We live in an age of throwbacks, nostalgia, and spiritual successors, but it’s not too often that I’m as immediately drawn in by one as I have been with Songs of Conquest. Seeking to recapture the heyday of fantasy strategy classics like Heroes of Might and Magic, developer Lavapotion has put together a relatively simple formula that nonetheless has plenty of built-in depth. It’s not trying to be overly ambitious or completely reinvent the genre, but that helps to make it a breath of fresh air in a lot of the right ways.
There are two layers to Songs of Conquest: a turn-based campaign map where you’ll move your hero and their followers around to find secrets, complete quests, and gather resources, and a tactical battle screen where you’ll fight it out with knights, faeries, and the undead. Both are done up in a moody pixel art style that looks like something out of the late ‘90s, but polished up with some nice little touches that give it a modern feel. It’s very charming, striking a balance between paying homage and incorporating things we’ve learned about UI and readability over the years.
Exploring the diverse maps involves taking control of resources, hiring new troops, and discovering bits of the story. Upgrading buildings gives access to more unit types, while you’ll also be leveling up your “Wielder” and equipping them with gear in the style of an RPG hero. They don’t actually participate in the nitty-gritty of combat, but various items can give bonuses to your troops or let you bring more of them with you.
The turn-based tactical battles are fast-paced and straightforward, but have a lot of nuances in the terrain and initiative system to master. Ranged troops, in a departure from most similar games, don’t have a percentage chance to hit. Rather, they do more damage the closer they are to their target. This can also be increased if you’re attacking from a higher elevation. So rather than deciding whether or not to gamble on a long-range shot, you can choose exactly how much you’re willing to trade your safe position for increased offensive power.
Your Wielder really brings their force to bear in battle with spells, the mana for which can be part of one or more of five schools. The catch is that the mana for these spells is generated when your regular troops attack, based on each unit’s elemental affinity. The Baronies of Arleon, for instance, can recruit a lot of standard human troops who have an affinity for Order, but also the forest-dwelling Faey who favor Chaos. Committing to one affinity or deciding to mix and match has a major impact not just on the type of forces you field, but on what abilities you’ll be able to bring to bear. And no faction has access to them all.
Songs of Conquest also features a fairly detailed campaign with rousing original music, telling the story of Baroness Cecilia of Stoutheart trying to cement her rule in the face of many challenges. I’ve only seen a small slice of it so far, but the storytelling was satisfying in a sort of paperback fantasy novel way.
From what I’ve seen so far, Songs of Conquest looks like the best variety of spiritual successor. It’s not being overly ambitious or trying to cram in too many systems, but has put enough of a clever spin on the formula that inspired it to not make me ask why I wouldn’t just reinstall Heroes of Might and Magic 3. The world is very pleasant to look at, the factions have clear and interesting personalities, and both exploration and battles are fast, fun, and intriguing. We’ll be able to explore it together when it enters early access later this year.
Source: IGN Video Games All