Mobile games are often looked down on by hardcore gamers because of their simplicity. After all, how intense can the experience of a game really be if you can beat it in 15 minutes on the bus home from work? But the folks at Singapore’s Daylight Studios clearly don’t view mobile gaming that way, as they’ve crafted one of the biggest and most complex mobile games I’ve ever played: Conquest Age.
Gameplay: war is a grind
The first thing that must be said about Conquest Age is that it’s huge. You play as a warrior — any of three classes you choose at the beginning — striving to unify a fractured land in preparation for a returning threat. PvE? Conquest Age has it. PvP? Got that too. Exploration? Yup. Weapon forging? Included. A marketplace? Of course. A skill upgrade system? Definitely. Quests and side-quests galore? Indeed. Items all day? Got ’em. Dozens of areas to conquer? Affirmative. And the list goes on. There’s seriously a lot going on in Conquest Age.
There may, in fact, be a bit too much going on. It’s definitely overwhelming at first, and even after hours of playing I still hadn’t fully figured out some aspects of the game, which features multiple in-game currencies and several different “action points” style counters, among other things. None of that really affected my experience playing the game too much because I was able to operate pretty effectively without fully understanding everything, but new players should be prepared to be a bit overwhelmed.
And ultimately, I wonder if too much time was spent on adding in all of these extra items, quests, and systems, while not enough time was spent on the core gameplay. The battles at the heart of Conquest Age do require some skill, but they definitely get old after a while. This is partially because they’re pretty shallow — your only options are attack, block, dodge, or use a special skill — and because the in-battle energy system limits how proactive you can be about taking the fight to your opponent.
I was reminded quite a bit of the combat in the Assassin’s Creed series, actually, because after a few initial strikes deplete your energy, combat in Conquest Age is generally reduced to waiting around for your enemy to attack so that you can dodge and then hopefully counter the strike. It takes concentration and precise timing, but after a few battles, you’ll pretty much have it down, and any mistakes you make will have more to do with inattention than they do with anything else. Here’s a quick video of a few battles; you’ll be doing this a lot to progress through the levels of Conquest Age:
But to be fair, all of that other stuff does make a pretty good distraction. Tired of the combat? Go exploring for more loot, head back to Tri City to upgrade your warrior’s skills and weapons, or head into the PvP arena to take on other players for an added challenge. And thankfully, the game’s freemium monetization schemes don’t seem to get into the way of the fun too much. I can see where Daylight Studios will make its money, but I never felt like I was being penalized for not paying.
Graphics, sound, and story: better than you’d expect
Conquest Age is a simple-looking game, but almost everything looks sharp and it’s pretty easy to figure out what’s happening at any given moment. That’s no small accomplishment given that the game’s sometimes-intrusive GUI is a little tough to squeeze onto the iPhone’s screen. My only real complaint is that you’ll run into a few images and animations that just look out of place. The image of your character that’s shown during exploration sections of the game, for example, feels a bit more cutesy and comic-book than the rest of the game. To me, it looks a bit out of place.
As far as sound goes, you’re not likely to have any complaints. There was nothing in Conquest Age that blew me away, but there was nothing that bothered me either. All of the music fits the mood and theme of the game and the battle sounds are more or less what you’d expect.
Conquest Age deserves special praise for its story though, which hits just the right notes for a mobile game. As I mentioned above, the general concept is that you’re a warrior desperately struggling to unite a land of fragmented tribes before the return of a powerful enemy threatens everyone’s survival. It’s not a complex concept, or even a terribly original one, but it is very well execute in Conquest Age. I almost always skip the story in mobile games, but in Conquest Age I found myself actually getting into the role-playing aspects a little bit.
Conquest Age lost my attention after a few hours, but to be fair, most people don’t play mobile games for a few hours at a time. And there’s so much in the game to fool around with that I don’t imagine staying away forever. I wish the combat was a little deeper, and that it favored players being proactive rather than reactive, but if you enjoy this sort of mobile RPG/battle game, that’s probably not a good enough reason to stay away. Conquest Age, after all, is free, so what’s the harm in downloading it and giving it a shot?
Conquest Age is available on iOS.