Expeditions: Conquistador Review
Back in 2011 I created a Steam account in the hopes of using my newly-acquired job to fund gaming. Especially with all of those fantastic sales I’d been hearing about. Three months later I was, again, looking for work and my computer needed to be reimaged. Nearly two years later and my exceedingly long tenure with Broken Analog (half of a week I think) has inspired me to reinstall the program.
That… and I watched the release of the Xbone.
My first foray back into non-MMO PC gaming starts with Expeditions Conquistador – a tactical RPG developed, indie-style, by Logic Artists. You start as a nondescript guy or girl with horrible tastes in clothing who gathers up an adventuring party to go explore the new world. Or the old one. It’s complicated, they just call it the “mainland”. Before you can get there, though, your last stop before getting to wherever it was you were going lands you on lockdown until you solve the local governor’s problems.
This is the first of a few initial stumbling blocks in an otherwise good game; the first half of this game feels like an overly long tutorial. You’re stuck on this island fighting off other Spaniards and maybe some natives, depending on how much of a jerk you are. They make up for it though, through the choices you can make, even while on the island. There are many branching paths you can take that all seem to lead back to a single event, but it all feels natural, no matter what path you’re taking.
At the start, you get to pick your team from a large set of soldiers, hunters, doctors, scouts, and scholars. You’ll want a strong mix of each kind of unit because they have a wide variety of different skills in and out of battle. Aside from telling you what weapons they initially carry, they also tell you the unit’s entire life story. Unlike other games that do this, though, the stories might actually come up in dialog events. I recommend picking units based on their personalities. Each unit has a measure of loyalty which is affected by the choices you make during your adventures. If a unit’s loyalty is too low, they might leave or even start a revolt, so while you can’t have it all, try to choose units who think in line with you. While you get a few chances to pick up additional troops, mostly you’ll just be stuck with racists, especially if you’re trying to run the peaceful or diplomatic playthrough.
Gameplay is divided into two separate sections: Battle and Exploring. The battle system is actually pretty straightforward. You either shoot your enemy or hit them with pointed sticks until they stop moving or you’ve lost. Well, you can also heal your people or do some fancy scholar things but it’ll just come back to damaging people until they fall down. The exploration system is a bit awkward but ends up being the stronger of the two systems. You basically have a set amount of move a day, moving on the roads gets you farther but all the random goodies are off in the wilderness. After your move is used, you have to camp for the evening. This is when you send your hunters off to get food, your scouts out to get random stuff, your scholars to make battle-augmenting stuff and your doctors can maybe make medicine… depending on the goodies you find.
Of course, it’s far more complicated than that, otherwise this would also be on a console. Suffice-it-to-say, if you enjoy a bit of micro-managing, then you’ll enjoy this. And the exploration possibilities once you do reach the mainland are the true meat of the experience.
There are few things I find slightly annoying. I already mentioned being stuck on an island for several hours while you deal with the wishes of a coward. Another thing that started to get on my nerve was the music; not because of the selection but it would just come on randomly, like it was on a timer. The exploration aspect, while well timed with everything else, could’ve been sped up a little. You can do that yourself by choosing to have more scouts or by inventing a better cart, but it still seems to take a long time to do anything.
Still, it’s a very enjoyable game filled with a bit of intrigue if you pay attention to the dialog and descriptions. It reminds me of playing a good dungeon crawl game, like Shining in the Darkness, only with detailed battle graphics and more focus on exploration.
Final Score: 8/10