Indie Game of the Month - Fort Triumph
It’s been a pretty good month for fantasy games, so I wanted to choose an Indie Game of the Month with the same theme, and thankfully Fort Triumph more than fit the bill for this slot. It’s billed as a fusion between XCOM and Heroes of Might and Magic. Hearing that alone will probably sell a lot of you. It certainly sold me. If you are still a little skeptical, though, let me reassure you that Fort Triumph does not disappoint.
I regard to the XCOM similarities, as you might suspect, you build up a force of units which you send out on missions whose abilities increase making them more important to your army if they don’t die. The difference here is that you aren’t some sort of government organization trying to protect the populace from aliens. Instead, you are a rag-tag group of fantasy murder-hobos just looking for some work in your good old fantasy world, and as all Dungeons and Dragons players know, odd jobs usually do involve killing something. Hooray!
The battle system will be very familiar to anyone who has played XCOM before, focusing largely on positioning and cover. However, there is an extra element of terrain and movement manipulation here that really spices everything up.
For example, many of your abilities have physics-based elements to them. This allows you to move items or terrain features around the map, or even make them yourself. In a sense, you can alter the state of the map’s cover at will, which becomes a major strategy in later battles. Instead of simply moving yourself to cover, you can move the cover to you, among other things.
Your abilities are also, well, fantasy themed rather than sci-fi themed. You’ll be casting magic spells rather than firing guns. You’ll also have a greater focus on melee abilities. In return, you can take a few extra hits than XCOM units can, making it feel just a bit more like a traditional fantasy turn based strategy, but not enough to make it feel like a Final Fantasy Tactics or Fire Emblem clone.
As far as the Heroes of Might and Magic elements go, there is a heavy emphasis on map exploration, except you don’t do this in real time. Instead you pick and choose parties and send them out on excursions to different points of the world map. Sometimes this will yield you precious resources which will give you a huge leg up in further battles. Sometimes, it will be a waste of time. However, the general feeling of slowly inching your way out into the fog of war to see what lies ahead is as gripping as ever. You’ll likely fall into one of two camps, someone who is dying to reveal the whole map and complete every side quest, or someone who simply follows the main path straight to the end, and Fort Triumph is fun for both.
Unfortunately, there are some weaknesses, specifically in the writing. Fort Triumph’s script is largely tongue-in-cheek, lampooning fantasy tropes. Anyone who has played in a DND campaign has experienced one of these, and to be honest the same patterns apply here. When it’s funny, it’s really funny, but when it's not funny, it’s cringey and exhausting.
There’s also an issue of permadeath that doesn’t quite mesh with the narrative. Any character can permanently die, just like XCOM, however, the narrative has been written such that certain characters are important. So should a character permanently die, the narrative will just go on acting like their replacement is the same character, which makes everything kind of incongruent, especially if you die all the time.
What this means is that the main reason for playing Fort Triumph isn’t the narrative, but the gameplay, and to be honest it doesn’t disappoint. Its mechanical pacing is fantastic. There’s always some new ability or piece of equipment for you to fool around with, and you consistently feel as if you are getting more powerful as the game goes on. You’ll push on to explore new locations and fight new battles, not because you want to see what the plot holds, but because you want to see numbers go up.
And let’s be honest, there’s nothing more like a traditional fantasy game than that.
All said, Fort Triumph is a $30 fantasy game that I got quite a few hours of enjoyment out of, and this was in a month with games like Final Fantasy 7 Remake and Trials of Mana to play. It won’t drain hundreds of hours out of your life, but it will scratch that familiar DND fantasy itch that all nerds have. Give it a chance, you’ll be happy you did.