Early Access Review Songs Of Conquest: A Really Stylish Tactical RPG

Just a few days ago, the anticipated release of Songs Of Conquest turned into the anticipated release of Songs Of Conquest into Early Access. There are times when this hub can drastically change the angle you need to review the game from.

This isn’t really one of those times, because I think I’d recommend Songs Of Conquest in general as it is anyway. However, giving it a year of appreciation for Lavapotion “for figuring out which features we should prioritize, along with the community,” might make me an honest endorsement.

The natural thing is to compare the songs of conquest with the heroes of might and magic. Unfortunately, I only have faint memories from one of those games, which never really caught me. I can’t make any useful comparison, then, but I can notice that Songs Of Conquest, by contrast, immediately captured a lot. It’s a resource-gathering strategy game woven into a tactical RPG, or vice versa, depending on your point of view. Each part is in turn. The first sees you explore a large and beautiful fantasy world maps using the Easel (character witch/hero), visiting dozens and dozens of buildings, monuments and various locations of interest to collect wood and canvas for building or better research and gold to pay for it. Scattered around each map are also constant forces of neutral enemies, who block new passages and often pockets of valuables.

Naturally, you’ll want to do this, which will start a skirmish. This is remarkably intuitive to begin with. Each unit moves on its own initiative (as opposed to each player moving all of its units at once), and can generally move and then attack if something is in range, with a helpful tool tip giving an estimate of the damage it will do, as well as the number of characters within a hostile unit you will kill. Units have a zone of control, which means that any time you try to move while you’re near an enemy, they’ll shoot freely, and the surviving units will counterattack, making engagement a serious commitment. In the meantime, varying units do additional damage within their “lethal range” so it’s generally recommended to get close, but the maps are small enough that they’re also risky. They also feature hexagons of different heights, giving you offensive and defensive bonuses and enough variety that I’ve never felt so routine. There was always enough thought to keep me interested. I’d say I’ve never felt completely lost either, but I’ll tell you about the exception to that later.

The sound and animation deserve special mention. While the maps are lavishly drawn and teeming with detail, it’s the battles that really highlight the talent on display. Every attack looks solid, every unit moves and hits hard. Taking out the enemy is always satisfying, and they all die with a dramatic boom, especially when the latter is on the field, as the game zooms in in a little slow motion.

While the maps are lavishly drawn and teeming with detail, it’s the battles that really highlight the talent on display.

Battles are short and quick, so you won’t be away from the map for long, and every army tends to feel a bit improvisational thanks to the way it relates to your economy. To reinforce your armies, you must visit one of your settlements, which generates soldiers at every turn based on what you’ve built. Evil spirits and powerful monsters are spawned from the orchards, while Empire players can build peasant huts to assemble hardened militias, or taverns to attract enhanced minstrels for defense. Some settlements can be upgraded for gold, wood, and stone, which unlocks more building sites. Large settlements therefore form a natural hub for advanced troop recruitment and quest unlocks that raise unit stats, but limited building slots make expansion critical, so your users will be on the road most of the time looking for more locations as well as more goodies. This in turn means that your armies will be stuck several times further away from the settlement, and thus reinforcements, so you will find yourself recruiting all available neutral mercenary recruitment buildings, or a remote village with limited options. Either this or you will bring home more often.

Alternatively, you could fill a small building slot in a village somewhere with a tower that centralizes all the units you have, at the cost of building a farm to generate gold there, or perhaps stoneworking that would produce stones And Let you upgrade the nearby shrine. The economic strategy aspect of the game seems more subtle and interesting than memorizing the classic RTS build order, but it never gets confusing, and these considerations start to happen only after you get used to the basics, which both campaigns teach well. .

However, it leaves you to your own devices, with minimal information about what the enemy is doing. That’s not entirely bad, but it does leave you vulnerable to the strategy game thing where you’re mathematically judged but you won’t know for another two hours. Your enemies, you see, do the same things you do, right down to smashing loose piles of gold and stone that you can’t reach very slowly, and beating up neutral armies at XP that will level up their owners. Compromising is a matter of choosing one of three skills rather than fiddling with many numbers, but those decisions are still huge, and choosing ones that don’t counteract your enemy’s strengths can cost you that.

