If you are familiar with the Cossacks games, then American Conquest will appear familiar. The Cossacks developers have updated the game and adapted it to a new setting, the Americas from 1492 through 1813. While there have been a few games set during the conquest of the New World, the American Revolution has not received much attention. The opportunity to square off Redcoats and Minutemen in real-time combat is an intriguing one, especially in a game that can support up to 16,000 units. However, playing American Conquest can be a daunting task and while it provides some rewarding gameplay to those who put in the effort it may prove to be too much for all but the most dedicated strategy gamers.
One of the reasons for the long game times is the complicated economy in the game. There are six different types of resources that must be gathered, not only to build new units and structures but to pay for their upkeep as well. Like most strategy games, peasants are the workhorse of the economy. Not only must they build farms and mines and work them as well, but they also serve as the source of manpower for training into military units. Constant peasant generation is a part of the game.
Building up your economy is slow and methodical work, as you must make your way down a line of prerequisite buildings before you can even build mines to collect mineral resources. Also, upkeep in the game is pretty expensive and you’ll need to generate a large resource stream before you’re ever able to build up and field a large army, let alone replace your losses in the field. Because of the work it can take to build a healthy economy, the random game modes allow you to set a no-attack grace period … and this grace period can be set to up to four hours. This is not a game for those who love executing rush attacks, but the builders out there will appreciate the size of the cities and infrastructure they can build.
Things get even more complicated when it comes to army management because the game models a lot of factors for its military units. Each unit’s defense is rated for five different types of attack, distance and scatter affect attack effectiveness, and morale plays a big role in unit effectiveness. Even the field of fire of units garrisoned in structures is affected by the structure’s window placement. Understanding which units form effective counters for each unit type in the game is important, but not enough in and of itself to be successful. To be truly effective, units must be placed into formations or else they’ll essentially fight like an unruly mob.
In order to create formations you need to group the units with a special officer unit, and often with a drummer unit as well. You then must select which units to include in the formation and which type of formation to create. Needless to say this is impossible to do while facing an approaching attack, but luckily the game allows you to issue orders while paused. This is another reason why games of American Conquest can take some time to play through – you’ll need to constantly pause the game to issue orders to large numbers of units. Once you have the units in formations, you’ll still need to do a lot of hands-on guidance. For example, when managing musket troops and pikemen, you’ll need to allow the musket troops to fire, advance the pikemen for protection while the musket troops reload, move the musket troops forward so that they can fire, and then repeat.
This process can be even harder to manage because the game’s AI is suspect at times. The unit morale factor means that individual units are constantly fleeing the battlefield, and it takes quite a bit of handholding to prevent your units from scattering all over the map chasing down routed units. Issuing “stand ground” orders can help alleviate this problem somewhat, but units under this command sometimes neglect to return fire to attacking units. Pathfinding issues also increase the need for unit micromanagement as groups of units will scatter all over the place on their way to their destination. Perhaps the most disappointing of the AI shortcomings, though, is that the computer-controlled factions neglect to make much, if any, use of formations. The computer likes to send large mob attacks your way, and although it is smart enough to look to flank or avoid your defenses, methodical use of formations and flanking maneuvers on your part can keep it in check.
The proceeding points have their annoyances, but they do not sink the game. You just need to understand that you’re not getting a high-speed clickfest in the Command & Conquer vein here. If you’re the type who gets annoyed at the fact that you never get the chance to build a huge base in strategy games or you like to pause things often and think about your orders, you’ll probably enjoy American Conquest’s style of play.
Graphics-wise the game features a 2D isometric view in the strategy game tradition. The graphics are certainly adequate, but are more functional than breathtaking. Things can get muddled in the larger battles, though, as you can imagine when you have literally thousands of units locked in melee. My major complaint with the graphics is in the game’s implementation of the fog of war. The map is only visible as far as the field of vision of your units. As soon as a scout leaves an area or is killed, that part of the map fades back into the fog. Some of the maps are huge, and it is enough trouble just keeping track of where you have encountered the enemy, let alone where you found resource sites. The game really does need the tri-state fog of war found in most other strategy games where you have the shroud, uncovered areas, and currently visible areas.
American Conquest is certainly packed with gameplay. You get eight historical campaigns each featuring a series of progressively more difficult missions, a number of standalone scenarios, and random map and multiplayer games. Unlike most strategy games where you can complete scenarios in less than half an hour, most games of American Conquest will run a lot longer than that and so it will take you some time to play your way through all of the missions. A very nice addition to the campaigns is the historical information provided on the briefing screen. They provide a lot of background information and help place the scenario in its historical context. Unfortunately, even though you will learn a lot about the politics and personalities of the times, your objectives will often be left a little fuzzy.
In The End, This Game Hath Been Rated: 78%. A deep and involved strategy game, but there may be too much micromanagement and the pace may be too slow for some strategy gamers.
INFORMATION ABOUT THIS CONTENT:
Date of publish: around 15.03.2003
Author: Rob Beschizza
Language of publish: english