Cortés Command: Expeditions – Conquistador

By Adam Smith on September 3rd, 2012 at 6:00 pm.

Expeditions: Conquistador has an exemplary Kickstarter page: frequent updates, plenty of detail about the actual game as well as the people behind it and a decently explained pitch. Added to that, healthy development progress has already been made. The only thing that’s missing is a playable portion of the game to share with the community and, wouldn’t you know it, the fellows at Logic Artists sent me just such at thing. So, a little late with only nine days left to raise a further $15,000, I can comfortably say that Conquistador is an exciting project. It’d be easy to describe it as HOMM or King’s Bounty set during the conquest of The New World, but that sells the game a little short. I’ll try to explain why.

Although it’s a fairly attractive turn-based tactical game already, the polish is all in the writing. I was genuinely surprised by how much I became invested in the characters and plotlines and it’s not just because the setting is impressively captured and less well-trodden than elven forests and dwarven mines. There’s a willingness to engage with the conflicts of the time and place, particularly the struggle between the strictures of faith and culture, and the freedom of being far from the watching eye of court and crown. This plays out in branching dialogues and missions that allow the player to define their own character as well as that of their followers.

An open-minded doctor might not be particularly happy if you gleefully massacre every native you meet, while a hunter with a belief in the superiority of his race and creed might be annoyed by your lead if you decide that all those who are different aren’t necessarily fit to be slaughtered. That said, the dialogue isn’t heavy-handed and moral choices don’t flash onto the screen. There’s no bar fluctuating between Cortes and ConquistaDora The Explorer. There are loads of well-written characters though and decisions made in conversation and elsewhere that have an impact on the flow of the campaign.

As for the actual combat and exploration, it’s as might be expected. It’s all turn-based, and flanking makes positioning almost as important as preparation. I haven’t played a great deal yet but the simplicity of the early fights is already fading, with new unit types and map layouts forcing tactical rethinks. There isn’t a great deal of variety in troops – essentially they excel in either ranged, melee or healing – but the need to balance movement and attacks provides plenty to think about.

Clearly, that I’ve played and enjoyed the game doesn’t mean I’m recommending everyone throw money at the developers so that I can have more of the same, but when an interesting project (and turn-based tactical historical hexing is interesting) shows the walk behind the talk, it’s a noteworthy occurrence.

All the reward tiers and whatnot are at the Kickstarter page, along with videos and plenty of wordy updates.

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70 Comments »

  1. Hug_dealer says:

    The gameplay interests me, but the setting does not.

    Sadly, if it had been a typical fantasy game, would be gushing right now. I will still probably buy it, but the setting isn’t hyping me at all.

    • Jonas says:

      Hug_dealer, though the game is definitely not a fantasy game, don’t be misled into thinking that we’re all about historical authenticity and realism. We’re drawing a lot of inspiration for setting, characters, and events from history, but we’re also drawing from myths and legends and allowing ourselves to imagine that some of it might have been true – don’t be surprised if you find El Dorado, for example. We’re trying to get as many fun and interesting plot points and situations into the game as we can without indulging completely in fantasy and magic, and if you do buy the game (which of course I hope you do!) I’m certain that you won’t be disappointed – it’s not as dry as it might seem on the surface :-)

      (But of course I *would* say so…)

      • Hug_dealer says:

        If that is the case, that would be a great thing to also show off. I’m sure there are plenty of people that feel the same way as me.

        Thank you for the reply, and my interest has definately increased. Not that it was bad in the first place, i like the combat i have seen, and the moral choices, and decisions that will be made.

      • YogSo says:

        WAIT WAIT WAIT.

        You are Jonas Wæver, of The Nameless Mod fame? The Jonas Wæver that has his own RPS tag? Why hasn’t the Hivemind made a bigger fuss about this fact? They’ve mentioned the Conquistador Kickstarter in the Katchup several times already, and no-one thought about mentioning this yet? Not to sound like a raging fanboi (too late?) but I’m 100% more interested in the game now than I was previously. Good luck with this project!

