By Kieron Gillen on June 11th, 2009 at 2:20 pm.
The Hexmaster Tim Stone has already written that Illustrious have released Conquest! Medieval Realms. But he complained there isn’t a demo! But in the time between then and now, that’s changed in one, very important way. That there’s a demo. There’s totally a demo. And you can get it from here. It’s a considerably cut down version of the full game, containing two missions instead of the kertrillions of randomly generated ones, multiple campaigns, map editor and all that good strategy malarkey. On a score of “genre” it rates “turn based strategy”. I had a little play of the demo…
It’s pretty fun, but I wish they’d included more in it. It’s basically a turn-based game of territorial control. Any connected string of hexes spawns a town, which gathers all the resources in the area. Connect areas, and the smaller town disappears, flowing all the money to one place. Of course, capturing any town gives you all the money in it. Which you may think dividing your empire would give you an advantage in terms of redundancy. And maybe it would, but the game really demands you to have as much money as possible. You see, the biggest problem you face is paying for your troops. There’s three levels of soldiers. The bottom level can capture terrain, but not conquer towns. The second level can thrash towns and levels 1, but gets turned away from castles and other level 2s. Level 3s walk over everything except level 3. The problem being, upkeep. You’ll need 16 gold a turn to just keep your big boys on the field. If there’s a shortfall, all your units disappear, which is a bad thing for your continued defence. Even a quick poke implies there’s a lot of strategy here, in a really quietly pretty hex veneer.
The problem with the demo is the size of it. Not the two levels, but the cut down toolset of the game. The limited buildings, where you don’t get to upgrade terrain to be more profitable, is a small thing. The bigger thing is the limited troop types. There’s a rock, paper, scissors set-up which allows pike, archers and Calvary to bash the living hell out of one another – though you only start with being able to make the speary-sorts. At levels one and two this is just fine detail – but because the only way to take out any other level 3 is their counter, it means that the level-3 spearmen in the demo are just invincible, even to one another. Playing the demo levels, it seemed to just be heading towards something that’s purely positional with the battleships of the board – and, really, I just wanted to have an aircraft carrier to sink ‘em. Er… metaphorically and anarchonistically speaking.
It’s the problem when making a game as clinical and pure as this. If you give the full set, even with limited maps, you’re coming close to giving the full game. However, as is, I wonder the number of people who turn towards buying the full thing (because they see what the missing pieces will bring to the game) will actually be enough to counteract those who it turns away (As the demo game’s end game is less interesting than it should be). I wonder whether a time-limit would be better. What do you think?