A (Goblin) Smashing Good Time!

HIGH Extremely customizable difficulty, solid AI and tactics.

LOW Limited number of unit types, occasional wonky camera.

WTF Did the humans build a town in a cave?

I’ve really taken a shine to turn-based tactics games lately.  It took me a long time to get into the genre, but now I’m devouring as many titles as I can, which got me excited to try Cookie Byte’s Fort Triumph.  While a few minor issues hold it back, this mix of tactics and light exploration is easy on the eyes, easy to play, and easy to recommend.

The story begins as young, inexperienced heroes meet in a tavern to find their way in the world and make some much-needed coin in the process.  A valiant fighter, a wily, standoffish mage, and a morally ambiguous thief are hired by the local nobility to help clear a village of goblin scum. 

These are the default characters assigned to players as they begin Fort Triumph, and they’re the only ones with personalities and a narrative. The rest of the troops are created characters that are basically generic piles of stats, and there are four basic types — melee-heavy Paladins and Barbarians, and the ranged Archers and Mages. 

In order to make these recruits feel less samey, their special abilities are unlocked somewhat randomly, meaning one mage may have access to a fireball spell, while another not be able to unlock it, or may unlock it much later in their skill development. Even so, I still felt a lack of immersion due to only four characters actually being characters. Interestingly, the player’s highest-level troops are automatically chosen for story missions, which is usually the starting crew. However, it’s possible to break continuity and play with the generic recruits, which is tremendously confusing. 

Story aside, Fort Triumph offers isometric turn-based combat. Each party member has unique skills and successful battles yield money to purchase upgrades. On the field, action points determine how far a character can move or how many times they can attack. The percentage chance of success for every action is displayed beforehand and influenced by environmental factors.  Fortunately, I didn’t encounter many of the dreaded ‘missed with a 90% hit chance’ issues that infuriate some players.

This is all fairly standard for the genre, but where Fort Triumph shines during battle is how environmental and physics-based attacks can quickly turn the tide. For example, units can knock stone pillars over to stun or crush their foes.  Mages can whip up gusts of wind to blow enemies into walls or hazards like poison clouds or acid for massive damage. Careful, though — fires can burn out of control, putting friend and foe alike at risk. 

The default difficulty is no walk in the park, and even the easiest setting offers a bit of a challenge. It’s quite possible to have an entire party wiped out if one isn’t careful (permadeath optional!) which means a trip back to base to recruit another batch of meat shields, err… valiant fighters to join the cause.

Between story missions, adventurers are free to roam a moderately-open map to engage random opponents at will for experience and new weapons and items.  Enemies are identified by difficulty (1 to 5 skulls, 5 being the hardest) so players won’t accidentally bite off more than they can chew.  When back at their home fortress, they can spend gold on improvements like additional movement per turn, or the ability to hire additional heroes and create more adventuring parties.  These additional parties can further explore the map, effectively doubling (or even tripling) the number of actions a player can perform during each turn.  

A bit of healthy grinding in the open world is recommended in order to make the campaign missions a bit easier.  Fortunately, the combat is enjoyable enough that it never feels like a grind, although the camera occasionally zooms in too far during ‘kill cam’ moments when a critical strike is about to occur, making it difficult or impossible to see the action.  It doesn’t affect gameplay at all, it’s just an error in presentation.

While the campaign limits players to the human faction, Fort Triumph also offers a skirmish mode where the undead, goblins, and troll enemies are also available. Unfortunately, although the unit names and skin types differ, the other factions have the same four hero types as the human campaign. This lack of diversity hampers replayabilty, as powers don’t look different and strategies don’t vary based on which faction one is using.

While light on modes and depth, Fort Triumph’s largely enjoyable campaign and satisfying turn-based combat are attractive enough to keep a player’s interest from start to finish. Flinging rocks to smash trolls and setting the ground ablaze to scorch goblins doesn’t get old, and the multiple difficulty settings and permadeath options can challenge even more experienced tactical fans.

Rating: 8 out of 10

Disclosures: This game is developed by Cookie Byte and published by ALL In! Games.It is currently available on PC. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PC. Approximately 13 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. There is a local co-op mode which I did explore for a short time (no one else would play with me). 

Parents: This game has not yet been rated by the ESRB.  The game features cartoon-style violence against human and humanoid opponents with realistic and fantastical weaponry, though there is no blood or gore.  There are frequent references to the undead, and an undead army is a playable faction in the skirmish mode.  There are a few references to alcohol, and the beginning of the title takes place in a tavern.  There was a bit of salty language, though nothing egregious. 

Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers:  All audio cues have a visual component, and all dialogue is in text form at all times.  There are no options to resize or change the color of the onscreen text. This game is fully accessible.

Remappable Controls: No, this game’s controls are not remappable.  The game does not offer a keyboard map diagram, but the tutorial explains each button/keypress.  WASD pans the camera up, down, left, and right respectively.  Q rotates the camera axis to the left while E rotates it to the right.  The left mouse button is used to select menu options and click on individual units.  The right mouse button activates powers/attacks on highlighted enemies.  Powers can also be selected with the corresponding number keys on screen. Esc or the left mouse button cancel a power or attack.  Backspace is the hotkey for ending a turn.  Clicking either button enters a castle on the overworld map. 

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