Ever since I was a kid, I have been a fan of the RTS genre. I wouldn’t consider myself to be the typical RTS player though. While a lot of player like building an army and destroying their opponents, I have always been more of a build up a base and hunker down player. When playing RTS games I was always a big fan of the missions that forced you to survive for a certain amount of time as waves of enemies would swarm your location. Unfortunately I have never played a RTS game that really allowed players to focus on building a base instead of attacking. This is the reason that I was immediately intrigued when I first saw Conan Unconquered as that was the entire premise behind the game. Instead of building an army and attacking, in Conan Unconquered you are tasked with building a base and just surviving wave after wave of enemies. Conan Unconquered is an original survival RTS that is a blast to play which is unfortunately let down by a lack of polish.
We at Geeky Hobbies would like to thank Petroglyph and Funcom for the review copy of Conan Unconquered used for this review. Other than receiving a free copy of the game to review, we at Geeky Hobbies received no other compensation for this review. Receiving the review copy for free had no impact on the content of this review or the final score.
When I was a kid one of my favorite missions in the original StarCraft was a mission where you had to hold off a Zerg invasion long enough that you could escape the planet. This might seem a little off-topic but I bring it up because this basically sums up what it is like to play Conan Unconquered. You begin the game with a small base and a few troops. You need to build up your base and train troops because enemy troops will be approaching shortly. Each level consists of a set number of waves which will spawn enemies that will converge on your base. Each wave will bring with it additional more powerful troops to defeat. You need to build your base to withstand the attacks and kill all of the invaders. If you are able to survive all of the waves you will be victorious.
In some ways Conan Unconquered is like your typical RTS and in other ways it is quite a bit different. The basics are pretty similar. You gather resources which you then use to create buildings, improve technology, and train troops. You then use these troops and defensive structures to fight against the enemies. If you have ever played a RTS game before you should be well aware of how this part of the game plays. The area where Conan Unconquered differs from your traditional RTS is that the game has a much higher reliance on building a base and defending. While all of your units can go on the offensive (you can explore the world to find bonus resources and other goods), you are better off building up your base and hunkering down. There is a big emphasis on building walls to keep out enemies as well as towers that are used to attack enemies.
The combat in Conan Unconquered is pretty typical of your traditional RTS. You can select units and tell them where to go by clicking on a spot in the game world. They will move to that area and attack any enemies within their range of view. There are a couple new mechanics for the combat though. First fire plays a pretty big role in the game. While units can be set on fire which causes damage to them, fire plays a much bigger role on your structures. When a structure is set on fire it will damage that structure until the fire is put out. You need to put the fire out quickly as it will spread to neighboring buildings if it is not put out. This means that your walls and towers can go up in smoke quickly unless you use your troops to put out the fire.
There is also the disease mechanic. All units that are killed will remain on the battlefield for the entire game. With a bunch of dead bodies lying around, it is not surprising that disease will spread. If your units stay close to a group of bodies they will eventually contract a disease which will drain their health until they are healed. Later in the game there are remedies to take care of the dead bodies, but you need to take this into consideration as if all of your troops are diseased it will put you at a huge disadvantage.
The key to doing well in Conan Unconquered is resource management. Resources in Conan Unconquered are handled differently than a lot of RTS games. Instead of using workers to acquire resources, you just have to build buildings which will provide you with the associated type of resources in regular intervals. You can increase the amount of resources you acquire by placing buildings on as many spaces with the associated resources as possible. You can also add buildings to your base that provide a bonus. In order to succeed in the game you need to build a strong resource base. If you don’t build a strong resource base you will not survive. If you don’t create enough resource buildings early in the game it starts to snowball and you fall even further behind. In particular gold is key to the game. You need gold for pretty much everything so make sure to build a bunch of buildings that produce gold or it will stymie any goals you have to expand/improve your base.
I have been waiting for this type of RTS game for a long time and for the most part Conan Unconquered delivers. If you are more the type of player that likes to build an army and destroy your opponents, Conan Unconquered probably won’t be for you. If you are the type of player that likes to sit back and play defensively though, you should really enjoy the game. I know I really enjoyed my time playing the game. There is just something really satisfying about being able to repel enemy invaders with a smart defensive base.
At this point I have spent most of my time with the single player. I have to say that game is quite difficult if you are playing the game by yourself. The game throws a lot on your plate for just one player to handle. In addition to building up your base, managing your resources, and training troops; you also have to manage the attacks to provide your best defense. The game also encourages you to explore the environment in order to find additional resources and other hidden objects to help you in your defense. It is really hard to handle all of this while also trying to prevent your city from being destroyed. This wouldn’t be so bad except there isn’t much time between waves where you can regroup. The only saving grace is that the game has a pause feature allowing you to think about what you want to do next. In single player the game gets so difficult that I was already starting to have some troubles in just the second level. I can’t even begin to imagine how difficult the last levels will be.
