The epic battle for early America resumes with the latest expansion pack, “American Conquest: Fight Back.” Three centuries of war continue with even more frantic combat and more desperate power struggles raging across the continents of North and South America. Read more for the full review …
“History is an account, mostly false, of events, mostly unimportant, which are brought about by rulers, mostly knaves, and soldiers, mostly fools.” – Ambrose Bierce
American Conquest: Fight Back gives us a good account into those rulers and soldiers that created some history during Americas 16th to 18th century. The question is, can a jaunt through these times be entertaining?
American Conquest was released the first part of this year and went relatively unnoticed by the gaming populace. Not to hard to imagine as it was released during the same time that RTS games like Age of Mythology, Command and Conquer Generals and Warcraft III were reigning supreme. And, just to make sure it was completely covered in a sea of forgetfulness, the tidal wave of marketing that is Microsoft was heavily shouting the coming of the excellent Rise of Nations which was released a couple months later. With Blizzard, Microsoft, Ensemble and Westwood pouring out new RTS offerings a smaller company could get swallowed up. It would be like, say putting out League of Extraordinary Gentlemen around the same time as The Matrix: Reloaded and Revolutions and Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers and Return of the King. Oh, hold it, that happened.
The people who did pay attention to this game were big fans of Cossacks and RTS fans who enjoy the larger scale historical games. Cossacks and American Conquest were games that focused on massive amounts of units usually formed into troops and huge battles. This was in juxtaposition to Age of Mythology and Warcraft III which had players focusing on fewer units that had more abilities. This trend towards smaller armies and more abilities continues to play itself out in games that are being released this year and next as well. So for the masses American Conquest went against the grain. Was it a good game? We gave it a Worthplaying review of 8.3 back in March of this year. It was and still remains one of the best historical simulations you can get.
American Conquest: Fight Back also continues a new trend in expansion packs. It is an expansion pack for American Conquest, however you don’t need to buy the original if you don’t have it. It stands independently. I have seen this recently with other games such as Homeworld Cataclysm, Age of Wonders: Shadow Magic and the recently released Dungeon Siege expansion Legends of Aranna. Basically you get American Conquest which includes the original 40 missions and you get the expansions added 25 missions. That’s a lot of game.
Is American Conquest: Fight Back as good? Let’s take a look.
There are five new nations in the expansion. The game is also supposed to support up the 16,000 units per map. And, the maps are huge. This is a new endeavor for me to try a game out that supports such an incredible amount of units. You are really not managing individual units as much as you are macro managing huge formations.
If you have never played a game with this many units to manage think of it this way. In The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers there were 10,000 orcs assaulting Helms Deep. Remember some of the panoramic shots in the movie? Ok, add 6000 more angry orcs and you have a good idea. Hmmm, that might be fun, orcs instead of settlers trying to fulfill their manifest destiny. But I digress.
Being new to this type of game, it took me a while to get out of the mode of micro management and get on with managing formations. Think of a formation, made of different mixtures of cavalry, cannons, archers, riflemen, etc. as a single unit. Then, by taking these formations and arranging and attacking in various ways you can have some interesting battles. Remember the movie Gladiator? In the beginning there was a flank from the rear by a small formation of cavalry that helped overtake the barbarians. Remember Braveheart where Mel Gibson instructed a troop of cavalry to ride around and take on the enemy from a side flanking position? Ok, you get the idea. Remember the Alamo?
Managing that many fighters could be overwhelming, and still is at times, if you didn’t have your flag men and drummers. These units help to organize your troops as you can click them to move your troops in rank and file.
Building Your Troops
This brings us to one of the opportunities of the game. Yes, this is a resource model RTS so most of your battles will consist of building troops from resources gathered by peasants. While you are trying to wage these huge wars, there is a very time consuming way of building your troops. You have to create peasants and then train them to be soldiers in a different building. Yes, this does model what happens in real life more than just hatching little soldiers from scratch. However it does command more attention.
To add to some of the time consumption, your peasants don’t defend themselves so you must guard your town and settlements keenly. You can capture a building by just walking into it so your defenses need to be stiff. Also, random wildfires sweep through from time to time leaving your peasants in a stupor. They will not get out of the way while they are working so there you are left with more crispy treats than Colonel Sanders can dish out in one afternoon.
Something else you may find nagging is your units can get lost in the foliage. You won’t be able to see some of them as they get lost in certain parts of the map and a click and drag over the entire area is in order.
Another thing that adds to the confusion of the battle is the plethora of upgrades and improvements to your structures. You have the typical build tree that you find in many RTS games however there are so many ways to use your precious resources it is a bit overwhelming. Especially when you’re trying to amass hundreds of troops to guard your settlement and do battle on the expansive maps.
As far as I can tell, the new nations don’t add anything different to the originals. As a matter of fact, they appear to be colored differently and given a new name. There doesn’t seem to be much different between the nations at all. In the original the European nations could play defensively and the American natives had to play offensively. There really isn’t any different way of playing any of the new nations that are offered in Fight back. I found this to be sub-par for an expansion pack. Most will introduce a new faction that has some differences from the original.
One more difficulty then I’ll stop, I promise. The multiplayer registration was in German so I am not reporting on that aspect. I think that this type of game would lend itself to some multiplayer fun so that is something to keep in mind.
What is New Then?
What really stands out as different from the original is the additional campaigns and a new battlefield mode. The missions are a little lackluster and some are played on the exact same map. Playing through some of the original campaigns seemed to be a little more fun as they addressed the American Revolution. Comparatively you get to take on missions like Pontiac’s rebellion and Cortez. You do get a good amount of historical background so if you’re interested you can actually learn something. The missions just seem to lack some creativity.
Battlefield mode offers a non-resource method of playing. If you enjoy just playing tacticly with tons of troops and no worries about resources this may be a good addition for you. You get a few moments to set up your battle and then you are off. You face off with your opponent and you try and use some tactics to overcome their huge army. I found this mode somewhat entertaining as you really have to work your troops to win. The first few times I just came out with an offensive blitz, I lost in no time at all.
This was actually more fun than the rest of the game for me and that is odd. I don’t tend to enjoy the more tactical RTS games where you don’t have resources to gather. Somehow, the resource method in this game, combined with the enormous amount of troops you need to crank out and buildings to upgrade had a polarizing effect on me. I found the Battlefield mode where everything is set up for you quite a bit more entertaining.
“American history is longer, larger, more various, more beautiful, and more terrible than anything anyone has ever said about it.” – James A. Baldwin
American Conquest: Fight Back appeals to a more dedicated fan of this genre. It requires some reading of the manual and experimentation. There are many nuances and frustrations that will lead the casual gamer to frustration and ultimately to other games. I did find some of the historical aspects interesting and I do think that the hard core strategist will find much to like in the game. Especially if they have lots of time to learn as the tutorial isn’t enough to get you off the ground. I’m guessing that most will pass this game by. Based on the differences I can see in the original game, the expansion American Conquest: Fight Back almost appears to be an attempt to recover from some slower sales of American Conquest. You get some new campaigns and a new mode of battle but it all doesn’t seem to muster enough differences for an expansion pack.
Score : 6.9/10
INFORMATION ABOUT THIS CONTENT:
Date of publish: 24.11.2003
Language of publish: english