        • Trestkon says:

          He is indeed THAT Jonas.

          Master of the Words and keeper of His Ego, his coming shall cause the earth to split asunder and the people to shield their eyes from his radiant brilliance.

          • Bob says:

            Along side the masterful Jonas, two other TNM talents, Leo Badinella and Jason (Phasmatis) Cooke, are putting their expertise to work on Expeditions: Conquistador.

        • Jonas says:

          You make it sound like I’m right up there with Sid Meier and Warren Spector…

          But yeah that’s me from TNM. From the Off Topic Productions team, animator Jason “Phasmatis” Cooke and composer Leo Badinella are also working on Conquistador :-)

          • Bob says:

            Well you do have a Masters Degree so ‘masterful’ isn’t overstating things…..too much. :-D

    • Turin Turambar says:

      Well, you are part of the problem then! :P

    • Torgen says:

      Interestingly, the setting is for me more the immediate draw.

    • misterT0AST says:

      I don’t know why, but the more generic the setting is, the more I like it.
      A detailed setting full of weird names and unusual things often feels gimmicky, unnecessary.
      “Oh man! yesterday I threw an akinakes at the satrap and the Achemenids were so mad!” Is much less exciting to me than “Yesterday I chopped the king’s head off with my sword”.
      A generic setting is like a blank slate, where you are the anomaly, the exception, the one who makes the difference. I prefer that.

      • ffordesoon says:

        Your comment made me sad. Not because it was a bad or poorly-reasoned comment, but because it was neither. As someone who constantly argues for less generic settings in games, I find it sad that I can’t just dismiss your comment with a derisive snort, and that I actually even agree a little bit. I’d say the problem is down to bad writing more than anything, but I totally get it.

        What comes to mind as an example of how to completely balls up an original setting is Final Fantasy XIII. In particular, the constant, relentless use of the terms “l’Cie” and “fal’Cie” in thousands of badly written lines of dialogue with no discernible context clues apparent. If you have to look up what the eff everyone’s jabbering about in the in-game encyclopedia, there’s a problem. If you still don’t know what all the wacky terms being thrown around mean after you’ve looked them up in the in-game encyclopedia, there’s a real damn big problem. Ideally, I should be able to work out what the made-up terms mean within the first couple of uses, and without anyone having to explain them. At the very least, I should understand the themes at play pretty much immediately, even if I don’t understand the terminology.

        So yeah, without going off on a rant, I get it.

        That being said, this game shouldn’t have that problem, so much, given that it’s based on history.

        • misterT0AST says:

          To be fair, I don’t mind weird things when they’re introduced fairly, with a sense or a reason. If I am in a game shooting at zombies and someone at some point tells me “Those are not Zombies! They are aliens that tried to look like us and the experiment went wrong!” I would be okay with that.
          It just feels weird when the game is set in Australian Aboriginal Mythology, and it is all about that.

          The smaller the focus, the more I feel constrained.
          For example in this game you are some kind of Conquistador, and that’s the focus.
          If it was just about “The sixteenth Century” (more generic) I would like it a lot more: You could be a Portuguese explorer, a slimy Dutch Merchant, a French corsair, an English general. Even if the game doesn’t say so you can name your character “Jan van scaam”, play a certain way, and there is a world of difference.

    • denizsi says:

      The gameplay interests me, but the setting does not.

      Sadly, if it had been a typical fantasy game, would be gushing right now. I will still probably buy it, but the setting isn’t hyping me at all.

      Oh yeah, because clearly, there have only been 9036345756 typical fantasy games. Can’t disturb The Comfort Zone. And the game has them dirty primitive natives in it. Who wants to deal with dirty primitive natives?

      • Hmm-Hmm. says:

        You know he was talking about his preferences, right? He’s not saying that’s what the game ought to be like.

  2. Zanchito says:

    Nice to see a little variation from more typical settings.

    • Eophasmus says:

      Agreed, the setting is a welcome change from what I’m used to. I think this looks lovely already and has the potential to have some amazing vistas.

