Confrontation Review

26 Apr 2012

Eschalon: Book II

Publisher:Focus Home Interactive
Developer:Cyanide Studio
Release Date:2012-04-05
Genre:
  • Strategy,Role-Playing
Platforms: Theme: Perspective:
  • Third-Person
Buy this Game: Amazon ebay
Unfortunately, Confrontation has several problems that prevent it from being fun to play.  The first of these is the interface.  Because you're controlling four soldiers, the game uses an overhead view, where you left click to select your soldiers, you right click to make them move or attack, and you press the space bar so you can pause the game and issue orders.  So far so good, but everything else is a mess.  There isn't an auto-follow mode for the camera, and the camera is currently hardcoded to the arrow keys, which is awkward at best.  The game wastes the 1-9 keys by hardcoding them to select soldier groups, even though the F1-F4 keys already select individual soldiers.  The game includes a codex of information about your enemies, but you're not allowed to access it during missions.  There's an option to queue up or replace commands, but the game forgets your choice every time you start a mission or load a game.  And the interface has numerous clarity issues.  For example, your soldiers have a chance to dodge attacks and score critical hits, but this information isn't shown anywhere.  And for a long time I couldn't figure out why the game wasn't allowing me to learn the final rank of skills, only to eventually discover that the final rank costs two skill points instead of one.  Pointing this out somewhere in the interface would have helped.

Really, Confrontation is just sloppy all over the place.  Soldiers can get knocked out during battles, and during this time they're only supposed to receive partial experience for kills, but sometimes the game fails to notice that they've been revived, and they earn partial experience for the rest of the mission.  Soldiers can upgrade their equipment by inserting glyphs, but sometimes the game fails to give them the glyph bonuses.  Sometimes the audio cuts out, and you have to restart the game to get it going again.  Sometimes doors are shown as closed and locked, but they're really open.  And finally, the pathfinding is atrocious, and not just sometimes, but always.  Even though battles typically feature a small number of units, your soldiers get hung up on each other all over the place, or for some reason start running around in circles, or don't move at all.  About 90% of the time when I struggled in a battle, it was because something in the game was broken.

A lot of the sloppiness I've listed above can be fixed with patches, but I don't think there's any such hope for the campaign, which is about as dull and repetitive as a campaign can get.  First off, despite controlling a dozen named soldiers, none of them talk or have personalities.  Some aren't even mentioned in the story.  Instead, from time to time (such as during the mission briefings) a narrator drones on about what's going on.  Secondly, the storyline itself about disrupting Scorpion plans to mass produce Mecasyatis clones might make a fine chapter in a larger story, but there isn't nearly enough there to support a 30-hour campaign.  You're basically dropped into a world without explanation, and then nothing happens, which isn't too exciting.

And then there's the gameplay of the campaign, which isn't any better.  I mentioned earlier that the battle mechanics are fine.  The problem is that you just fight one battle after another, without any motivating force behind your actions.  The campaign is just a linked sequence of about 500 battles, with the occasional boss fight thrown in for good measure.  A boring campaign can still work if character development or equipment hunting is fun, but they're not.  Confrontation uses a level 40 cap, which means soldiers get to learn just about everything, and the equipment of your soldiers is fixed.  All you find during the campaign are weapon / armor points and glyphs, which are used to upgrade equipment, and bandages, which one soldier can use to heal another.  Enemies never drop anything.

And so, clearly, I did not like Confrontation at all, and I don't think it'll be any fun to play even if it eventually gets patched up.  About the only silver lining I can think of is that it might work well enough for multiplayer skirmish matches -- assuming you can reasonably control your party without pausing the game, which seems iffy -- if that's the sort of thing that interests you.  But there's little to recommend about Confrontation for RPG enthusiasts, especially at its $40 price point.  Sometimes I recommend waiting for prices to drop before making a purchase, but in this case you should just look elsewhere.