Cantata is a title that I’ve been excited about for quite some time. The art style is fancy, the idea is fun, and I just like the mix of management and tactics – so obviously, I’m vibing pretty hard with this game. Sadly, I missed the chance to play the demo last time but right as I returned from my parents’, I played the heck out of the demo that you can find over here because I’m just that excited about it!
In Cantata by Afterschool Studio, you step into the role of one of the nine Commanding Officers of the three factions! Manage your units, build up supply lines, explore the map, and obliterate your enemies! It’s tactical-war-strategy-stuff mixed with management-sims and I’m all for it, especially considering it has Mod-Support! The three factions that you’ll be able to choose from will be the Humans, Machines or Aliens, all with their own unique powers and weaknesses!
Right from the get-go, I have to say that I love the art style. The cutscenes are featuring beautifully drawn characters while the actual game has a rather detailed and colourful pixel art style, which is an interesting mix to go for but it works as other games have proven before. I really dig it over here. The tunes and sounds on the surface of Shoal provide a nice environment for you to set roots in and as you expand, you may encounter more biomes, obstacles and enemies that all look rather pretty.
The game itself utilizes a system where you have a global resource that you can use to build up your factories and summon units. Relatively soon, you’ll need to create refineries, factories, and other buildings and link those together so that you can produce more advanced units and get a hold of the enemy territories. It feels slow at first but eventually, I noticed that it’s technically a race against time. I need to make full use of my stamina bar at the top or else I’ll fall behind. Similarly, I’ve got to earn experience by getting attacked, by attacking or by exploring, so I’ll have to send in some units to explore and provoke, I guess? Also, there are secrets out there and we don’t know where the enemy is, hence, finding them takes priority early on and hopefully we can disrupt their supply networks.
Your headquarters is the centre of your network and if it gets destroyed, you’re royally fucked, which is why you need to be able to defend your base while also getting a move on. All of that management stuff looks rather simple at first but building, moving and attacking consumes stamina/power, so, you gotta focus on what’s more important in your current turn. Do you expand or do you explore? Do you attack or retreat? On top of that, units get tired and exhausted if they’re used too much in the same turn, increasing their energy costs per move. Hence, you’ll need strength in numbers, more often than not, to combat this system – but numbers also have upkeep. You see where I’m going with this: I dislike the energy system as it adds a bit too much management to this game, making it too complicated at times but I like the idea overall. In my opinion, it’s interesting, but again, could be simpler.
And well, eventually, you’ll run out of your initial resources, which means the end for the game, really. Games are hence not endless and eventually, you’ll need to move out and attack since all buildings are locked behind your player level that is only increased through the power of your units – as mentioned before. This creates a certain sense of urgency for the game and makes it a bit more fast-paced. You don’t get locked into games that run for ages – and I love that. Overall, Cantata is lovely but I find some of these systems to be too much. I mean, with a bit more polish, it’s probably a great title that I’d still love to get into but the power you need for every unit’s moves is really frustrating, in my opinion. Still, I’d recommend trying out the demo yourself or wishlisting Cantata on Steam. Wishlisting stuff can help devs out a lot!