There is a lot going on, despite how obvious any individual inflection may be. You must fight and explore in order to raise the level of your practitioners, and deprive your enemy of free resources. You also need to defend your settlements and enemy settlements. I had one game where they ended up several levels behind each player, but probably the best in the game because the map movement bonus I got allowed them to partially destroy enemy buildings and then leave, forcing their owners to escape home instead of taking over my village.

This is where conquest songs can be tiring. You’ll get to a point in tall players where you’ll obviously win, but the enemy will keep taking a weak village for every two people you’re on (which oddly reminded me of Warlords Battlecry 3). Not having a notification alerting you to the presence of the enemy is a problem, but exactly the kind of detail you expect to address in Early Access. A less easy solution is the way in which chasing a weak opponent around the map becomes a nuisance to all involved. While a defeated army can be restored, this is costly, and extends your reinforcements even further. The cards are on the table, though: I hate losing guys. Especially when the balance of the game dictates that losing a big battle means grinding for a few more hours just to get back to where you were before the battle. Feeling the sting of loss might be a problem for me, and it will probably teach me more experience to work on it anyway. While the campaigns are good, the skirmish mode (single or multiplayer) and the map editor leave that feeling like a game that people will really dig into competitively.

This is especially true for the magical system, which requires little explanation. It’s by far the most enigmatic part of the game, and while I can see loyal players get terrified in multiplayer, it’s also the exception I mentioned earlier because it totally overwhelmed me at one point. Each unit in a battle generates magic points at every turn. Toad hunters produce points of creation and destruction, knights produce points of order, frog bosses produce points of chaos, etc. You can cast as many spells as your player knows and has points. Many spells need points of multiple types, and users can learn more powerful forms of the same spell at a level or find some artifacts.

This gets complicated when you consider that any time I’ve talked about a “unit” here, that unit actually represents anywhere between one and a hundred individual creatures, as is slightly the case in Master Of Magic. But each unit of a type generates the same points no matter how many objects there are in it. Obviously, you’d better fill a place in the army with 50 out of 50 militiamen, right? They will hit hard and live longer. But if you split it in two slots, it will generate more magic for you. Suddenly that player with fewer troops spread across 9 army slots has a lush magical garden.

All of this was good until I encountered a necromancer. My friends, you totally got it destroyed. Somehow, all three of my armies who trampled everything in their path were completely wiped out in two turns. After nearly a day spent on the run, reorganizing armies, and re-equipping all my attackers until the game’s own accounts classified the fight as “easy”, my forces were still facing an army that could somehow cast multi-area attack spells in every Turn, on the spot, which routinely deals 400-600 damage, followed by necromancer units that had their attacks in the bloody area and inflict hundreds more. For reference, the Queens of the Expensive and Fully Ornate Magical Forest had a special attack as well. Deals 30 damage. Oh, and anyone who survived this assault was wiped out by mice. Including knights, who always die instantly or do one round of medium damage before they are instantly eliminated. Ten thousand of that candy cost me. I could have had hundreds of militias for it. While this enemy was effortlessly casting what I presume was called the LMAO GG, my best offensive spell took two turns to do less damage than shouting on an enemy, and my most effective spell was the one that traded two units.

But. But but but. I figured out a way around this, eventually. I couldn’t fight this ridiculous band of old men in scabbard robes, but I could hit their cities and run until one of my attackers raised the level enough to give all of his troops magical resistance. Well, I know now, right? Lesson learned. I would have appreciated someone telling me four hours ago that this enemy could just ripple anyone in sight, because I could easily focus on anti-magic skills just to cross an enemy player focused entirely on their abs. So I don’t know. He definitely needs more clarity about what enemy abilities and spells actually do, and maybe some balancing tweaks are right – but with all the frustration of one man, it was an anomaly in an otherwise excellent experience. Hey, even if it’s not just horrible, a little rebalancing is all it takes to fix the one major issue I’ve had. I haven’t fallen in love with the conquest songs, but I think a lot of people will do so next year.

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