I can here it now "Ah, jeesh, yet another Starcraft clone." Wrong! Conquest: Frontier Wars by Fever Pitch Studios is not another planet based real time strategy game. It does involve starting with a single ship and managing the collection of resources and completion of structures that will allow you to build huge fleets to battle the baddies (in this case the bug type Mantis or the energy based Celareons), but any similarity to Starcraft ends there. In Conquest you are dealing with planetary systems of one or more planets and wormholes to get from one to the other. The campaign game sets you up as the Terran, however, other options allow you to control the Mantis or Celareons as well.
Each area in space contains one or more systems, normally, though there have been a few with no planets in them. Each planet has a number of ‘building slots’ represented by a belt that becomes visible around the center of the planet when a fabricator (for the Terrans) tries to build on it. There are multiple types of planets and many of the structures you can build in the game require they be on a specific type of planet to function properly. [You cannot get Terran type recruits from a gas giant planet so you had better not build that Headquarters there.]
As in other real time strategy games, your ability to build the higher end structures and ships is based on your having already built the requisite lower technology structures. As for structure types, you have your normal assortment of crew gathering buildings, mineral and gas collecting structures shipyards and a host of supporting structures that allow you to research armor, weapon, missile and other upgrades. You get troopships that can launch space marines to take over enemy structures (normally used to rescue captives or gather information necessary in the campaigns) and supply ships to keep your fleet going until new supply platforms can be built on planets.
Travel from one system to another in Conquest, is via wormholes, yea ok, not a new thought but it works. The wrinkle here comes when you find that you can not resupply your fleet until you have built jumpgates over the wormhole which form a supply line from your original system to the new system you have just entered. These jumpgates, then, become key structures in the game. If they are destroyed, your supplies stop flowing. Not a good thing when your main battle fleet is far from home, out of ammunition and face to face with hostile aliens!
Once you enter a new system you are presented with a black area (called fog of war) with a small visible space around your ships and the wormhole you just came through. [A small insert screen lets you know the special relationship between this new system and the ones you already know.] You now get to explore this new system and find if it is a bonanza of new planets with new recruits, minerals and gasses or an ambush by the enemy! Here again is where your command of your fleet assets will make a difference. The small scout craft can quickly give you a view of the new area and if there are enemies lying in wait for you, better to loose a scout than your whole battle fleet. This gives you the necessary time to launch an offensive against the newly discovered enemy structures or ships or beat a hasty retreat to a better defended system to assemble more ships for the assault on the new system.
The ships available in game run the gamut from the fast maneuverable scout craft to the huge lumbering Dreadnaughts. Each ship type has its uses and how fast you learn them will determine your success in Conquest. Each race also has a different set of ships and structures to play with which further enhances the replayability of this game! You can control the ships individually or lump them together into fleets for better effect and easier control. Different ships have different abilities and weaknesses so fleet composition is quite important if your fleet is to have survivability on its side.
The game is visually rewarding, as well it should be, and is a blast to play. There are scenarios and campaigns to get you familiar with the game mechanics and are by themselves fun to play. These are played on your machine and pit you against a very challenging artificial intelligence. But, the REAL challenge comes when you hop on the internet (or host or enter a private game) and start playing with human opponents! No computer can give the challenge of playing against unpredictable humans!
Is this a ‘ground breaking’ title? No. Is it fun to play and a new look at an old friend (the real time strategy game)? Yes! So if you prefer to beat the snot out of computer opponents on your own computer, or mix it up with other players on the internet, Conquest has you covered. If you have hours to play or just a few minutes to start that invasion of the next system, Conquest has you covered as well. It’s a very good investment and well deserving of the 4 GiN Gems it has earned.
Excuse me, but I need to rescue the friendly Mantis warlords and deliver them to the Wor system now!