Conquest of the New World
Poor Old Columbus, Eh? For centuries he was revered as a hero; the discoverer of the New World. And then suddenly, as the age of political correctness dawned, he became something of an outcast, a leper. This discovery thing had all been a bit of a hoax. I mean, how can you 'discover' a continent when it is already awash with pesky natives? In Interplay's forthcoming Conquest Of The New World, con-man Chris makes an appearance as a Portuguese explorer. Who knows, maybe he can redeem himself by wiping out the natives and claiming the discovery as his own once more.
Pitted against him are fellow explorers from Britain, France, Holland Spain, for this is a multi-player game with network and modem options. Politically correct types can even take the role of the natives and fight back against the imperialist dogs.
Network games are all the rage since Doom and Command & Conquer. Most of these games are real-time, but Conquest Of The New World goes against the trend by using a turn-based system. Normally this would mean three comatose players slumped over the keyboard waiting for the fourth to complete his turn, but Interplay have got round this by introducing time penalties for procrastinators (although whacking the buggers with a big stick can actually be quite good fun). In any event, turns pass by quickly thanks to a number of automated actions. If you're into micro-management however, I wouldn't advise trying this in network mode, unless you're keen to receive a lot of rude messages.
The object of the game is to discover key features such as lakes and rivers, and to found colonies. All of these can be named and whatever you decide to call them actually appears on the map, making you feel protective about your new kingdom. Points are awarded when each goal is achieved (a running total of the scores can easily be accessed). This is quite important as diplomacy and trade are an important feature of the game, so if there is a clear leader he'd better watch out for fellow colonialists ganging up. Victory can occur in various forms: trade, exploration or combat.
But for those players who prefer their games a bit simpler, different levels of management are provided. The map graphics look absolutely terrific in svga, as do the little figures running around exploring the territory and, it must be said, indulging in a spot of raping and pillaging. There are also some pop-up 3D animations to add to the fun. The settlements are especially attractive, making the game look like a sort of Sim Colony. The game's sound has also been very well executed, from the tweeting of the little birdies to the more macho roar of cannon fire. Needless to say, the game will be on cd-rom only. A great deal of thought has gone into the interface, with the welcome result that movement and the issuing of any orders is simplicity itself. The Explorers, as opposed to settlers and Leaders, can be set to Auto Mode, whereby they will explore to their heart's content unless instructed otherwise, or they meet an immovable object such as an ocean.
Whether or not you get on with the combat system, however, will be a matter of taste. When a rumble occurs, the screen switches to a grid with the rival factions at each end. You can click on a unit to move and fire but there is little scope for tactical manoeuvre. Last man alive wins, though there are retreat and surrender options. It appears that the person with the biggest force will win, making everything a tad predictable.
The other problem is that the action bears little relation to what's happening on the main map. It's all a bit rigid and abstract; I would have thought it would be better to have combat on the main map, if only in the interest of continuity. Other than that, the game looks sound in all departments, and the diplomacy facility should really come into its own when the game is networked.
Conquest Of The New World's antecedents include Electronic Art's Electronic Seven Cities Of Gold, and to a lesser degree New World, the board game from Avalon Hill. Of course the presentation of Conquest is far superior to the EA title, but it will be fairly interesting to see if the game-play matches that of what was hailed a classic in its day. Mind you, Interplay's games, from Necromancer onwards, have always had the emphasis firmly placed on depth of play, and I wouldn't advise betting against Conquest Of The New World maintaining that reputation.
Conquest Of The New World Is an epic strategy game that takes you back in time and into the role of a 15th Century explorer representing one of the European powers. You play the part of the British, Dutch, Spanish, French or Portuguese -whoever takes your fancy - and your objective is to get across the Atlantic in your little wooden boat and carve out sweet chunks of profitable land. Although there are variations on the same theme, for the most part it means mapping out the New World using your ships and a handful of explorers, finding a good spot to settle and defending your folks from other powers or hostile natives. The better your settlement, the more goods you produce in the form of metals, gold, crops and wood - and the more goods you produce, the more ships, soldiers, settlers, explorers and additional settlements you can create. And the more soldiers and ships you have, the more arse you can kick. Simple, innit?
More variations than Heinz
However, one of the great strengths of Conquest is that you can play it in literally dozens and dozens of different ways. The various powers can be given different personalities, and you can even be politically correct and adopt the persona of the poor old natives. There are different ways to win too. You can play for exploration bonuses and gain points for new rivers and mountains you find, or you can play economics and buy and trade your way to success. Wargamers will no doubt plump for the military option to build extra infantry, cavalry and artillery units as well as warships. Games can be won on points alone (after a certain number of turns), or for being the last surviving power. Conquest is completely network-capable too, so you could get some rare old head-to-head bunfights set up.
The graphics are staggering. Close-ups of the colonies reveal some really nice touches, from occasional grizzly bears and duellists outside your town hall to workers diligently chopping, sawing and digging away. You can zoom right out or right in and the interface is neat and well designed too; there's also a choice of five sound effect channels.
Battles are fought almost board game-style, with specific rules for movement and combat. It's quite easy to get the hang of the combat, and although there are only three types of military unit (apart from leaders), they can have different levels and fighting abilities depending on your colony's success. On the other hand, you start off with muskets and artillery and end up with... muskets and artillery... Alright if that's your bag, I suppose.
Is this thing on valium or what?!
The main problem with Conquest is that in two respects it's slow. And I really do mean slo-o-o-o-ow. On a high-end 486 the pauses between each turn can drive you mad - even on a fast Pentium it's still excruciating. A few contemporary stories are shown on screen to read while you wait, but the fact that some are cut off in mid-flow makes it just all the more antagonising. Worse still perhaps, the game is slow to get off the ground. It takes about four hours' play before things get juicy; by 'juicy' I mean to the point where you can actually do something other than (yawn) watch your colonists chop wood.
But don't get me wrong. Conquest is a superb strategy game with plenty to challenge the exhausted Civilization/Colonization buff. But you've got to work at it - and bloody hard too.
Download Conquest of the New World
PC compatible, P-100
Systems: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game features:Single game mode