Sabrehawke: I feel like I’ve spent a week in American History 101, but at a military academy instead of a public school.
A few days ago, when I received a review copy of American Conquest – Three Centuries of War, the new real-time strategy game from CDV Software Entertainment AG and GSC Game World, and read the box’s description of the game, I envisioned a typical RTS game where you spend most of your time gathering resources and building units in preparation for that one big battle that takes maybe 10 minutes to finish. (That’s right, I’m not a rusher. So sue me.)
Once I installed the game and fired it up, I realized I might have been a little off. Clearing a map of pesky aliens with a squad of tanks and another squad of space marines is one thing. Clearing out the British Army with a ragtag bunch of disgruntled colonists is something else entirely.
Lewt: I’ve been a big fan of strategy games since Warcraft came out many years ago when I was in high school. American conquest makes a tough game to play while giving you a detailed history lesson on what happened in the early times of American exploration by European’s all the way up to the War of Independence.
After receiving my game I loaded it up immediately and tried jumping into the War of Independence which proved to be way too hard. You actually have to play the earlier few rounds to learn how to play this game. So you Command & Conquer people don’t think you can actually win rounds without learning how various units work together.
So let’s start from the beginning. I started the beginner rounds of the game and began to learn things. One thing you learn is that your units can scare others if they’re armed and massive enough. So you can run off curious natives while you build your buildings that you need to produce the necessary amount of peasants before you can finish the first round. That was probably one of the things that always sour my mouth about any strategy game. They always seem to go with make X units to win round 1. I would love to see a game that went a little further than those for once so future designers take a good note here. Any player can hit the build peasant button X amount of times necessary to finish the first round. Time would of better been spent had the game had me build 1 peasant then show me how to get him to do various things before sending him off to the fort to become a conquistador.
Wynder: Granted, I’m not the biggest enthusiast of strategy games – however, when it does come to my single and multiplayer games, I do enjoy being made to think and plan instead of just reacting. American Conquest is an interesting title… part of me thinks it shouldn’t have been made while the other half wants to praise it for breaking new ground in the world of RTS’s.
American Conquest deals with several campaigns of the pre-colonization of the Americas (South, Central, and North). Columbus, the Conquistadors, and various tribes of Native Indians are involved in the campaigns where you begin playing the part of the Spanish oppressors. The first few campaign missions are training missions and are a bit spotty at times in their direction
Sabrehawke: Campaign play is fairly straightforward. It’s 1492. You are Christopher Columbus, an Italian immigrant sailing under the flag of Spain in search of the western route to India and China. Instead, you find the small islands off the coast of the Americas.
The early missions, as is typical in most RTS titles, involve training steps such as building a fort, creating peasants and exploring. Once you’ve mastered these skills you are presented with harder challenges, new battles and new civilizations. Players can choose between the Native American nations of the Aztecs, the Mayans, the Sioux, the Delaware, the Huron, the Iroquois League or the Pueblos, or the European explorers and conquerors from Spain, France and England, or in later missions, the fledgling Americans, all within a time-frame that stretches from Columbus’ voyage in 1492 through the final days of the War of 1812.
Each new chapter is prefaced by a short history lesson detailing the state of the world and the motivation of your chosen side’s actions, presented in text format with a voice-over. At first, in my eagerness to play, these historical glimpses seemed to get in the way a bit, and I was glad you could click through directly to the mission. As I progressed through the campaign, I actually began to welcome them. Each is well-written and, as far as I can tell, well-researched, including a lot of information I didn’t remember reading in my high school or college history classes. Of course, I could have been asleep then, but that’s another story.
Osis: The backgrounds look really nice, as do the buildings. The animations for the individual troops are excellent; some of looks like it could be motion capture or even Rotoscoped. The huge battles are a fun, even if you have no idea what is going on. There have to be cool points given for being able to march a column of ten thousand men into the heart of a hostile town while there are cannons firing in all directions around you. There are history lessons before every mission in the campaigns. They last almost as long as my high school history lectures, but it provides a nice context to what you are doing in the game.
Sabrehawke: Visually, the game is very clean, with lots of little unexpected surprises. Pennants and flags blow in wind, drummers actually play marching cadences and idle peasants entertain themselves while waiting for an assignment. In the early missions, curious natives wander near to your forces, trying to figure out who or what you are, and sometimes it’s hard to keep your halberdiers from wandering off individually and introducing the local population to a little European death and destruction. The 3D environment is well-rendered and plays a role in combat. allowing you to use the terrain to your advantage. Both structures and units have a lot of detail, giving you a glimpse of uniforms, building styles and native costumes. All in all, it’s quite pretty.
