Saturday, 7 April 2012

Confrontation (PC Video Game Review)

Read the review in full on

If this review needed to sum up Confrontation in one word it would be “unpolished”. This was a title with massive amounts of potential, something which could have been adapted into a very successful game – but is held back by some very obvious mistakes.
Based upon the fantasy tabletop wargame of the same name, Confrontation is set in a grimdark world divided by continual war, besieged by horrors and on the brink of Rag’Narok. The tabletop game focused upon small bands of individual heroes, each with their own class. Better yet it was being made by the developer Cyanide Studios who successfully created a faithful adaptation of another tabletop game, Blood Bowl.

With in depth backgrounds, a system which could easily be adapted for video games, a developer who had shown they knew what they were doing - this should have been a solid title. Instead what we got was something which felt like it needed several months more work or a much clearer idea of what was being made. The biggest example of this is the campaign which feels very minimalist and lacks immersion due to the makers making the number one mistake in storytelling – the player is constantly told things rather than being shown them.


Confrontation and all related characters and media are owned by Rackham Entertainment. Confrontation (Video Game) was developed by Cyanide Studios.


  1. There's two schools of thought concerning video games (specially RPG) and their artistic/creative part.
    In modern days some people have started to think that the art in video games is like painting, it only needs to be beautiful, doesn't need compelling stories, intelligent gameplay, believable characters in universe etc...

    I'm from the other school : a video game is the best artistic tool to tell a compelling story, after all, it's the only media where you can have an impact on the story.
    For me the artistic part in a video game can be broken down in two categories :
    - The story, that should be considered like a book : building a world, respecting its rules, building realistic characters (for their world) and make an original and compelling plot (without so many clichés that it becomes predictable).
    - And the reactivity of the world to the player's actions or choices (it's what separate the video game from a simple book).

    99% of today's game come from the first school of thought.
    In the last 10 years, with the exception of Alpha Protocol, i haven't seen a single video game with a story that wasn' obviously written by game developper who doesn't have a clue about world building or story telling.
    Where is the time when people got paid as story-writter for video games?

    Showing instead of telling forces you to create graphics for every single action or cut-scenes for every events you can witness, it will either cost you millions to make everything you can think of, or it will limit you to what you can show graphically.

    Why are books always so much better than their movie counterpart? Because a writter can use absolutely everything he can think of without adding millions in production costs.

    All that ranting was to say that i'm glad to see games like this again (haven't played it yet so i can't say if it's on par with monsters like fallout or planescape Torment but i appreciate the trend).

    I don't know if you've heard of it but what i'm anxiously awaiting these days are kickstarter-funded "Project Eternity" and "Wasteland 2", and seeing how the funding went, i'm glad to see that there's a whole market thinking along the same lines, the only barrier was publishers and if they don't react they could crumble.

    Sorry for this long, late and badly written (english isn't my first language) response and thanks for the review : what you consider flaws made me want to try this game.

    1. For starters, you did fine despite English not being your original language, there were only one or two real slip ups. You were certainly more coherent than the average expletive-filled raging comments I have to censor from fans of James Cameron.

      However, while I understand where you’re coming from I think you don’t quite comprehend the flaws in your own argument. For starters, you seem hellbent upon basing a visual medium upon another one which is constructed purely from words. Books use the imagination certainly, but just as they can do things films can’t; they can’t pull off the same kind of spectacle films, television or video games can. Ignoring for the time being things like battle scenes or settings; if a character is badly written or has a moronic out-of-character moment in a visual medium they can sometimes be saved by the conviction of the person playing them. Who might be able to elevate the performance to the point where you can just about forgive them for it. Novels however lack that same safety net or other aspects of their presentation which might help to offset bad writing and relies purely upon the author to deliver. If they botch characterisation or simply turn out a poorly produced novel there’s nothing to help save it.

      In addition to this I don’t think you quite understand how some stories are created for some video games. They don’t all simply rely completely upon clichés, overlook any interesting world-building aspects or ignore compelling tales in favour of characterisation. Such a broad generalisation would be like claiming every vampire novel has exactly the same flaws as the Twilight series. They differ between genres and the approaches the developers have gone for; so while titles such as Gears of War might indeed fall under your criticisms others such as the Mass Effect series, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Heavy Rain, Bioshock, Silent Hill 2, Spec Ops: The Line and Kingdoms of Amalur completely avoid them. This is largely because the former example placed a great amount of emphasis upon the combat and multiplayer over the story or world while the latter was more interested in the settings, characters, storylines and atmosphere.

