Available On: PC (Steam)
Fort Triumph combines two of my favorite flavors of games: the strategic map exploration of Heroes of Might and Magic, and the tactical combat of XCOM. It’s an ambitious cross-pollination of genres for a tiny indie game that succeeds more than it stumbles, but lack of content and variety hold it back from greatness.
Fort Triumph offers a random skirmish mode as well as a three-map campaign featuring the human faction. In skirmish mode there are four different fantasy races, including humans, goblins, and undead, though everyone mostly plays the same. My starting team of heroes are depicted as a single unit on a large, colorful tabletop map filled with treasure chests, magic globes, artifacts, and monsters.
With a limited amount of movement per day I can explore my surroundings, gathering resources to construct buildings in my home base, equip loot to load out my heroes, and battle enemies guarding said loot. I’ll need to keep a careful watch for enemy heroes and maximize my path each day. Many lootables have choices, such as choosing between money (beetcoins) or experience to level up my heroes, while others grant big rewards at the cost of taking on a penalty for a few battles.
This gameplay structure is a scaled-down, indie version of Heroes of Might and Magic or King’s Bounty, strategy series I’ve dumped hundreds of hours in over the years, but which haven’t had a notable release in a long time. It mostly hits the right notes, but instead of managing hordes of monsters with grid-based battles, it’s entirely focused on individual heroes.
Heroes of Kicking and Shoving
Regardless of faction, there are only four hero classes in the game: paladin, savage, mage, and ranger. Each hero comes with a starting set of skills, but when leveling up they can choose from a random selection of new abilities, including cross-class skills, adding some much-needed depth and customization.
Up to five heroes can form a party together. When encountering an enemy on the map, the game shifts to overhead tactical combat that should feel instantly familiar to XCOM players. Every turn each hero can take up to three actions, including moving and getting behind cover, firing a bow, casting a spell, or bracing themselves with a shield.
Unlike XCOM I’m not dealing with squads of gun-toting sci-fi marines. Though my rangers and mages have ranged attacks, others will need to get in close where they have the ability to not only negate enemy ranged units, but also get a free attack if that unit tries to escape once they’re locked down.
The new twist in combat comes from the physics attacks. Every hero features several abilities that knock down walls, harpoon enemies, or charge through cover. The tiny battle map environments are delightfully destructible, and knocking a towering stone slab onto a goblin deals heavy damage and stuns them for a turn. It’s also possible to set up combo attacks – kick a troll past a waiting paladin, and they’ll trigger an attack of opportunity as they fly past.
It’s a fun system that rewards outside the box thinking, versus simply ducking behind cover and firing off spells and arrows. Unfortunately the game wears out its welcome after a dozen hours.
Aside from unique building upgrades and a few different traits, all the factions play largely the same, with the same heroes and skills. Random enemies never get more exciting and exotic than the standard fantasy skeletons, giant spiders, and goblins. The campaign is fun (with some legitimately funny writing), but only consists of one playable faction and three maps. And while I enjoy the colorful art design, the simplistic visuals would be more at home on a tiny mobile screen than my desktop PC.
Fort Triumph has not been rated by the ESRB, but features a family-friendly art style, minimal violence, and intuitive strategy gameplay. Local hotseat co-op multiplayer is also a big plus for families, though a single match can easily take several hours.
Fort Triumph is a solid indie strategy game in desperate need of an expansion, post-game DLC, or a full-blown sequel that can expand on the satisfying gameplay with more content and depth. Additional character classes, more asymmetrical factions, and at least a few hand-crafted skirmish maps would go a long way toward creating a fantasy tactics game that can stand shoulder to shoulder with the big games it draws so heavily from.