  3. DaftPunk says:

    Looks interesting.

  4. skooma says:

    I thought this would be about Cortex Command :(

    • phelix says:

      That’s the pun, silly.

    • hatseflats says:

      This is even better than that!

      • Geen says:

        I believe the dummy hivemind disagrees with that statement. Prepare for extermination, meatbag.

    • Snuffy the Evil says:

      I thought the same, but then I realized this game is probably going to be finished.

  5. Memphis-Ahn says:

    The Codex approves.

  6. Stepout says:

    I really hope this gets funded. Quick! Throw money at them!!

  7. SirKicksalot says:

    Dayum shame it won’t make it to the second stretch goal. I would really, really like to play as the villains from Apocalypto.

  8. caddyB says:

    The only objection I have for this one is that I really dislike Spanish colonization of the Americas and like to pretend it never happened in the way it did.

    Otherwise it’s looking great.

    • Bhazor says:

      Every country was a dick at some point.
      America with slavery for example or England with the East India Company.

      • misterT0AST says:

        Although one would never actually create a game about trading slaves or beating up Indians, or burning Carthage, or driving a tank in Tienanmen square.

        I just felt like pointing that out. I don’t have any problems playing as Spanish colonists.
        What has been done has been done. History is history.

        • Jonas says:

          I’m sure there is an *awesome* political game waiting to be made about driving a tank in Tienanmen square. That’s the beauty of the role-playing genre: you can be a jedi, but you can also be a sith lord >:-)

        • Isair says:

          Pretty sure Europa Universalis lets you do at least half of those.

        • Bhazor says:

          I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve spread the Ubermensch across Europe.

        • Zanchito says:

          I recall several games with a vietnamese, corean and iraqui setting. Also, far west games, with indians and all.

        • jrodman says:

          Pretty sure I’ve played games involving all of those, save Tienamen, which might be “too soon”.

      • Hmm-Hmm. says:

        You’re right. For some reason that doesn’t really matter to me. Personally, it’s the single side of things paired with the historic events which put me off. And I know the player can opt to be peaceful.

    • Jonas says:

      Good news for you, caddyB – a large part of the point of Expeditions: Conquistador is to let you not only pretend, but live out a storyline where the Spanish colonization of the Americas never happened the way it did! Bring open-minded, peaceful followers and put all your points into Diplomacy! Ignore the natives or help the tribes to overthrow the Aztecs *without* subsequently conquering and oppressing them :-)

      OR kill everybody and be a bastard. It’s a role-playing game! The choice is yours.

      • Faldrath says:

        If this is true, I might be interested. I’m somewhat squeamish about games that represent nasty historical events as “fun” (I never played games like Tropico, for instance, and the idea of Prison Architect kinda disgusts me). But if you can change history, or that history is depicted as something that was actually horrifying, it could lead to an interesting game.

        • Jonas says:

          Writing graphic and nasty descriptions of the aftermath of a violent action is one of my favourite things in life. If you decide to fight, you better be able to live with the consequences. It is my mission to make you feel bad about yourself.

          • tigerfort says:

            …and this one confirmed that I wanted to. An RPG with actual serious moral analysis rather than tickboxes saying “evil (500xp, 800 gp)” and “good (800xp, 500gp)” definitely sounds my kind of game, as well as something we need more of.

          • Bhazor says:

            And that comment just earned my $20 pledge.

      • tigerfort says:

        This comment made me start thinking seriously about backing the kickstarter…

      • ffordesoon says:

        @Jonas, just in case the reply system goes weird:

        As someone who backed this the moment I heard about it, and who loves everything he’s heard and seen so far, that’s still the most exciting thing I’ve read about this game, because it was the exact fantasy I wanted to see fulfilled when I backed the Kickstarter. The chance to right history’s wrongs, or at least make them feel not so very wrong, is something I’ve wanted to see in a game for a long time, particularly in a game where you’re not railroaded into the righteous path.

