Taking their Conan license and really running with it, that is what Funcom seems to be doing. They made a surprise announcement at E3 regarding Conan Chop Chop, and also recently released Conan Unconquered, an RTS title inspired by the classics that takes place against a Conan backdrop. Here’s our review.
Developed by Petroglyph Games, who previously brought us the surprisingly good Grey Goo, it was nice to see Conan Unconquered in the hands of a capable studio. In their latest game, they fall back on very familiar tropes of the genre, including base building and resource management. To build an army, you’ll need things like wood and stone, and once you start building up your home locations you quickly discover that you need to invest in a few defensive measures as well.
This is because the enemy doesn’t carefully build its own settlements, but prefers attacking you in waves – making Conan Unconquered a little bit like a tower defense title in that sense. Keep investing, and soon your little settlement grows into a decent-sized fort – which you’ll need as the advancing hordes become stronger as well.
Resource gathering isn’t based around strategic spots on the game map, but comes automatically as you construct the corresponding buildings on a randomly generated map. I felt this was a missed opportunity, because many of the great RTS titles all had excellent maps that allowed for multiple strategic approaches. In Conan Unconquered, the map layout doesn’t impact your decision making very much.
Another missed opportunity is the fact that Conan Unconquered doesn’t feature any kind of story-driven campaign to help push the game forward. Instead, missions feel more like skirmishes when played in single player, and although this (along with the randomly generated levels) supplies some replay value, it makes the initial playthroughs of the game less interesting for those interested (or even invested) in the Conan lore.
Besides defending your base, you also need to explore the area outside of your settlement in order to expand – though this isn’t a traditional case of finding other settlements and taking them by sheer force or smart tactics. Instead, exploring and running into monsters (perhaps using Conan himself) gives you the opportunity to acquire precious resources that allow you to strengthen (and expand) your fort.
There’s a bit of a careful balancing act involved here as well, and smart resource management is crucial too. Invest too much in growing your base larger, and you might be spreading your defenses too thin or find that you’re been neglecting your repairs – causing structures to fall and your base to get overrun, causing massive damage or even defeat.
Cooperative multiplayer is well implemented in Conan Unconquered, and defending a base together with a friend against the incoming hordes can be approached in a myriad of ways. You can share tasks, or decide you’ll each focus on a different area – bringing some creativity with it in terms of how missions are (or at least can be) approached.
For fans of story-driven real time strategy titles, Conan Unconquered might very well feel like a letdown – even though familiar faces and references do pop up. If you enjoy more skirmish-based variations and also dig a tower defense-type of experience, then this is great fun. I personally really missed the opportunity to take Conan on an epic conquest, but perhaps we’ll see that in a future release or update.