Why did the great ages of history last for so long? Too much diplomacy! While games like those from the earlier Civilization titles seem like a natural influence on a game like Conquest of Elysium 3, it’s clear that Illwinter Game Design has the soul of the conqueror in mind, first and foremost.
Assume that your race is as smart as it’s going to get; time spent constructing globally impressive monuments is time you could use conscripting pikemen and trebuchets. Strip away everything except the ability to raise armies, take over land, and square off against opponents in a fantasy setting, and you’re left with Conquests of Elysium 3. What remains is surprisingly satisfying.
Conquest of Elysium 3 – The Fog Of War
You can select a race, as the game begins, or you can let the game pick one at random from the 17 available. The world and the starting units for both you and your opponents will be generated. Each race has its own special abilities than can be called upon to assist in battle, augment the landscape or rally additional defensive units.
You’ll begin with a main fortress, some resources, and a small force to command. In order to claim victory, you’ll need to claim resources from other tiles on the map, and enlist additional units. At first, your lack of a resource pool will require some pillaging and scavenging.
Victory is attained by defeating the opposing armies. You’ll have to survive their waves of assault and an unforgiving landscape to make this happen.
The Spoils of Conquest
As new tiles are presented, you can tap on them to see what they represent, and more importantly, what sort of value they generate. Unguarded tiles will be claimed as soon as they are are crossed, while tiles occupied by enemies or creatures will initiate an automatic battle sequence at the end of the turn.
Load up on guns. Bring a friend (or 2).
The game moves at a fast pace, and certainly isn’t for die-hard micro-managing tacticians. While you’ll have the opportunity to build upon your total troop count, the lion’s share of your time will be spend exploring and waging war.
The Course of War Never Did Run Smooth
The game lacks a tutorial, and the digital instruction manual found at the Illwinter Games websites doesn’t really cross the T’s or dot the I’s. As a result, you’ll likely be spending your first few games figuring out what’s what. It’s a huge drawback, as there is a lot to process for newcomers, who may well quit before the game gets its hooks in.
Players using mobile devices with smaller screens will want to maximize the font size, as the default came across as downright puny on my Galaxy Note 2. This can make for frequent unintended selections, which can be costly if not saving the game frequently.
An undo/confirm last move function would have been appreciated as well; in one instance, I lost my general and two thirds of my military force after accidentally moving them to a square, not having enough action points to undo the move…and learning that they all died, having drowned in a lake at the end of the turn.
The menu system is essentially a junk drawer. Many of the features and options buried in the haggard tree of choices are not intuitively placed, and a few of them are given confusing and misleading names. For instance -It took me a great deal of time to figure out how to relieve units from sentry position. After poking around, I find that unit details are under “Misc Menu”…which is the same menu that holds the commands for loading and saving files. Design choices like this gum up the overall playability of the game.
It’s a big world, and it’s waiting for you.
There isn’t a lot of strategy to battles – have a larger, more powerful force, and you’re going to win. Once you’ve secured a decent system of resource generation, you can recruit troops once per turn from any locations large enough to complete the action (guard towers, towns, fortresses), and, so long as you have captain-class units at the ready, they can ride out the new troops to join your front lines on a regular basis.
Battles take place automatically, with the units from both sides displayed on screen. Each unit performs an attack action until all forces have taken a shot. Fallen forces will vanish from the playfield, and the victor is the side left standing.
If you really want to run roughshod through the middle of your opponents’ defenses, link a whole slew of your best units and captains with your commander unit. One hundred of any kind of soldier is going to take down most of what you’ll encounter with ease. Toss in some siege engines, and the ensuing smackdown is more a cruel joke than a contest.
Fit to be Tiled
Graphically, COE3 is a basic affair. While the icons on the world map are easy enough to distinguish, the tiny unit sprites are really difficult to differentiate. If you’re looking to bring a bunch of one class on your next sortie, you may need to click on the unit to see what you’re getting, especially if drawing from hefty reserves.
The gorgeous orchestral music score eloquently frames the fantasy setting. The sound effects don’t quite go far enough to further the immersion; they are repetitive – especially so in battle sequences – and some variety or overlap would have been appreciated.
A New Elysium On Life?
Despite the technical drawbacks and less-than-use-friendly interface, Conquest of Elysium is still a satisfying turn-based battle fantasy. My advice is to take whatever race you are generated randomly, and see how far across the procedurally-generated realm you can progress.
In the absence of a comprehensive tutorial, running with a random force is really is the best way to learn the intricacies of the game. With 17 races to draw from, you’ll be playing something different for quite some time.