Cantata preview is one of the more troublesome pieces I have ever written. On one hand, I like the game’s ~~~vibes~~~ and the art is great. On the other hand, I don’t know whether there’s enough meat on the mechanics to make it sustainably fun over a long time. And trust me, the game wants your time.
Cantata is a turn based strategy game with base building that relies on resource chains like Factorio or Anno does. Sorta. The Alien faction only ever needs the resource from the HQ, the rest the buildings can produce themselves, so they don’t really have chains.
Each of the three factions play differently. The Reign is great at ranged combat, but they don’t really have defensive structures, and their basic conscript explodes if anyone even glances at him. On the other hand, the Aliens are a lot more weird, lacking any transports, but making up for it with teleportation and similar shenanigans.
Still, the combat in Cantata preview/Early Access feels barebones. Unit have their HP, their attacks, and not much else – no morale, no accuracy, no armor, and only rarely an ability.
Part of it due to Cantata’s action point system. Previously, EVERYTHING in the game ran on it. Now, the units can move and attack once for free. However, some of them can spend the shared AP pool to Surge one or both of actions (though attack Surge-capable units are rare). You also use AP for building and using abilities. So it’s a resource you have to balance every turn.
The other resource is Supply. Most of the time, HQ (and other buildings, if you’re an alien) draw from the Supply pool to turn it into a precursor material that further buildings transform into goods necessary to construct units. It’s the other scarce resource, since the sources on the map aren’t endless, and some abilities (as well as constructing buildings) rely on it.
Missions are another way the game stands out. In Cantata, the maps are large, and you’re given objective after objective. Each of chapters (that’s how the game calls them) can be like an RTS campaign in miniature, from humble beginnings and scouting to super-unit driven assaults on the ultimate base. You’ll unlock the entire tech tree during each mission. I don’t know if that doesn’t play against longevity of the game, especially when the combat system is fairly simple.
The obvious change in the approach to the action point system shows that Cantata can transform majorly in the development, and the talk about mod tools promises that we’ll be able to do much of that ourselves. So I hope that the Early Access will be the chance for the devs to collect more feedback and make the game slicker or faster. Or just gives them enough time to explain that my issues stem from me being a bad player.