Champions of Anteria didn’t start its life with that name – you may remember it from a few years back in 2014, as part of the longstanding Settlers franchise. After a closed beta period and fan feedback, the game was renamed and heavily modified in to what it is today – an action strategy title that is based around rock-paper-scissors elemental gameplay.
The core of the game is simple: controlling a team of three heroes, you move through a level with a top-down perspective, fighting enemies and completing objectives. You can issue tactical orders to your squad, and have them perform one of four abilities – like charge through a pack of enemies with a shield, or shoot an arrow through a line of them.
Each hero on your squad has an elemental affinity tied to them, meaning the type of damage that they deal with each swing (and with their abilities) will be different. For example, warrior Vargus is a Metal type, hunter Nusala is nature, and cleric Anselm is lightning. You can exploit elemental weaknesses for extra damage, but enemies can also do the same to you.
The paper-scissors-rock nature of the combat actually lends itself to a great deal of strategizing. Individual combat encounters become small puzzles that need to be solved in order to progress. You pause and queue up orders, and them watch them execute to perfection like a properly compiled program. The one downside is that it takes a while to become comfortable with the elemental differences.
The presentation around the combat is highly informative, and a pleasure to look at. Queuing up orders makes the battleground look like a gridiron playbook, as lines and cones intersect over each other and enemies. The one problem I had was when graphical effects – like explosions, or arcs of lightning – would busy up the screen, making it impossible to see what was going on during the paused tactical view.
Punctuating missions out in the field is a base-building mechanic. Between excursion you can expand your city with different amenities, all of which generate different resources, or give you access to purchasable equipment. To make the process a little more engaging, your village has different zones like mountains or rivers; create appropriate buildings in them, and you’ll generate more resources.
To expand the types of buildings you have access to – and by extension, the equipment you can carry out in the field – you’ll need to progress down a tech tree. To purchase new building options, you have to earn Renown -- which you earn by completing missions in adjoining territories, conquering them. As you feed Renown in to the tree and gain new shops like blacksmiths, you can also expand into more of the previously mentioned zones.
The types of missions you encounter out in the field vary, from simple eliminations to escort missions. All of them have unknown sub-objectives too, the majority of which in my time with the game amounted to taking down difficult monsters like ogres or lizard-men. Completing missions expands your empire, earns you money, and sometimes grants you new hero.
Pivotal moments in the game are brought to a head with boss fights, that share more in common with MMO raids than anything else. Bosses operate in phases, changing up their tactics as their health drops to certain percentages. For example, the heavily-armoured knight Fendrel starts as a standard one-on-one encounter, but soon calls in healers to help him.
A lot of useful information is communicated in these fights too, like the boss’ cooldown timer, and when he’s going to unleash his next big ability. The only problem I found is that the bosses were damage sponges – the fights became a little predictable after you discovered their gimmick, and it just became a matter of whittling them down.
Champions of Anteria has me intrigued. The rock-paper-scissors nature of the combat, in conjunction with the tactical controls tying it together, leads to some satisfying encounter resolution. Graphical elements that make it hard to read the details that you need to survive however, can be a little annoying.
Champions of Anteria is set to release for PC on August 30.