The first Advance Wars game is probably the most hyped I’ve ever been for a release. I don’t know why I was so looking forward to it, since I’d never played any kind of tactics or strategy RPG before, but I couldn’t wait. When the GBA launched, it quickly become one of my favorite games and started my love for grid-based combat.
Since then I’ve tried a whole lot of tactics games with a whole lot of interesting ideas. Generally, the ones that lean closest to Advance Wars are my favorites, while more character-based ones don’t click as well.
With that in mind, it could be a personal taste that is keeping Fort Triumph from clicking with me. It’s a silly, character-based tactics game with procedural generation and an awesome emphasis on battlefield interactions, but it’s just not for me.
The loading screen when you start up Fort Triumph shows a goofy-looking wizard using a spell to float a few polyhedral dice as he grins towards the player. This does a wonderful job of setting a tone for the game.
Like any good tabletop role-playing game adventure, the story starts in a tavern as some downtrodden adventurers decide to go into business for themselves. A tongue-in-cheek meta-awareness of fantasy and RPG tropes runs through the whole story. It’s silly, but there are some good chuckles here and there.
The weird thing is that the game is also procedurally generated. There are clearly some skeletal beats that you’ll follow each time you play, but both the overworld map you explore and the combat encounters you engage in are randomly generated. This is great for variety, but it takes away from the handcrafted feel that I usually like in both my storytelling and tactics games.
It wasn’t a problem, but the randomization didn’t click with me nearly as well as the same in Curious Expedition 2 did.
Movement is Key
My favorite aspect of Fort Triumph is how it makes use of the environment in combat. Like XCOM or Mario + Rabbids, positioning is an important part of defensive strategy. The battlefields are littered with walls, ridges, trees, and rocks. The taller the obstacle, the better it works to protect a character from opponents' attacks, represented by a hit chance percentage.
The fresh take that Fort Triumph brings is the way you can turn movement into an offensive tactic. Your characters have different abilities that allow them to affect movement on enemies and even environmental obstacles.
What this means is that you can turn an enemy's attempt to take cover against them. Say a goblin is hiding behind a tree: your ranger-type character can loop behind him and then throw a grappling hook up into the branches. They’ll give it a good tug, and pull the whole tree over on top of their foe.
The ideas here are all a lot of fun on paper, but I’m not finding myself having a lot of fun in practice. I think some of the issues I’m having are coming from the translation of what really seems to be a PC interface to a console control scheme. I had a similar issue with A Long Way Down, another game I liked in theory but not in execution.
Most of the interface is pretty well labeled, but there are some interactions that aren’t. You can have your characters act in any order, but nowhere on the screen does it seem to tell you which button to hit to change characters. I don’t know why it didn’t click for me, but every turn I had to randomly press my D-Pad, shoulder, and trigger buttons to figure out how to switch. I honestly do not know as I’m writing this which button does it.
On PC, I’m guessing you just click on the character you want to use.
Fort Triumph is a totally solid game with some really cool ideas. I’m not sure if it’s the storytelling or the character-based combat or the interface on the Switch that’s holding me back, but something just doesn’t feel right. I didn't get far enough in this game to give it a rating, but I can totally see how someone would love it. I just keep trying to pick it up and end up bouncing off it like a throwing knife off plate armor.