Welcome to ancient Hispania. Developer Recotechnology has reconstructed a bloody terminal on the Spanish peninsula in Numantia, a turn-based strategy game that plays like an ultra-specific RISK expansion. Built on the fantastical historical accounts of an infamous Celtiberian last stand, the campaign has you choosing sides from the start. The Numantian storyline contains defensive and diplomatic decisions paired with brutal, lengthy battles. The Roman option begs for aggressive play and slaughter-style battles. This dichotomy of playstyles retains the game’s freshness as the campaigns are arduous and packed with meticulous skirmishes.
“Defensa numantina” is the Spanish expression that conveys a frantic and suicidal last ditch effort against an invading force. This phrase is the theme present in almost every decision you sweat over when playing the Numantian quest. The first campaign battle will likely result in defeat multiple times. Outnumbered and ill-equipped, the burrowed Celtiberian army has to sulk to creative depths of trickery and stealth to defeat the charging Romans. Their attacks are fundamentally antithetical to one another, and the dance of combat benefits from the stylistic mismatch.
Battlefields are spliced into hexagons that various units can occupy, traverse over, and attack from. The board game-like sheen to the layout adds a playful aesthetic to the blood fields. The contests boil down to spacing and balance. Like a boated chess board, the battlefield appears plain, but the pieces’ unique abilities turn the plateau into a pool of flourishes and parries. Certain landmarks occupy full segments that are blocked from play, but no matter how mountainous or confined the battlegrounds become, these obstructions never reach their strategic potential, much like a paintball field with merely three tiny, scattered installations.
The noncombat portion of the game can be broken down into equipping and diplomacy. The former progresses slowly with obvious decisions like the ones involved with personnel management. You say goodbye to obsolete units without a single tear as the game periodically dishes out OP units. The progression system is rather bland because of the limited options and the dull frequency of upgrades. A stepping stone trudge pigeonholes the experienced to a manufactured leveling.
The diplomacy side offers a lackluster multiple choice mechanic that chops down character development and floods you with poorly established plot. The campaigns are lengthy and a real sense of rushed narration becomes more apparent as your path of deviation grows later in the story. Resembling hilariously convoluted conveniences often found in Choose Your Own Adventure books, Numantia has sacrificed cohesion in giving the player narrative freedom.
The turn-based gameplay requires a hefty adjustment period, but the satisfaction packed into a victory after your first hour-long battle easily justifies the steep learning curve. The board appears one-dimensional, but it expands once your knowledge does. The scarcity of item drops and the slow burn of unit acquisitions actually aid the experience, because you grow with your soldiers and they require some fermentation before being used most efficiently. Loses on the battlefield feel like true permadeath, and finishing off an enemy unit unlocks substantial relief.
Sound and graphic design are merely serviceable, and the game is aware that these elements are just garnishes. The text screens and cut scenes have a unified feel, but lack any semblance of intentional design. Menu navigation and layout takes on an odd trifold format that needlessly segregates elements. Animations have a quirky liveliness, but are ultimately quite limited, which is unfortunate since you watch these miniature soldiers for hours upon a time. Numantia has the in-game girth of many turn-based giants, but fails to expand on the genre. An intriguing historical dive into desperation, Numantia delivers a strategic tour of domination or just plain survival.
Check Out the Numantia Console and Steam Trailer:
Numantia is available for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One for $29.99 and PC via Steam for $19.99.