Conquest: Frontier Wars

snap075Space really was somewhat of a final frontier for real-time strategy game designers. After all, it’s not easy implementing a medium that lets you move in any direction into a genre that is traditionally set on a horizontal plane with a top-down view of the action. Homeworld tried and succeeded in bringing space to strategy fans, but it was way short of your typical C&C romp set in zero gravity. The game had a ton of flair and originality, assets which, though present in Ubisoft’s more grounded Conquest: Frontier Wars, won’t be found in as ample supply.

Conquest, unlike Homeworld, really is a C&C romp in space – you will be mining and refining resources, upgrading your various capabilities, dishing out standing orders and waypoints, researching new technologies, and so on. Conquest’s several twists on that familiar foundation stem from its deep-space setting — you can’t build just anywhere, for example. Your base structures can be built only around planets. An important element of strategy is added by the fact that each level is divided into separate sectors separated by wormholes. Building and defending jumpgates that link them is critical, as gates allow your ships and supply lines to extend from one sector to another.

Other neat original elements include the ability to assign unit leaders to your fleets, which confer tactical bonuses to forces under their command (providing you can keep them alive, of course), and a special emphasis on supplies (ships actually run out of ammo and have to return to base to re-arm, unless you have a mobile supply ship in the vicinity). Also, in an apparent nod to the genre’s turn-based older brother, there’s an added element called “Command Pointsâ€; these determine how many ships and structures you can manage at any one time, regardless of how resource-rich you may be. Command points are essentially a third resource aside from ore and gas, so they should be a welcome addition to the more hardcore types who really like to burrow into the construction side of these games.

snap067Conquest’s graphics have a fine look, but like games of this type (i.e., 3D), it’s hard to find a good compromise view — to really appreciate the look of the ships and structures, you have to zoom in beyond a point that’s of much use tactically. When you’ve zoomed out enough to let you effectively dictate a battle, the graphics look barely average. The game as a whole does have its moments, though it’s not particularily interesting, and halway in you get that nagging feeling that you’d probably have more fun playing StarCraft.

System Requirements: Pentium II 350 MHz, 64 MB RAM, Win95

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