Conan Unconquered is the first real time strategy (RTS) game to be based on Conan the Barbarian. A survival RTS, it charges players with establishing a base, managing an economy, and holding off increasingly difficult waves of foes which come at you from the sides of the map. If your fortress falls, then it’s game over.
Like most games of this type, the challenge comes from the tension created through the competing needs for a strong economy and effective defense. For example, without sufficient resources (wood, stone, food, gold, population and so on), it will be impossible to mount an effective defense. However, in order to grow your economy, you have to increase the size of your base. The bigger the base, the more area you have to defend.
While you do have some damage dealing defensive structures, as well as walls at your disposal, these really won’t do you much good in the beginning until you’ve managed to locate the various choke-points on each map. Even then, there are flying enemies and spiders – including every arachnophobe’s favourite: the giant spider – that can simply bypass them. Rather, a solid defense lies in a mix of walls and effective use of your small army.
Swordsmen, for example, do extremely little damage but have an insane amount of health and can goad nearby foes into attacking them, giving your fragile ranged units (or your hero) a chance to inflict serious damage. Cavalry are high-cost, high damage rapid response units, perfect for taking out pesky siege-weapons (the battering ram is no joke, and can quickly ruin your day). Sorcerers wield arcane powers capable of laying waste to whole groups of foes, while the Avatar of Mitra – a giant bronze statue that you can summon in times of dire need (provided you’ve built up enough resources to summon it, that is) – can crush enemies (and friends) beneath its massive feet. Really, the main purpose of the walls and automatic defenses is to delay foes until your army can get there.
If you manage to survive long enough to build up a sufficiently powerful force, you may even be tempted to set out from behind your walls to hunt some of the powerful titans the roam the landscape. These provide a stiff challenge, but reward players with both powerful new abilities to help in battle, and points (more on that in a moment).
While there is a campaign, it simply throws increasingly difficult waves of foes at you, and if you like siege-defense games, this is a good thing. After you’ve successfully completed all the scenarios, an ‘unconquered’ scenario becomes available, where you can tinker with the maps settings (how much open space, how many resource points there are, and so on) and, should you choose it, face an infinite number of hostile waves. Also, as players progress through the campaign, they will unlock a fairly hefty digital Conan comic, something Conan fans are bound to appreciate (be warned however, this is Conan, and thus there is a certain amount of gore and nudity).
Somewhat unusually for today’s games, Conan Uncoquered rewards your actions – whether it’s raising buildings or killing foes – with points. Much like Space Invaders of old, the aim isn’t to win, but see how far you can get, and how big a score you can accrue, before you’re inevitably defeated. Players can also create and share specific challenges with their fellow gamers, letting them compete for the highest score (something that the developers did, challenging players to literally beat them at their own game).
Conan Unconquered also features, unusually for this type of game, co-operative multiplayer. Both players can place buildings and assemble their own army as they try to defend their shared base (a microphone and voice chat is a must for the best experience). A nifty feature is that while income from resources is split between players, it goes into their own resource reserve which only they can spend – so your partner in war can’t drain the gold you were carefully accruing to buy that economy upgrade (though, if you really want to irritate them, both players can control the game’s pause function). This allows for a fair amount of independence, while still giving the ability to coordinate on who will build what on the resource side of things. While players can’t build from each others military buildings or command each others armies, a player can assign units to follow a friend’s hero simply by clicking on it. These escorting soldiers behave in a surprisingly intelligent fashion, and work really well especially if one player has been concentrating on building, and the other on creating the army. All-in-all, the multiplayer mode is surprisingly good fun.
Graphically, while Conan Unconquered can’t compete with the likes of Warhammer: Total War 2 (though in fairness, very little can) it’s a good-looking game and battles can be fun to watch. Pacing-wise, be aware that this game is on the somewhat slow side. This is something which is meant for you to play for several waves, either by yourself or with a friend, hit save, and come back to later – the shortest match (10 waves) will take around 1 hour to complete. While patches have increased unit speed and the rate at which your economy ticks over (literally, as there’s a little timer at the bottom of the screen which determines when resources are added to your stash), it will still take a fairly long time to build a substantial base and decent army.
While the slower pace of base and army building isn’t for everyone, Conan Unconquered is nevertheless a solid game, and quite enjoyable in cooperative mode. If you’re a fan of the survival RTS genre, co-operative strategy, or particularly fond of Conan, then Conan Unconquered is well worth your consideration.■