As someone who often longs for games like Heroes of Might and Magic 3 to sweep them out the door, Song of Conquest is a treat. Starting with familiar basics, you can control powerful individuals known as Wielders, marching with your army on a colorful map and pitting them against each other in turn-based combat, it grows into something new enough It feels like progressing nostalgia without sacrificing some deliciousness.
Well, I’m having a great time, but it’s the songs in between missions that really make my head spin. It’s not cursing it with faint praise – Song of Conquest is well developed – but it’s so rare that I hear bards singing about things I’ve been working on and I can’t help but be drawn to their charm Music interlude. A strategic YouTube channel conveniently brings them together in one video, which you can check out below.
Not enough singing in the game, period. The soundtrack rarely contains vocals, which is almost as an oversight as the overuse of boring orchestral scores. But what I really want is a tune from a novel, especially, for a long time, my dream RPG has been your hero accompanied by an enthusiastic bard Dandelion style. Sadly, it just wasn’t done. Even The Witcher 3 doesn’t have the dandelion following you the way books and TV shows do. This is a real shame.
While Song of Conquest does allow you to recruit bards for your growing army, sadly they won’t sing about your adventures as you take down giant frogs and cunning mercenaries, but at least you know when You’ll listen to a song in the nearest tavern while you’re done.
This is far from the only novelty of Song of Conquest, and there are several other things that make this more than just catnip for HoMM fans. Sure, you’ll all be well taken care of here, racing to explore the map and build your army ahead of your opponents, but there are a few twists and turns that don’t make it feel like it’s stepping back into old lands.
Battle maps are hexagonal battlefields raised through the use of terrain, providing cover, obstacles, and height advantages (or disadvantages). Careful positioning allows you to create chokepoints that can trap enemies, and sometimes it’s more valuable to take the time to get your troops to the right spot rather than jumping into the kill. Just place the archer on high ground for a nice damage boost.
However, no matter how careful and tactical you are, you can suffer big losses. In combat, units are represented by a single character, but may contain dozens of actual troops, each with a health pool, and a single hit from a puny goblin creature can still cut the number of base units in half. To recruit a replacement, you’ll need to go back to your base, but you can also keep your luck by continuing to explore the map, which hides plenty of opportunities to gain new troops.
Magic gives you a distinct advantage, especially against leaderless mobs, and it proves to be a very clever system. Whether it’s a spell that knocks down a landmine, harassing an enemy with bugs, or simply fires a Frostbolt at them, each spell requires a specific essence or a combination of them, which you can obtain from your own troops. Each unit has an Essence associated with it, and at the end of their turn, they contribute to your resource pool.
This naturally makes choosing the composition of your army more meaningful, forcing you to consider different needs beyond which unit does the most damage. If they fit into your spell rotation, it’s worth taking a less popular unit, as clever use of the magic system has a bigger impact on your chances of winning. A small line of mines can make the difference between losing half of your troops and getting through the battle unscathed.
It’s also a stunning game, with lavish pixel art that looks luxurious in close-up and from a distance. It’s so vibrant that every time I look out the window and see the pastel colors of my neighborhood, I feel sad. I just want to stay in my enchanted forest, no matter how many things try to kill me.
The two Early Access events were also solid, but suffered from the problems that many fantasy games face: the story is already told, it’s just not as exciting. A vengeful nobleman, some ex-slaves trying to find safety in a world determined to kill them, I really have a hard time caring. It relies on a lot of trope-laden fantasy archetypes, but within those constraints there’s at least some good writing, and characters I don’t hate.
Song of Conquest is expected to be in Early Access for a year, which is pretty surprising. Both events are polished and fully functional, and while more events are certainly welcome, the quality (if not the quantity) is on par with games that have already reached 1.0. Exactly what will be needed until Lavapotion is happy to call it complete is unclear, as the studio hopes to “work out with the community which features we should prioritize”. God, I’m sick of early access.
Anyway! If you don’t want to wait a year for the community to provide feedback, you should join now. Early access is always a bit of a gamble, but Lavapotion has made a hacking tactics game you’ll soon forget is still in development.