Fort Triumph is built on a simple but scintillating idea: it’s XCOM but with a Dungeons and Dragons aesthetic. That means we get 3D turn-based isometric permadeath coated gameplay with more goblins, dragons and wizards than you can shake a wand at.
Released in 2020 on PC, Fort Triumph has now made the hop, skip and athletics check to jump over to console. I dread console conversions, as they can very easily lead to poorly conceived controls and text so small it cannot be read from the sofa. This sadly all applies to Fort Triumph. Gamepad controls are often messy and counter intuitive, the player forced to navigate menus with a confusing amount of trigger squeezing, and while I’m sure the text boxes that frequently appear are helpful, I’ve no idea what they say.
Then there’s the loading times, which are surprisingly lengthy, and the waiting you’ll do as the CPU in your console spends thinking about how to move each of the many units at its disposal during later levels.
Having said all that and got my moaning firmly out of the way, I can tell you that I absolutely love Fort Triumph. All the expected nonsense of a distinctly average conversion can’t dampen the enjoyment of a solid game well done.
The first thing you’ll notice about Fort Triumph is the charming and chunky cartoon visuals. They are unmistakably reminiscent of Warcraft 3 and Heroes of Might & Magic games, and they’re all the better for it. This is D&D viewed through the bright and bold prism of a Saturday morning cartoon. Characters thud around the 3D isometric battlefields with glee, the comical animation bringing to life everything and everyone you meet.
Don’t let the over-the-top visuals fool you, as Fort Triumph offers deep and challenging strategic gameplay. The main way in which developers CookieByte Entertainment have achieved this is through a focus on the mischievous manipulation of the environment. In fact, nearly ever object in a level can be launched, slammed or crushed against an unsuspecting foe. Having my Ranger launch a grappling hook arrow to yank a goblin into a tree that then fell over and smushed a necromancer, was a fist-pumping moment that left a gleeful grin etched on my face. Every character has a means of messing with the world, be it a kick that sends rocks colliding into foes like skittles on a bowling aisle or the ability to use magical winds to blow over precariously placed obelisks.
It is the way you can chain together all these abilities that provides Fort Triumph its tactical complexity. Indeed, plan a series of chain attacks with reaction skills and overwatch and you can quickly decimate the enemy forces. However, leave a character in the wrong place at the end of a turn and the often devious AI will happily return the favour. Add permadeath to the mix and battles soon become tense encounters where one wrong move can lead to the pumped up Paladin you’ve spent hours levelling up suffering a premature death. It’s the delights of XCOM then, only this time with added giant mushroom tossing.
What’s perhaps less successful is the turn-based overworld that will occupy player’s time between battles. Here you’ll guide your team of heroes around the landscape, capturing buildings, looting treasure and finding packs of foes to battle. There’s also some very basic resource gathering and base building to be done. It’s inoffensive but adds little to the game, serving more as a moderately bland intermission until you get stuck back in to the delightful battles. However, in a neat touch you can skip battles against weak opponents, allowing you to gain the experience without being bogged down in overly easy fights. It’s generous game design that keeps the focus on the killer content and not having to micro-manage tedious filler.
There’s a lot of content to be found here too. There’s four sizeable campaigns to play through, following the misadventures of Humans, Goblins, Undead, and Forest Utopians. Whilst visually distinct, the game would benefit from having greater gameplay variety between each faction. Far too often it’s a case of more of the same tactics with an aesthetic reskin. Fortunately, a compelling and genuinely hilarious story, one which happily and humorously deconstructs the fantasy genre, will help see the player through to the end.