flaming Weapon to improve the weapon of an ally, and Quietude to silence an enemy caster; and Zelia, a pyromancer, who can use Meteor to damage enemies in an area, and Stun to immobilize an enemy for a few seconds.
The missions in the game look as though they'll feature a series of tactical battles and not much else (the two missions I saw didn't have any conversations or cut scenes or story elements). Battles pit your squad against an enemy squad of roughly the same power, but you always get to spot them first, giving you time to prepare and buff up. Battles are conducted in real time, but since you're controlling four characters, you're allowed to pause the game at any time and issue orders. When you kill an enemy, your characters evenly share the experience for it, and if one of your characters is "killed," then he falls unconscious, and you're given a limited amount of time to get him back on his feet again. Nicely, reviving a character does not require a healing spell; you just need to click on him and wait a few seconds (sort of like what Obsidian did in Dungeon Siege III).
The interface is pretty straightforward. You click on the ground to make your characters move, and you click on an enemy to make them attack. You can trigger spells and skills by clicking a button on the interface or by pressing a hotkey, and you can select characters by clicking on them, or clicking on their portrait, or by pressing the F1-F4 keys. The only really awkward part of the interface right now is the camera, which you have to move manually (with the arrow keys no less) to keep your characters in view. Some sort of automatic follow mode would make life much easier.
I found the first two missions of the Confrontation campaign to be a little bit on the dull and repetitive side, with a long series of similar battles and nothing interesting to break them up. But the good news about seeing a game before release is that there's always the chance that the developer makes some changes and fixes things up. I'm a little pessimistic that this will happen with Confrontation (the build I played was version 0.99, where 1.0 usually designates the retail release), but we won’t know for sure until the game is released later this month.