      • Zwebbie says:

        Question! Don’t you think it’s questionable to present modern day moral sensibilities as if they are applicable to history? What I mean is, by giving the player more ‘modern’ options, you’re ignoring the mores of the 16th century and you’re demonising the actual conquistadors. They’re presented as having acted only out of dickishness or out-of-whack priorities, and by guilt-tripping players who pursue the more historical options, you’re reinforcing the idea that only inhuman beasts would have acted the way the actual Spanish acted, when studies aplenty have shown that history’s genocides and other atrocities were commited also by ‘ordinary’ people who were by no means moustache-twirling evil. It’s the people who want to ‘correct’ history and right its wrongs instead of trying to understand it that scare me.

        • Jonas says:

          Valid concerns! Of course it’s a difficult balance to strike between showing things the way they were and allowing the player some freedom of choice. The solution I’ve chosen is to surround the player with historically accurate characters that reflect the real motivations and morals of the historical people (as nuanced as I can make them, and bearing in mind all I have to go by is the history books and a precious few primary sources), but then let the player decide how to interact with them and how to influence them.

          Really, when you’re dealing with a setting like this, no matter which approach you take, you’ll be facing some severe pitfalls. It’s all I can do to assure you I’m very concerned with all these things – not trying to be politically correct but striking a balance between historical fairness and also making an interesting and memorable game with plenty of freedom to choose.

          [EDIT] Not all characters will be historically accurate. Thought I’d better make that clear. I’m just saying you’ll meet a lot of people who by today’s morals are essentially bigots.

        • Faldrath says:

          Well, if you read, say, Las Casas, you’ll see that even in the 16th and 17th centuries the question about how to deal with native Americans was hotly debated, so it’s not necessarily only “modern moral sensibilities” that apply here for a counterfactual vision of history – it could have been different without them. My original comment wasn’t an attempt to “moralize” colonization, it’s actually to the contrary – if you choose to massacre the natives, then you’ll be massacring the natives – do not try to “disguise” it as simply a “fun game mechanic”.

          • lasikbear says:

            I felt like Las Casas shows opinions varying from “kill them all” to “convert them, then kill them all”, but then again A Short Account…. does tend to start to wear one down and I might be forgetting some of it.

  9. Lars Westergren says:

    It is also on Steam’s Greenlight, so upvote it there.

    http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=93060491

    • jrodman says:

      Oops! I already did.
      Also thanks for posting this so I didn’t have to.

  10. Enzo says:

    So the Conquistadors are the good guys here?

    That’s… interesting.

    • Adam Smith says:

      You choose who to side with and how to act, so you can lead a peaceful group and be diplomatic, or you can be a ruthless conquerer. Just because you play a stranger in a strange land, doesn’t mean you have to act like a monster. Does seem to be an option though.

  11. Bob says:

    Leo Badinella’s music is an added bonus. I’m drawn to the RPG side of the game. The make-up of your party and how their various strengths and weaknesses play out through the course of the game.

  12. Fattsanta says:

    So far i’m finding this game to look really great, I suggest watching the lets play videos as well demonstrating the battles, not only do they show off the pretty graphics and engaging combat, but the main guy narrating is hilarious, got me laughing more then a few times. Cheers to this game!

  13. ffordesoon says:

    Very glad to hear the writing’s good from a source I trust. RPGs – and most games, really – live and die on their writing, for me.

    • Snidesworth says:

      I’m very much the same. I’ve had my eye on this for a while but it was the words above about solid writing that finally got me to put some money down for it.

  14. Luis_Magalhaes says:

    While I think the setting is certainly fresh, I fear that it will make for dry, unappealing battles.

    From X-Com to King’s Bounty, the settings and fantasy / science fiction trappings of these classics made it easy to give colour, panache and variety to the battle scenarios, something that I’m doubtful that gunpowder and “realistic” sword-fighting will achieve.

    I feel that I would love the story, but eventually get bored of the combat.

