Champions of Anteria is a tactical strategy roleplaying game, which sees you control a party of heroes, each with their own elemental alignment. While the core paper-scissors-rock systems that underpin much of the experience are rewarding, some poor feedback and technical issues sour much of the experience.
The game takes place from a top-down perspective, where players issue orders to three heroes. Each one has a particular alignment – fire, lightning, metal, water, or nature – with a suite of associated abilities. You can match certain elements together to increase your damage output, or mitigate incoming attacks – with enemies able to do the same.
Tying this all together is strategic character placement, and the ability to pause the action at any time. Triggering abilities from a hot bar paints cones and other areas of effect on the terrain, while movement actions draw arrows. Much of the game is spent in this tactical pause screen, and the presentation around it is sharp; as battles grow more complex and you pause to queue up your next set of moves, the screen starts to look like a football playbook. It’s nice to look at, and minimises confusion as to how your stratagems will unfold.
Sometimes however it doesn’t feel like there are enough systems in place to warrant all the time spent placing your heroes tactically around the map. If heroes deal too much damage in one attack, enemies will detach from their current target and make a beeline for them. There’s no way to track threat, nor is there anything like attacks of opportunity, punishing enemies for leaving a hero they’re already engaged with. Fights begin surgical, but often devolve into chaos because there’s no way to course-correct them.
Boss battles are where your understanding of positioning and elemental alignments will be put to the test. They play out like MMO fights, having discrete phases. Each one makes the boss augment his behaviour, often throwing different abilities and tactics your way. They provide a nice break from standard encounters, but they can wear out their welcome quickly, with some bosses rotating through their phases multiple times because they have too many hit points.
While strategizing and exploiting the elemental weaknesses of your foes is enjoyable, the presentation surrounding much of the combat is poor. Sound effects just don’t hit hard enough, and animations don’t have any pop to them. Aural and visual feedback is just flat. On the flip side, spell particle effects are bright and colourful, and a treat to behold in both motion and the tactical pause. I do wish there was a way to toggle them off while paused however, as your game plan can be difficult to decipher under all the sparks and flames.
A home base system also exists, adding beats to your excursions in the wild. From your castle, you can expand into surrounding zones and exploit them for resources. Those resources can be used for crafting items like potions or weapons, which you can outfit to your heroes before they venture back out into the field. It isn’t particularly deep – often boiling down to you placing the correct building in the correct zone to maximise generated resources – but it provides a nice distraction from the tactics-heavy encounters.
Technical issues do plague much of the experience however. After boss encounters, party members need to walk to their position in a cutscene before it can progress, like kids in a stage play. Standard stuff, but sometimes their pathing breaks, meaning you have to watch AI struggle against itself in total silence. Some enemies get stuck in the ground and have their animations trigger in an infinite loop. In select stages, scrolling the camera over certain landmarks causes the game to stutter, even though prior to that it would run at a solid 60. Textures sometimes stream in too slowly, or not at all.
Champions of Anteria is a solid tactics game, with a rock-paper-scissors elemental alignment system that is fun to exploit. Boring character animations and limp sound-work undo a lot of the goodwill that the combat engenders, and a bevy of technical issues hold this otherwise charming, lovingly crafted title back.