Expeditions: Conquistador is one of those games that I had no idea existed until I saw a thread about it pop up with discussions. It was funded through Kickstarter and developed by Logic Artists, so it’s understandable to be oblivious to the title’s existence since the game remains a bit unknown to the masses. If you have never heard of the game before or seen gameplay footage, then the best way I can describe the game would be Oregon Trail meets King’s Bounty/XCOM but set in a realistic and gritty 15th – 16th century Central America.
The game has players assuming the role of a custom and player-created conquistador making his way to Central America to pursue adventure and glory. Alongside the player are ten followers that are handpicked from a pool of about 36 or so companions. Each companion has his or her own backstory, characteristics, and class, so followers can be picked according to how you will play your leader because followers will voice their approval or concern towards the choices you make throughout the game. More companions can be gathered throughout the game assuming the player would want them to join their party.
Combat is turn-based and similar to games such as King’s Bounty or XCOM. Characters have a set number of tiles they’re allowed to move and can attack once per turn unless they have activated a skill that lets them attack more than once. Traps and barricades can be used by the player before engagements in order to gain an advantage over the enemy. There’s really not much to be said about the combat in this game. That’s not to say that the combat is bad by any means. It’s very well done and satisfying, but it isn’t particularly innovative.
There are five classes in the game: soldier, scout, hunter, doctor, scholar. Each class has unique skills and attributes, such as the doctor’s ability to heal and scholar’s to lower the defense of enemies and buff allies. Hunters are the primary ranged damage dealers of the game and scouts are specialized at melee. Soldiers are able to fight in both ranged and melee combat but are not as specialized as hunters or scouts. Five Native classes exist as counterparts to the Spaniards: trapper, shaman, warrior, amazon, and champion. They’re for the most part similar to the Spanish classes but have a few differences such as trappers having a poison DOT while hunters don’t or shamans being exclusively melee versions of doctors.
The main draw of the game comes from the narrative and characterization of the story and your followers. Each party member has their own personalities and backstories, and they won’t be afraid to comment on your choices. In an early quest, you’re tasked with getting rid of natives who are worshiping spirits and scaring travelers on the roads, and you can either kill them all or resolve the matter peacefully. If you allow them to continue worshiping and ask them to leave peacefully, you gain the approval of members of your party who are open-minded and diplomatic, but you lose favor from your followers who are xenophobic and devout Catholics. In addition to that, there are random events where your companions will speak to you about their backstories, adding an immersive atmosphere to the game because your companions feel alive. The narrative is a breath of fresh air as well. How many other modern games allow you to play as a conquistador who pacifies the Aztecs? There’s a lot of freedom in playstyles; players can either choose to be a diplomat and resolve conflict peacefully, or he can be a true to life conquistador and slaughter the natives who get in his way. I also like that the choices are impactful and carry weight rather than just changing the color of the screen.
The reason why I said this game is similar to Oregon Trail is that, once you leave a hub or settlement, your party can only move a certain number of steps until they are forced to camp. When camping for the night, you must assign certain party members to different tasks to ensure that the camp is guarded and food is available. If the camp is not guarded and patrolled, valuables and tools may go missing. Food is consumed each night by all your party members, so, before leaving a city, players should stock up on rations or hope that the hunters in their party are able to hunt meat every night. Camping also allows the player to assign doctors to heal wounded party members. While I enjoy this mechanic because traversing the map becomes a lot tenser, especially when you run low on food, micromanaging the camp gets tedious when I’m trying to just get from one end of the map to the other. The camera is also fixed to your player so you can’t zoom out and scroll around the map.
There are a few issues I have with the game. The leveling system for your followers is counterintuitive. Rather than followers leveling up from participating in combat, the player levels up followers based on using experience from a shared pool. This means that followers who have never participated in battles can be promoted, and it also makes promoting followers in general take more time since I have to individually select who to promote rather than have all members who participated in combat receive experience and level up normally. This mechanic is clunky, and I’m not a fan of it at all. Another issue I have is that the RNG in the game feels favored towards the enemy, even moreso than other turn-based combat games. When using hunters, I feel like the majority of my ranged attacks miss while the enemies consistently land their arrows against my troops. This gets a bit frustrating to the point where it caused me to favor scouts and soldiers since melee attacks are a guaranteed hit.
Overall, Expeditions: Conquistador is a very solid title. The core gameplay is very satisfying, and although there are some cons to the game, the cons aren’t enough to detract from the main gameplay experience. I’d recommend it if you’re looking for a turn-based strategy RPG that’s done in a new, fresh setting and has enough content to be worth your money.
Available on: PC; Publisher: bitComposer Games; Developer: Logic Artists; Players: 1-2; Released: May 30, 2013; ESRB: N/A; MSRP: $19.99: Official Site
Note: A promotional code was provided to Denkiphile for review purposes by the publisher.