Expeditions: Conquistador is a game set in a alternate history in which the player is put in charge of a conquistador sent from the Spanish mainland. The year is 1518—a year before Hernán Cortés would be elected captain of the third expedition to the South American mainland, where he would overthrow the Aztec empire. But that will not happen, because you have beaten him to the punch. The majority of the game is involves exploration and resource management with some combat and dialogue thrown into the mix. It’s a bizarre but brilliant premise and I applaud the creators for taking on such a sensitive issue within a game and pulling it off so well.
Expeditions is a tactical Role playing game with a major emphasis on exploration and resource management that very closely resembles Kings Bounty: The Legend. The game has four types of resources, each having a different importance. First of all there is currency, which allows you to buy a manner of things. The other three have practical uses such as Spanish settlers and natives will trade resources with you according to their demand whilst the trade market fluctuates depending on where and what you are selling. It’s a nice little touch and gives the feel of a living economy.
The resources are managed in real time whilst the player explored the map. Exploration is limited by a few moves on the hexagonal map at a time and is tied to the expeditions stamina. If the stamina runs out then you must set up camp, which allows you to complete a manner of tasks. Each of these tasks is vital for maintaining your expeditions resources and keeping your team in tip top condition. Failing to assign each team member to necessary jobs drains the party’s resources, which is something you really don’t want to do. Different types of terrain alters the demands for each need so for example camping on a mountain will making guarding the camp easier but hunting will be much harder. Having these factors make each choice in the game feel significant.
Much more depth is added through the injury system. Not only is an injured player not able to perform tasks in camp, but also the doctor treating them is also out. Having someone out due to sickness will definitely make the terrain feel more challenging and adds to the thrill of the game. Also if a party member falls in battle, they will sustain an injury, which will render them useless in the expedition and exploration parts of the game. The game is really excellent at making you feel like every fight it tough and team members must be managed. If multiple members are knocked out then even the strongest teams can become vulnerable.
For me, the most challenging aspect of the game was the combat. Friendly and enemy forces are arrange opposite each other on a large hexagonal grid system. Often depending on how a conversation ends just before the fight determines the more advantageous position on the terrain. Before each battle both sides choose traps and barricades to set up on the map to hinder each others moves. The player then chooses six team members to fight with him and when combat commences the sides take turns attacking and moving.
There are around 10 different over world classes which all perform uniquely from each other. Units have the option to attack with melee or ranged or use up to five abilities (depending on the level of the unit). No class can win a fight alone. Each class feels balanced and well crafted and even the best equipped and highest level is subject to strengths and weaknesses which means they have to stick to their roles within the group. You can sometimes find yourself in a position where half of your team is pretty useless and you depend on one or two characters to pull you through the fight, which can be challenging and fun.
That being said, the AI is truly excellent at disrupting the players tactics and I found that most of the challenge does not come from the strength of the enemies but instead from how they’re able to tactically pick the player apart. The AI seems to strategize in an incredible human way (pat yourselves on the back programmers). They attack the melee only scouts first, target medics quickly with range and seem to be able to hide traps in choke points better than myself. As your team gets stronger and gets better equipped, more encounters begin with your team outnumbered or surrounded to nullify your advantage.
Combat is always tricky. If you actually loose a fight, the enemy takes advantage and raids your supplies and injures (or kills) members of your camp. Experience is rewarded by progressing through quests and not from winning battles, so the risks associated with fighting are not always worth the rewards. As combat has large implications on exploration, it should never be undertaken easily. The fighting Is well designed, but simple and has been crafted in such a way that its extremely difficult, risky an always meaningful. Each member of your team is a cog in a larger machine and is vital, so putting one at rick is never something to be taken lightly. As each member has different skills necessary for exploration and balancing resources, even characters that do not fight can contribute to camp.
Also each of the characters in your party have different personalities so they stick out instead of being back characters to the main protagonist. When starting the game, the player is not just choosing from the best stats of each player but also choosing a backstory as each member comes with a well written narrative and explains why they want to explore the new world. Each character has a nice big oil painting of them, which is a cool feature. Moreover, they also have three personality traits each such as peaceful, greedy, adventurous and so on which makes the game feel quite Neverwinter Nights esq. These effect the way they will react to your decisions and they may go up or down depending on the choices which you make throughout the game.
What I really find impressive however, is how the personality trains and backstories tie up into the main game. Sometimes a member of the group will approach you in camp to discuss things related to their history, or they will comment on certain events as they happen appropriate to their personalities. It feels very much like Dragon Age: Origins in the sense that team members will also converse with each other about recent or current events throughout the game. Also if you improve their moral enough, then they will begin to refer to the player character by their first name, which is a cool, little touch.
Another great feat from the developers is how they have made the world and characters come to life by pretty much only using team. There’s actually very little animation and conversations occur purely in text boxes with an accompanying portrait. The writing of the game is incredibly impressive and it really complements the lack of visuals. For example the descriptions of approaching a house, the sights around it, the person answering the door are done with such vividness and colourful language that its excellent to read and gives you a good impression of the world.
As for the gameplay, I loved it. It works with very few problems. Ones I found were; the controls are not always responsive, determining where allies can move is sometimes unclear and its very easy to loose track of enemy units. Apart from that the game is truly amazing. That a game with such scale and well polished can be created by such a small team really speaks wonders for the developer.
Now it comes to speaking about the subject matter. The game is about the colonisation of South America and is not a light subject. You the player simulate this and can sometimes feel a little uncomfortable if you know basic history about this period. Having said this, Expeditions: Conquistador does not romanticise the setting but it also seems to make light of it at times. However, the developers have said that in the full game there will be a campaign that deals with the perspective of the Aztec war band and it was speculated that there maybe a Inca empire campaign included (I don’t think it was achieved though).
All in all I loved Expeditions: Conquistador. I thought it was a well-polished, brilliantly written gem of a game and I would advice any gamer to pick his one up to try something a little different.
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.