WARNING: This review is centered around single-player mode, and does not dip into the exciting co-op player experience. As wonderful as I’m sure the multiplayer experience is, (the developers seem really excited about it from their videos and streams) I thought it was more important to focus on the game at its core for this review. So, if you’d like to follow along with a newbie’s adventure, please keep reading! This is our Conan Unconquered review.
If you’re completely new to the Conan universe or RTS games in general, this may not be the first game that you want to start out with. The developers over at Petroglyph have churned out what they call an “RTS survival” game, with elements that keep you guessing and demand a pretty intense amount of multi-tasking and resource management. While I commend them on trying to add a little “oomph” to the genre, this particular title just didn’t do it for me. There is a bit of flavor text that attempts to explain some of the in-world lore before you jump into each campaign, but that is about the extent of the narrative you’ll get. You’re here to defend your claim to this barren wasteland-not read up on its history.
In the base game, you are allowed to choose from playing either Conan, Valeria, or Kalanthes. Kalanthes is locked to DLC, but the first two are free to play. This was actually a pleasant surprise for me, since I wasn’t even expecting to get the option of choosing between characters. With the options in front of me, I happily chose the female pirate Valeria. Unfortunately, Valeria quickly lost her luster after she cycled through the same handful of phrases over and over again every time I clicked to move. I click a lot. After about ten minutes in, I started to look in the audio options for a way to turn off voice lines and came up short.
The goal of Conan Unconquered is to see how long you can survive the hordes of creeps and foes thrown at your castle, so you need to balance your fortress, resources, and soldiers to accomplish certain tasks while the timer counts down. At first, this was invigorating. Having to stay on your toes while the threat was looming just outside the fog of war was pretty fun. But, as time went on, and wave after wave assaulted the fortress and all of my hard work was undone I found myself in a really tough place. I could either stay in my base, with the few men and resources I had left, or go out into the map and try to scavenge for resources.
While this is what the developers were shooting for, that sense of struggling to survive, I never quite got to the point where I felt like I was enjoying just hanging on by the skin of my teeth. I didn’t get that same sense of enjoyment or accomplishment from finishing a map; instead, I felt kind of drained. Games can take upwards of an hour depending on how many waves are coming. Some games, more time was spent in and around my fortress just trying to hang on to what little I had left rather than being able to go out into the map and explore for resources.
Conan Unconquered isn’t a game that I would define as being extremely beginner friendly. Having played a few other RTS games in the past, I was able to figure out the commands that I needed to execute through trial and error in order to maneuver my troops and put out fires. When you first start off a new map, the game has a ‘hint’ system that throws up helpful tips and bits of information when you encounter new parts of the game. There were maybe one or two hints starting out that actually told you how to move about or interact with items in the game and they didn’t provide much direction.
My tip of the day: You can use ctrl + left click on a unit to select all units of that type, or hold down shift + left click to select more than one unit without having to select all of them. This will let you send a couple of units off to put out that burning fire without having to take all of them with you.
Aside from being thrown into the game without much mechanical assistance, the graphics didn’t capture my attention much either. From what I’ve experienced, the maps that are generated don’t feel very immersive or dynamic, and it gets pretty boring to stare at after about thirty minutes of playtime.
One of the things that I did actually enjoy was the sandstorm mechanic. Throughout your campaign, a sandstorm would spawn on the map and bring a little dust devil over to your base to drop off goodies around your fortress. The downside to this, is that you can no longer see your minimap. The sight of it was terrifying at first because I fully expected the storm to do some heavy damage to my fortress or to cause damage to my troops, but neither of these things happened. Maybe I’m a glutton for punishment, but I think it might have been a nice touch to add one of those options into its mechanics.
Another interesting addition to the game was the tech tree. Once you’ve built your craftsman’s guild, you can research other buildings that will give you bonuses or unlock higher tiered schematics. This allows you to customize how you want to play the game early on and what you would like to focus on.
Feats are also offering unique bonuses that seem to work in your favor for the long run. Having a mechanic like this gives you a little more incentive to keep playing the game so that you could unlock all of the perks for your units.
Though I wasn’t impressed with my time in the single-player mode, I am looking forward to roping a friend into testing out co-op. Having another partner could greatly help with resource and time management, and I’ve found that some games actually turn out to be insanely fun when you can ignore some of the things you don’t like and focus on the positives with a friend. Conan Unconquered is by no means an absolutely terrible game. It has some really interesting concepts and ideas but overall it felt pretty underwhelming. I also hope that eventually they might consider releasing more avatars into the game other than Mithra. Summoning an avatar is a pretty big game changer later on, and can easily turn your session around if you use it right.