Champions of Anteria delivers a light-hearted fantasy romp with solid strategy elements, but a lack of content beneath surface level means the game lacks that special something.
In spite of its status as one of the most long-running strategy franchises on the market, it’s been a quiet time for The Settlers series of late. Indeed, since 2010 and the release of The Settlers 7: Paths to a Kingdom and The Settlers Online, the franchise has been silent. However, when news broke of a spin-off title named The Settlers: Kingdoms of Anteria, many fans of the franchise were intrigued to see what Ubisoft Blue Byte had in store.
Unfortunately for purists of The Settlers, things did not quite go according to plan, and after a period in beta Ubisoft revealed that the project had morphed into something else entirely. The game has now seen release in the form of Champions of Anteria, and the title does feel like a very different beast in comparison to its franchise origin.
Champions of Anteria blends together RPG and RTS elements, and the core gameplay comes in the form of single player tactical strategy. The player is put in charge of up to three heroes at once, and is tasked with the usual fantasy fare of fighting of ghoulish creatures and bandits. The title has real-time combat but with active pause functionality, meaning that users have a fair amount of control over proceedings.
This direct strategy is fairly simplistic in nature, perhaps lacking some of the nous from games such as Divinity: Original Sin, but nonetheless fans of the Larian Studios RPG, or those who have enjoyed the likes of the Baldur’s Gate series, could find some joy with the title. Being able to control three varied heroes at once is a fun touch, and the game’s combat system also has its own interesting elements.
Perhaps the aspect that stands out the most when fighting in Champions of Anteria is the title’s use of magical elements. Each character, be it a player-controlled hero or an enemy, is intrinsically tied to an individual element. The elements in question are fire, metal, nature, lightning, and water, and each of them works in a rock-paper-scissors system similar to that used in Pokemon.
In short, this means that the player will need to choose which hero takes on which enemy with a fairly decent deal of care. There is no time to pick favorites in the game, as the user will need to ensure they get to grips with each of the heroes to ensure that each element is covered to the best of their ability.
This element mechanic is perhaps the most obvious draw of the game, and although many other fantasy RPGs have used enemy weaknesses are part of the gameplay, the use of elements in Champions of Anteria is so on-the-nose that players simply have to give it attention. It’s a neat touch, and one that is handled well – although a lack of variety could lead users to get bored quickly.
It’s this lack of depth that often comes back to haunt Champions of Anteria, and the title certainly does suffer from a lack of variation and a dearth of real complexity. Although the boss battles are often fun, all too often the individual battles are a little too straightforward to really vex players. Sometimes, it does feel as though the game has spread itself too thin, lacking the intricacies of the likes of the Pillars of Eternity.
This also becomes apparent with the title’s base-building elements. Users are able to develop their heroes through increasing the strength of a village base, which gives a simplistic resource management system where the player can slot buildings into place, and unlock more parts of the village as the game progresses. Unfortunately, it’s a very simplistic system, and if (once more) compared to the castle from Pillars of Eternity, it feels almost liked an unnecessary add-on that was left over from Champions of Anteria’s ties to The Settlers.
That said, Champions of Anteria will still find a lot of love from users who are looking for a more relaxed strategy game, and the title has plenty of charm. Even if the gameplay is not always at its most enthralling, players can instead find something to love in the game’s storytelling, characters, and world. In particular, Champions of Anteria has a style of light-hearted humor that many will find appealing.
Perhaps most similar to the Fable series in style, Ubisoft Blue Byte has done a great job of making a fantasy story that is much more The Hobbit than Lord of the Rings, away from the doom and gloom of the current fare of fantasy titles and instead reveling in its light-hearted attitude. At its core, Champions of Anteria is fun, and that follows through all aspects of the game, from comedic narrative elements through to the relationship between the heroes themselves.
Of course, many of the problems with the Fable series are also apparent here – albeit in a strategy setting rather than a full-on RPG. It’s a lovingly crafted world with a cartoonish artistic style, and a great deal of humor and charm. However, when that veneer is stripped away, the core gameplay feels very primitive.
Nonetheless, those after a light bite of RTS/RPG gameplay with a positive attitude will find a lot of fun with Champions of Anteria. It is unlikely to blow any players away, and fans of The Settlers will find little to keep them occupied, but there’s a nice little game here. Without expecting too much, Champions of Anteria delivers a decent injection of fantasy humor into the market.
Champions of Anteria is out now for PC. Game Rant was provided with a PC code for the purposes of this review.