Play, Wait, Conquer

HIGH It delivers the thoughtful pace needed for this genre.

LOW No interaction with the environment. Gameplay takes place in a dashboard.

WTF The item description text is so small, it can barely be seen.

When I started Conqueror 940 AD, I was expecting an enjoyably casual turn-based game, and what I received was a friendly, almost child-oriented version of that in a pseudo-Middle Ages setting. While playing, I wondered why the title was set in the year 940 AD. There’s nothing in the game tied to the year, and there are many anachronistic elements (glazed glass greenhouses in the Middle Ages?) but given the cartoonish ambience and because this is the first game from the studio, I rolled along with this creative freedom.

Although the medieval elements are sketchy, Conqueror 940 AD tries to capture the spirit of that age – a feudal lord takes a land, uninhabited and destitute, and with time and good management raises his fief into a prosperous kingdom… or not. This is not the first game to offer this proposition. Afterall, this is the basic premise of every kingdom-builder, but Conqueror 940 AD lacks anything thrilling or new to add to the genre.

The player’s character has a skillset that determines the successes of many decisions, including strength, agility, intelligence, defense, leadership, charm, stealth, tactics, bartering, and they can all be improved through dialogue with the petitioners in the Throne Room or through training. The variety of skills is appreciated, although some seem to have dubious utility, for only at later stages of the game do they gain their usefulness.

The pace of Conqueror 940 AD is interesting. It has the same just one more turn compulsion that games like Civilization or Age of Wonders do, but, unlike these two games, it does not seem to punish mistakes. This is a good thing, as it gives space for the player to learn the mechanics, to try different paths and to plan strategy calmly. On the other hand, players who are less familiar with the genre may be discouraged by the slow pace. It takes many turns to complete tasks, and there’s often nothing to do but click on the “next turn” button and wait– to the point where it feels that the “next turn” button becomes the game and not a feature of it.

For a game that has “Conqueror” in its title, we could expect the real entertainment to start when we finally have an army assembled to invade neighboring kingdoms, but assembling an army is not a simple task. To recruit soldiers we need to craft weapons, do research, reach a certain level of skill, and have the right materials. But to have the materials we need the right building to produce them, or have an enormous amount of money to spend. For a battle system that works through text selection and does not have the visual gratification of battlefield skirmish, this amount of intricacy felt excessive.

Along these lines, it’s easy to see that structurally, Conqueror 940 AD is rich in features. In fact it feels like the details and features are the focus of the developers. However, the game neglects other elements that could enrich the experience, such as the dialogue or animation.

Most of the game takes place in a dashboard with an unappealing layout, which makes play feel monotonous. It is in this dashboard that the player chooses actions such as building, skills training, research, diplomacy, trade, and weapons crafting. This constant cycle of choosing actions is only interrupted when a petitioner requests an audience in the Throne Room or when a raid is happening, but after a while, even these events become repetitive and boring.

It feels that the experience is always a small step away from becoming something more stimulating. It has the right ideas, but as a turn-based game, Conqueror 940 AD fails to add the addictive element. After too short a time it becomes predictable and rote, and the player is left with the feeling that the entire game was a wait loop of choices without any truly challenging or dramatic moments.

Despite these criticisms — and i suspect many of them stem from the limitations of a small studio — we can feel the effort and the esteem that the developers had in making this title. The studio has maintained a close dialogue with the players through Discord to resolve glitches and listen to feedback. In fact, it feels like Conqueror 940 AD could be a draft for a more ambitious project. If this is the case, then every fan of turn-based kingdom builders should keep an eye on this team.

Rating: 4.5 out of 10

Disclosures: This game is developed and published by Combat Wombat Studios. It is currently available on PC. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PC. Approximately 13 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was not completed.There are no multiplayer modes.

Parents: As of press time, this game was not reviewed by the ESRB. This is a text-based game with no animations. The characters and their actions are all static pictures. There are some scenes that picture dead persons and some dialogues refer to poisonings, assassinations, raids, abductions, and offer some libidinous nuances.

Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: This game offers subtitles. The subtitles cannot be altered or resized. (See examples above.) However, unless the player has a huge screen, it’s hard to read some of the text on the dashboard. That said, the game is perfectly playable with no audio. For example, when the kingdom is sacked it makes a specific sound, but it’s always accompanied by a message in the dashboard. Apart from the small text, this game is fully accessible.

Remappable Controls: No, this game’s controls are not remappable. The game can be entirely controlled via the mouse, although shortcuts can be accessed by the keyboard.

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