Games like Homeworld reinvented the real-time-strategy genre by making the setting a previously untapped locale — space. It wasn’t long before other developers, and publishers, would realize the potential of such a match. Microsoft quickly jumped on the bandwagon with the announcement that it would be publishing Conquest: Frontier Wars. RTS devotees ate it up, and it seemed like all was going well. Ultimately Microsoft dropped the project, saying that the game did not meet its quality standards. Thankfully UbiSoft picked up the publishing reigns.
Conquest lets players fight an intergalactic war between three races, the Terrans, Mantis, and Celareons, over the course of three campaigns. The storyline is a nice mix of action, intrigue, and refreshingly, comedy. Comparisons can definitely be made to Starcraft, however. The aforementioned races are very similar to the Terrans, Zerg, and Protoss, respectively. All similarities stop there, as there is nary a ground unit in the game. All combat takes place in space, and Conquest is one of the few games to capture the vastness of it.
This is achieved two ways. Firstly, you build bases (refineries, shipyards, research centers) on orbital rings circling planets. Each ring can only support a certain number of buildings, so you are forced to spread your base among multiple planets. Resources can also be acquired from planets, and accumulate much more quickly than sending out mining ships, so controlling them is of strategic value. Secondly, each campaign, skirmish, or multiplayer mission does not take place on one map, but rather across multiple ones. This is achieved through the use of wormholes. Much like Space Empires IV, a war can rage across multiple systems, and you will often have to take your fleets quite far from your base to meet the enemy. Furthermore, your fleets have limited ammo, so supply ships have to join them or your base has to expand across multiple fronts. You can set up a skirmish or multiplayer game with up to 16 systems, so games can last quite a while.
Conquest’s graphics are pretty good, and while the game is 2D there are some nice touches, such as 3D ship models and rotating planets, which make it feel more three-dimensional. The effects are top notch, with ships breaking apart before exploding and tiny fighters leaving trails as they launch from enormous carriers. On the audio side, things also fare pretty well. The music is varied, though it can get monotonous, and sound effects, while nothing spectacular, do the job. Voice acting, however, is solid all around.
While much of Conquest is by the books RTS, there are enough unique elements to make it stand out and add to the strategic choices. With aggressive AI in skirmish mode, three campaigns, and multiplayer, the game has longevity as well. If a real-time-strategy game with features typically seen in a turn-based 4X game sounds intriguing, definitely check this one out.Reviewed by: TieSolo