American Conquest: Fight Back

American Conquest: Fight Back is right up the alley of anyone who loved Cossacks and American Conquest. Boasting five new nations, more than fifty new units, eight daunting new single-player campaigns, and ten missions in the new Battlefield mode (think “Puzzle Modeâ€), it’s pretty much more of the same.

18According to the box, American Conquest has sold over a million copies. Naturally, any game with looks this retro and a manual that features illustrations of concentric musket fire radii has to be some tactical masterpiece. Excellent touches glimmer throughout. The architecture and terrain look swell, the combat sound is gloriously crunchy and evokes the flavor of the period. Finally, there are no finer-looking naval vessels in any other isometric game; the designers would be well served by directing future energies into a full-fledged 17th-century privateer strategy game.

In reality, 17th century warfare was brutal, short, and in most cases, wildly one-sided. The American Conquest combat model involves churning out unending streams of peasants and battles with tens of thousands of units clashing slowly and repeatedly in a soup of pixels. The manual makes much of morale factors, but the AI behaves with a logic all its own; units get stuck behind trees or buildings, wander aimlessly off to be killed by a bear (one bear, moose, or alligator can take down ten pikemen), refuse to give chase to fleeing mortally wounded units, then don’t flee themselves when ordered to. You have many icons with which to govern their behavior, but all are so small and inscrutable that memorizing their positions is your only resort.

4There’s still hardly any ambient sound, no intermediary view between the too close-in normal mode and orbital L-mode, and few hotkeys. Moreover, why do you have only 20 seconds to upgrade your units at the start of Battlefield mode? There’s no American War for Independence campaign, just a single mission you play as the colonists. The Europeans can build mines, but the indigenous tribes need trading posts, which take longer to construct and involve awful exchange rate. Europeans also get the artillery, for which the Native American tribes have no answer.

The American Revolution (not to mention the topical events leading up to it) is still great subject material that has yet to be given a fair budgetary and creative shake. This one might tepidly pass for it if you’re charitable, but it definitely has its share of problems.

System Requirements: Pentium 233 MHz, 32 MB RAM, Win95

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