Conan Unconquered’s single player is a little too difficult for its own good but it also leads to some of the game’s best moments. You will lose quite a bit, but it just makes it more satisfying when you succeed. The end of each level can be totally chaotic. Enemies will be attacking from several different directions. In one game I was on the last wave and I thought there was no way that I was going to survive. Enemies had broken through several of my walls. Several walls were also on fire and were starting to burn down. Despite what looked like a lost cause, I was still able to successfully fend off the hordes and win the level. This was really satisfying as I barely escaped alive.
While the single player is quite hard, the good news is that the game includes a co-op mode. You can team up with another player and work together to defend your base. The two players basically share resources and have to work together to defend the base. Unless you have no one else to play Conan Unconquered with, I would highly recommend playing the game with another player. This is due to two reasons. First another player makes it much easier to maintain your base. Each player can focus on different things so nothing is ignored. It is also quite a bit more fun playing the game with another player. I have always been a fan of co-op games and Conan Unconquered does a good job making the co-op experience really enjoyable. I just wish the game would have let you play the missions with another player as you can only play the sandbox mode cooperatively at this time.
So let’s talk about the game’s theme. To be completely honest with you it was not a selling point for me. I have actually never seen any of the Conan movies, read any of the comics, or seen anything else from the franchise. I mostly wanted to play the game because of the interesting gameplay concept. Despite not really having much interest in the theme, I have a feeling that it is going to be disappointing to fans of the franchise. The biggest problem with the theme is that it really isn’t present. The biggest role the theme has in the game is impacting how the characters and locales are designed. The visuals seem to do a decent job implementing the theme. Unfortunately Conan Unconquered pretty much has no story. Before you start each mission you are given a couple paragraph introduction into what is going on and are then sent on your way. These story snippets have no impact on the gameplay. Most of the story is told through the included comic which you unlock by completing campaign levels. Fans of the series should enjoy the comic. I still think the game could have done more with the theme though.
I would say that the biggest problem with Conan Unconquered is that the game is kind of lacking in content. Unless there are more missions hidden until after you complete all of the other missions, there are only five missions in the game. The missions are quite long with most taking around an hour to complete. With only five missions though you will play through them pretty quickly. You are then left replaying missions or playing the sandbox mode where you try to survive for as long as possible. In the sandbox mode you are able to tweak the settings to set up your own scenarios. The gameplay is fun enough that you will probably want to replay the missions and explore the sandbox mode. I think the game could have had more content though.
Other than the length the other big issue I had with Conan Unconquered is that the game kind of feels unpolished. This comes from a couple different areas. First I found the load times to be pretty bad. I played the game on a computer significantly better than the recommended settings and load times were still pretty bad. This is partially due to the game having no load times once the level loads, but it takes a lot longer than it should. Second the game’s graphics appear to be kind of outdated. The graphics are not terrible, but they are worse than most RTS games released today. Finally the game has some bugs. The enemy AI can be pretty stupid at times. There were also times where I told units to enter a tower and it took several tries to get them to actually enter the tower. It just feels like the game is kind of stuck in the past. Conan Unconquered is still a good game, but I think it could have been great with a little more polish.
Conan Unconquered is the type of game that will be an acquired taste. Unlike your traditional RTS game where you build an army and head out to destroy your enemy, you mostly sit back and build an impenetrable base in Conan Unconquered. I have always been more of a defensive RTS player and have been looking for this type of RTS game for quite some time. There is something really satisfying about being able to repel large hordes of enemy units. The game can be pretty difficult if you play it alone, but that is why you bring a friend along. The co-op experience is really fun. Unfortunately Conan Unconquered never reaches its full potential due to a lack of polish. The graphics feel outdated and there are some other technical issues I encountered while playing the game. The theme is also wasted for the most part. The biggest problem with the game though is the lack of content. The game only has five missions and the sandbox mode which will get repetitive after a while.
My recommendation for Conan Unconquered comes down to how interested you are in playing a defensive RTS game. If you don’t like RTS games in general or prefer playing offensively, Conan Unconquered may not be the game for you. People who are looking for a RTS game that is mostly focused on building a defensive base and withstanding enemy attacks should enjoy the game quite a bit. If this describes you I would recommend looking into picking up Conan Unconquered.