When i got the opportunity to review Ubisofts new tactical real-time strategy game Champions of Anteria, developed by Blue Byte, I was excited. This is because it had been a long time since I’d played a game like this, though to be fair Champions of Anteria is so unique that there aren’t many games quite like it. It’s part city builder, part RPG, and part tactical RTS, and all of this works together because Champions of Anteria makes sure each individual aspect of its game is enjoyable by itself, and comes together in a perfect recipe for a game. This is not to say Champions of Anteria is perfect, but it is incredibly enjoyable.
Champions of Anteria pits you against 3 rival nations as you try to expand your territory and defend it from their attacks. These rival nations are controlled by AI and they have their own agenda and leveling system, meaning sometimes they may fight you or sometimes they might beef with another nation. They level up the same way you do, by gaining renown through territory expansion, which means to weaken them all you need to do is cut off their supply of renown. There is a non-linear map so you can pick and choose which territory you want to attack each turn, depending on what it rewards you with (either gold or renown). When you attack or defend a territory, it will have you play an RTS mission in which you will complete one of there many different objectives like fortifying defenses, saving a spy or escorting supplies. The variety of these missions helps the game stay fresh and each mission even has optional sub-goals that reward you with benefits both inside and outside the mission. When you go into these missions, you will be given the option to play as 3 of 5 unique heroes, each with their own skills and elemental affinities. Each hero represents one of the 5 elements, these elements being fire, metal, nature, lightning, and water. These elements each have an element they are strong and weak against, making it a strategic choice when picking your squad for a mission. Don’t worry though, you don’t go into missions blind, you get given an idea of what elements you’re likely to encounter.
When you finally pick the territory you are going to be spreading your freedom to or defending from terrorists, you enter into the RTS section of the game. Though calling it an RTS is slightly misleading as there is a pause/play function that allows you to actively stop the game and set sequences of commands for each of your heroes. This is what drew me to Champions of Anteria initially, as it creates this strategic overview play-style where you are constantly stopping the flow of the game in order to give your team the advantage and avoid taking unnecessary damage. In theory this is an amazing concept, but it is ruined by the lack of consistency in how heroes move and cast spells, and also just by annoying glitches. When a game almost completely revolves around the ability to stop the game and strategize your next moves in advance, you would think they would make it so that the game is consistent and easy to follow. This is not the case in Champions of Anteria as you can set a long list of commands for your character only to have them perform the first one and then proceed to ignore the next spell in the list of commands, forcing you to manually baby them step by step. This micromanagement breaks the flow of the game too much as you end up having the game paused more than playing. There are also glitches with the AI where they will just randomly run away in a circle before coming back, at first I thought they were flanking but as my whole squad chased I realized I was as mislead as my squad. This is a minor annoyance and will most likely be fixed soon but if you look away for a second it could result in your team chasing a rogue AI and being spotted by too many enemies to handle. I also found that most skills are made to be activated as soon as they come off cool down, meaning that there’s little strategy to using them besides positioning, and they have little impact on the gameplay besides smashing buttons.
It was a smart move including RTS sections because it gives you the option to either go into the missions all guns blazing killing anything in your path while chugging potions like a fraternity, or take a more tactical approach avoiding fights and only killing when necessary. This is good because it caters to all players, and sissies too (this is a joke, I played it like that) which gives extra variety and added strategy. In my opinion it was almost pointless to just kill everything because it just costs you potions, and there’s no extra reward like more gold, but maybe I’m just a prude. One thing I hope they change is that there is no ability to retreat and hide until the enemy stops being aggro, as I had times where I accidentally attacked an enemy over the wall with a ranged champion and they would run the entire length of the map just to find me.
After you attack, your heroes have to travel back to your city before they can attack again, which takes a day. So when you can’t conquer any other territories, what’s left to do in Champions of Anteria? Well, for the other part of your game you will spend your time managing your city and resources. “but Dion, all I want to do is kill shit because I have pent up unresolved anger issues which are sated through videogames”. I know, I too thought that, but I was actually incredibly surprised by the quality of the city building and how much I got into it. I’m not usually a fan of city builders, but I found myself enjoying the idea of strategically positioning my woodcutter buildings in the forest areas to maximize my fire elemental growth while I avoid putting waterworks near residents. The way all the buildings interact make this light city builder enjoyable, and even if city management isn’t for you I would advise against neglecting it, as if you lack resources for potions and turrets you will find yourself at a disadvantage when battling.
Renown also plays a massive part in this city builder as it helps you unlock paths in Champions of Anteria‘s massive skill tree. The things you can unlock vary from different turrets and potions, to new weapons or outfits to help defend and strengthen your character. As a person that appreciates aesthetics, I was pleased to see that the outfits don’t just change stats but change the in game look of characters which is something small but appreciated. As you open up the skill tree, you also gain the ability to expand your hero’s roster of skills. These skills are chosen between two options on each level up, giving a lot of different possible combinations for each hero. The options are generally between skills that help your team/hinder the enemies or deal damage, but it switches it up by giving some heroes abilities from elements that they aren’t aligned too. This means heroes aren’t only good for killing a single type of enemy and helps your team cover some of their weaknesses.
This game is tagged as funny on it’s Steam page, but I wouldn’t say the humor is for everybody. Its jokes just come off a little bit kiddish and a bit forced, but I did find a couple of occasions where I had a wee chuckle. For instance, the original crew you start off with consists of Vargus, Brother Anslem and Nusala. Vargus is an absolute idiot and Brother Anslem is no genius, but I found it amusing when Nusala, being the only one of any intelligence, shut Vargus down for trying to show off and protect her because she’s a girl when she was capable of it herself. All in all if you are looking for a comedy game this most likely isn’t for you, though comedy is subjective so I can’t say for sure. What I can say is that the narration wasn’t awful and it had me cracking a smile a few times.
The one thing that did blow me away was the initial cut scene art style, along with the loading art. The majority of the game has a cartoonish art style which while isn’t horrible, but doesn’t impress me either, but when I first watched the opening cut scene I was blown away by the beautiful hand painted art style.
Champions of Anteria is a small game filled with enjoyment and mild replayability. It has a small crew of heroes but that will be expanded with the release of new free DLC, switching up how your team will play out. It has a few minor bugs that while aren’t game breaking are annoying, but I’m sure these will be fixed in the future. In the end it does what I find a lot of games fail to do, gives me enjoyment. It wasn’t super difficult to the point where I threw my keyboard or super complex to the point where I couldn’t understand it, it was simple enough and perfect in that respect.