Grab your battle-axes, ready your wands, knock your arrows for battle, because CookieByte Entertainment are leading you into a fun filled fantasy warzone with the turn-based nonsense of Fort Triumph. What at first may seem like yet another XCOM reskin will eventually win your heart with its cutesy, convivial parodies on old Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) and fantasy tropes.
Dark sorcerers get into mud-throwing insult matches with lowly goblins barely able to string together sentences, drunken barristers stumble their way into ongoing evil invasions, your heroes accidentally burn down whole villages then pretend to know nothing of such charges when pressed by the township, and almost everyone double crosses everyone; Fort Triumph essentially holds all the nonsense hallmarks of a wondrous drunken night of D&D bastardry where the “magic” of the evening gets increasingly degenerate with every tip of a bottle – and it is all the more perfect for it.
Fort Triumph describes itself as “part XCOM, part Heroes of Might and Magic III” which is an apt enough description for this easy-bake tactical title. The tactics element of the game is a simple enough distillation of what we have come to expect of XCOM-likes by now; you hold a squad where each character has a maximum of “action points” with which to move, attack, and/or support with on every turn. You take your moves, then the enemy takes theirs until one side is dead. Your squad is built from 4 different hero classes available in any combination you choose – Paladin, Barbarian, Mage, Ranger (2 melee classes, 2 range, respectively). You can level up your heroes to flesh out your party with a variety of abilities and attack types to fit all the scenarios you might face in battle.
All standard stuff that you’re no doubt familiar with. Even the attacks and movement mechanics are exactly as you’d expect (walls provide cover, vantage points or flanking gives you more of a chance to hit your enemy/crit etc.), but where Fort Triumph does begin to set itself apart, and where personally for me it was most fun, is with its use of the environment as a weapon too. Most pieces of cover, such as columns, walls, trees, chests, etc, can be moved or even knocked over making them a vital strategic resource on the battlefield. Your Paladin, for example, can kick across a chest to slam into an enemy opposite, or fell a tree to crush the hapless Goblin hiding behind it.
This use of the environment can then get quite thorough if used right. Perhaps your Mage sends a gust of wind at a pair of stone blocks on an angle, those blocks then slide toward an enemy knocking them back into a further column which then topples over onto his friend behind too in a beautiful Rube Goldberg chain of death and destruction. Environmental damage also has the bonus of stunning its recipients meaning they cannot then attack on their next turn, though once stunned that character then has at least 1 round of stun protection after so you can’t just be continually slamming a goblin into a wall over and over for stun bonuses—as much as that might be incredibly enjoyable to do.
The use of the environment is pivotal to Fort Triumph’s, well, triumph. Every battlefield is built with this aspect of gameplay in mind and for me is where the game excels best. It never gets tiring to figure out how to best link out a chain of dominos to quickly take a number of enemies out of the game, and the little animation for doing so is hugely gratifying each and every time. It also helps to carve out some novelty to the game that stands in a genre that has largely seen it all by now.
As for the environments themselves they tend to be a good mix of destitute caverns, towns with interiors and exteriors to battle in, forest trails, spider lairs, grandiose forts, ogre dens and more. The procedural generation of each battlefield has them feeling like a healthy mix without it appearing like you are merely treading on the same reskinned areas again and again. In fact it isn’t too obvious at all whether there are a number of baseplate versions of each environment, such is the well implemented randomised variety of them throughout the game.
All in all this distillation of the XCOM formula had just enough in it to keep me engaged and enjoying myself throughout its 20 or so hours of campaign play. The environmental play is a good addition to a gameplay formula that otherwise might have felt very tired and is one that I enjoyed immensely. The only slight critique I would have to make of the technical gameplay itself is that the control scheme for consoles is a little clunky, especially when trying to navigate menus.
The D&D Of It All
As well as just basing itself in the fantasy world framework that one might have come to expect from a Dungeons and Dragons adventure, Fort Triumph also uses the very mechanics and tropes of that system to inform the second portion of its gameplay. In typical tactics fashion you put together your battle party, level them up, and mourn when they permanently die in battle. D&D players will recognise this same system for their tabletop RPG too, so, in a move that seems so blindingly obvious that it’s almost infuriating that you didn’t consider it before, CookieByte Entertainment wonderfully marries together these two likenesses to fit the style and mechanics of their game.
This is where the second portion, the “Heroes of Might and Magic III part” as they describe it, of the game begins. Your party possesses its own home base which you can build up and station more heroes at, ready for the call should one of your current lot fall. Building out certain buildings in your fort grants you more bonuses and resources for battle and for adventuring. In the meantime, your adventure party takes to the wastelands beyond, and this is where it really begins to feel like a classic D&D adventure. On a given day you have a set distance your party can travel across the map, and within that distance you can find and interact with a number of random encounters, take your chances in battle for protected treasures, and search for upgrades to aid your fort building and your party. It manages to distil the travelling portion of any D&D campaign into a neat little simulator which, while I typically find tiring in real D&D campaigns, is a total blast here.
Your enemies also have rival adventure parties embarking across the land, and you can either intervene with them along the way or be forced to defend your own fort from them should they make it there. This was a nice little layering to the game that I thoroughly enjoyed as it allows you to feel like you’re really partaking in a proper fantasy adventure where your heroes are building up their skills and rapport along the way. In later stages of the game you’ll also be able to establish secondary and tertiary adventure parties and forts so that you can really stretch your way across the map and dominate your foes. With the multiple parties too Fort Triumph finds itself a neat little corner again away from the XCOM comparisons that I found myself enjoying a lot.
The story is straight out of any D&D campaign book meaning it is a much of a muchness, but that’s no terrible thing when mixed in with the knowing winks and jokes that it is primarily going for anyway in replicating these standard fantasy fares. Plus the issue of having a characters that can die permanently does also mean it is more difficult to wrap a thorough story around a cast of characters too, as much as, to its credit, Fort Triumphdoes attempt to do so.
Story does not have to be this game’s strong suit anyway when it has gameplay that is purely enjoyable. Plus, if you want to have only a pure gameplay experience anyway then Fort Triumph also offers up a Skirmish mode. I did not delve too deep into this myself but it looks to be set up similar to a Civilisation type game, allowing you to generate random maps either with friends or with AI controlled factions and battle out global war style for total domination.
I was pleasantly surprised by Fort Triumph and I reckon most players will be too. This is a game with plenty of heart and an unbridled onus on joy and fun as much as anything, and quite honestly that is sometimes all you really need in a game. Save your heady fantasy dramas for Amazon’s Lord of the Rings series later next year, this is one purely fun fantasy title that is more than happy to cast an eye across the history and fare of its genre and cackle with snivelling, dirty, goblin delight.
Final Score: 7.5/10