    • Jonas says:

      Can I ask you what it is about X-Com and King’s Bounty that you think will be missing from Conquistador? Making the battles varied is one of our primary priorities actually, so I’d be interested to know if we might be going about it the wrong way in the opinion of some players.

      For example we’ve chosen not to have randomly generated battles like HoMM and King’s Bounty because designing the battlefields ourselves is the best way to make sure they’re very different from each other (some being wide open, some having many intricate paths, some being quite small, some being huge, some being flat, some having great height differences, some starting you out in cover, some starting you out surrounded, etc. etc.). To compensate for the loss of replayability, we have several different versions of each battle so they change a lot depending on how you get into them (maybe it’s night instead of day, maybe you start in a completely different position compared to the enemies, maybe a whole new area of the battlefield has opened up because of your tactical cunning…)

      But yeah, please let me know what your particular concerns are, and maybe we can keep that in mind going forward :-)

    • blind_boy_grunt says:

      i’m just gonna take xcom mindcontrol as an example: It changes the game a bit if you have to think about who could get posessed, killing the sectoid that is mind controlling as fast as possible. Without it you just would have your guys on the one side the aliens on the other and then advancing until you see each other and than shooting until one side wins. another example could be chryssalids, if one appears you have to adapt.
      edit: i just remembered jagged alliance. just forget i said anything.

  15. blind_boy_grunt says:

    this looks great. (join the conquistadors, see new continents, meet exotic natives. And kill them)

    not relevant: Also it made me remember the “monarchies of god” books. I think especially the talk about generic fantasy vs. historical fiction from above. Those books are partly about the discovery of a new continent(SPOILERS from here), just like america, only the natives have magic and wipe the whole expedition out and later conquer the old continent. Good stuff.

    • Scifibookguy says:

      Thanks for the “monarchies of god” reference. A bit of searching, and I’ve got two new books on my list to buy to next month :) Oh, and I already was pledged on the Expeditions: Conquistador Kickstarter project before this article, but I’m happy to see it get more press.

    • blind_boy_grunt says:

      it’s a fantasy book, i forgot to add. It’s a bit like game of thrones in it’s tone and abuse of its main characters and that it uses a historic time as background(circa rennaisance, there are guns and cannons) and adds some fantasy stuff. Plus after using wikipedia a bit i realized i gave nothing away with my spoilers, because it didn’t happen as i remembered

  16. magnus says:

    Is the last level just you on your own on a slowly sinking raft covered in monkeys?

    • Jonas says:

      If you play your cards particularly poorly in relation to the morale of your expedition members, it can get pretty close to Aguirre, der Zorn Gottes, yes ;-)

  17. Crosmando says:

    I admit, the complete silence of RPS on this Kickstarter (albeit a one sentence mention in the Kickstarter catch-up articles) until now, is very concerning. Especially when you consider the other KS projects of questionable quality RPS has been all over

    *Insert “Trying-too-hard-to-be-retro indie platformer that any half-competent C++ programmer could write in their sleep*

    I’m beginning to think the only community on the internet with any taste is the RPGCodex, they might be all insane but with genius comes great responsibility.

    • Harlander says:

      You’ve confused bitterness and scorn for taste, but don’t worry, it’s an easy mistake to make.

      • Crosmando says:

        Scorn for favoritism actually, considering that RPS covers every indie project that uses a “new style” cartoony/hipster art-style while pretending to be “retro”, while any indie project for hardcore Western cRPG’s (like Conquistador) with a realistic art-style are shunned and ignored. But maybe I am simply naive for expecting the “indie” game scene not to develop it’s own form of social hierarchy.

        Also, it’s a question of quality, roleplaying games are infinitely more complex, more intelligent, and more work to develop, than any colour-spamming indie platformer game.

    • Alec Meer says:

      Imagine how much happier your life would be without conspiracy theories.

    • Jonas says:

      I suspect they were just busy, and we’d given them little reason to be interested in our project. Then we decided to send them a build right in the middle of Gamescom, because we just really suck at PR. But now we’re here and it’s all good!