      But that aside I think where you’ve really not understood something is the meaning of “show don’t tell”. Show don’t tell isn’t something which was created purely for any visual medium as you describe, to excuse en-mass cut scenes or present events in some flashy over the top way to show off the graphics engine. It means show whoever is playing what’s actually happening and is relevant to just about any form of media.
      To use a book as an example for a moment, if the Lord of the Rings embraced telling rather than showing would have featured the Fellowship entering Moria then cut to them leavins sans Gandalf blurting exposition about what had happened.

      In retrospect I should have made my points clearer but the big issue the game really had was that everything was told through very distant narration while it was supposed to emphasise upon small number of characters. While this has been shown to work in games like Trine, in this case it simply stated that conflicts and distrust had happened rather than showing it in any meaningful way. I was throwing individual figures with names, personas and differing abilities into desperate meat grinders but unlike things such as Dawn of War II, I couldn’t see them as anything more than a skill tree and series of stats. They were just a unit, not a character.

      One final note to make as well. You state that books are always superior to their movie counterparts due to the costs involved. Have you not simply considered the fact they’re weaker because they are being adapted into an entirely different medium? Ignoring problems like executives not caring for the source material, they suffer from the fact the stories are being altered to fit something they were never originally designed for. It works both ways and it’s the reason why actual films are quite often superior to the noverlisations made of them.

  2. Thanks for your reply and i know i'm in the minority when i consider that RPG video games should be a medium to tell a story while involving the player instead of being a competition of best gameplay/interfaces/graphics (even if all of that can help, i just think that it shouldn't be the principal focus like it seems to be nowadays).
    I kind of liked Mass Effect at start but i grew bored of it very quickly when i understood that your choices have very little consequences in the long run (except deciding which of your companion shall die), and i was disgusted with Mass Effect 3 because i played Alpha Protocol just before and that is a game where all of your actions have real consequences for the entire duration of the game (and when i saw critics about both game i was kind of disgusted by video game critics and, unjustly, by ME3 for being praised while AP was shunned).
    Same thing for DE:HR, i played it recently and while finishing the game was enjoyable because the gameplay is well though, i was never into it, i never felt like i was impersonating the character and never felt a tug to know what happens next right now like i should with a good novel or a good story-driven video game.
    I'm playing Fallout 2 right now for the 12 or 13th time and i know every bit of story or character choices available in the entire game by now but i'm enjoying it more than DE:HR or the mass effect series where i had the whole story to discover.

    To conclude on something you said that i don't see in the same way :
    Yes a poorly written character or even scene in a movie/TV show can be saved by the quality of the acting while it cannot be in a novel.
    The thing is, it doesn't need to in a novel because a professional writter who dedicated his entire life to learn how to write plots and characters is doing the writting, and if you choose the right authors/novels there's nothing to save in the first place because the writing is good.
    There was a time where book autors wrote for video games and professional writer for the video game industry was a profession.
    I'm just sad that it's not the case anymore, story/playing character interaction should be the prime focus of the kind of video games i would love... It's been a long time since i last loved a video game (AP comes close but the story isn't wonderful, they did an incredible job on the reactivity to the player choices though).

    Have a good day !

    1. I do no t really undestand your point. You say that you expect the game to be a medium for telling good story, but at the same time, that mass effect was flawed because your choices had little impact. In Baldurs gate your choices have even smaller impact on what is happening through the game - sure few characters will have different opinions some small feature can be unlocked for you(i.e. Planar sphere,...) but all cutscenes will remain the same and you will be forced to do what the game expects you to do - only choice is wheter your character is doing it to save his friends/the world or to kill a bad guy he dislikes.

      Mass effect is very similar in its build. It tells a story of great hero who in the end dies for his cause and allows you to chose his steps between each cutscene and even changes some of them. Unlike BG you have ability to effect what is happening in cutscenes and have some impact on global politics. Unlike BG it offers you three different(somewhat)endings. Like BG the game forces you to play archetypal roleplay or it doesn't really fit.

      I am not saying, that ME is better by BG, not by a longshot. I am just saying that having lot of choices is not the same as telling a good story. In my opinion only three games that truly let you do some big choices about your character were Planescape:Torment, Falout 1 and 2. And in fallout games the story is somewhat pushed into the sidelines with the choices(come on, I know that all my people are going to die, but I want just a peek to the new city I saw in the wastes).

      Bottom line: Wanting both meaningfull story and meaningfull choices is almost impossible(Planescape had how many... 6000 pages of text? While a novell has about 600?). And any game that makes a very good job with at least on of this aspects is a well written game to me.

      As for the Confrontation: The game could be great. But due to distant story telling and major bugs it tends to be nightmarish experience sometimes - much like starwolves 2.