Wynder: In this world, where Age of Mythology and Warcraft have these lush and dynamic sceneries – wind and trees blowing in the wind and scorch marks on the earth, the graphics engine of American Conquest didn’t impress me. Although much detail has gone into the actions of the units on the field, such as the reloading of the cannon crew and musketeers, the terrain serves to only provide travel barriers for the player. Additionally, the overall graphics quality doesn’t compare to other games on the market.
Sabrehawke: The controls are pretty typical for a game of this type, making it easy to figure out how to play without spending a lot of time poring over the manual. I did have a little trouble getting used to right-clicking for actions, but it got easier the more I played.
The real beauty of American Conquest comes in the later missions and in multi-player mode. In most RTS games that I’ve played, a big battle usually involves 100 or so units to a side. In this game, that’s just small-unit tactics.
Battles can involve up to seven players, commanding 16,000 soldiers. The sheer enormity of some of these battles has given me a whole new respect for the old generals. I had a tough time just keeping track of everyone, much less organizing a decent battle plan. These epic battles are the real meat of this game, the real reason to play, whether an historical battle, a death-match or on a custom map generated with the easy to use editor.
Wynder: Where the Age of Mythology and Warcraft have you manage, on average, 20-70 troops at any given time, with American Conquest, it’s HUNDREDS. Battles can become quite chaotic, however, there’s nothing like seeing 200 Indian troops running north and 200 Spanish troops running south and clashing in the center of the battlefield – whooping war cries and the sound muskets firing as the combatants slowly trudging through each others front lines. It is here where American Conquest stands out and has its best chance to flourish.
Osis: Yes, you can command thousands upon thousands of units. But, in God’s name why would you make doing it so difficult? A large portion of combat is based upon what formation your units take in battle. A proper formation can punch a hole in an enemy’s line or keep them from over running your base. But, in order to actually utilize these formations you have to group the troops you want to command with another unit; a commander, or drummer, or banner bearer of some kind. I’ve logged about 10-12 hours playing this game, and in all that time I’ve been able to get the formation system to work all of….never. It is too hard to keep track of the command units when two large armies clash and start to intermix. And when that happens, you’ve already lost the fight. In fact, the only fights I did win were fights where a blind monkey banging on the keyboard could have won. I’m not sure if that belies my skill at strategy games, or the rough edges of the game’s combat system.
When you’re mixed in the large battles, you’ll notice something else. Your troops go running away. I can’t begin to tell you how annoying this is. It is even more annoying to not be able to stop it. As far as I know, I have every thing I need to keep my troops happy. I keep them fed, I keep them paid, and I keep a commander nearby. But, I always seem them run off every time I want them to hold their ground. Then also run off at the sight of an enemy unit, which usually ends up getting them killed.
Lewt: Game play is very fluid in the game and the graphics are very nice with many resolution options. I opted for the 1280×1024 version to get a better look at the game. Units are very well drawn and represented on the map and after a few tries you get down how to use the mouse effectively in the game. If you have a real hard time moving things around you could always change the mouse to left hand and it may move things around. However there may be a way to switch it around in the game itself. Either way it’s not that hard after a few minutes of screaming random adjectives each time you click something and your units just sit there.
Sabrehawke: American Conquest is well worth the price for any RTS gamer, and especially for those with an historical bent. I might even go so far as to recommend it as a little educational.
Join the conquistadores. Explore a new continent. Meet members of an ancient and wonderful civilization – then conquer them. Or defend your home at all costs, repelling the Old World invaders who’ve come to take your people and your land. Or join the fight for independence from a foreign monarch. Or just show your friends why you’d make such a great general.
Whatever path you take, American Conquest will give you the opportunity to shape the New World your way. And I can think of worse ways of spending an evening.
Lewt: The game works very well on minimum requirements also which is a plus for the developers since some other companies really don’t know what their game’s minimum requirements are most times and sell people something they can’t play on their current setup. If you’re one of those people that have the minimum don’t worry you’ll be able to play just fine and have a great time with this game.
Sound effects and music are great with cannon and gunfire that sound very realistic. The background music fits the era that the game is representing at the time and the drummers play their drums like they should. I’d have to ask a war buff though if they’re proper for each command you give a unit that has a drummer assigned to it.
Wynder: Clashing swords, whooping war cries, sounds of the drummers… All very well done. Quite an original concept; definitely nice if you’re a history buff – each mission comes with a 2-10 minute long history lesson providing a background as to why you’re doing whatever in the particular scenario.
Saberhawke’s Rating: 8 out of 10
Wynder’s Rating: 7.5 out of 10
Osis’ Raring: 4 out of 10
Lewt’s Rating: 9.25 out of 10
INFORMATION ABOUT THIS CONTENT:
Date of publish: 09.04.2003
Language of publish: english