By now, gamers are used to games set in World War II Europe, Tolkien-inspired fantasy lands, or dystopian futures, but we haven’t witnessed many games featuring Hispaniola or Central America during the time of the Spanish conquistadors. Indie developer, Logic Artists, sought to address that historical period by creating Expeditions: Conquistador, a tactical RPG with resource management and turn-based battle. First shoehorned onto Windows Phone 7, the game was given new life on the PC via their Kickstarter campaign. Given the depth of the 20+ hour campaign I experienced, I’d say that the transition was mostly successful, but not without a few bumps.
Starting a new game of Expeditions: Conquistador greets the player with a wealth of options to choose. Choosing your team involves reading down a lengthy list of possible characters who are interested in joining your expedition. Using a little bit of revisionist history, you are given the opportunity to lead a traditional team of men, mix it up, or run a progressive faction of women. Conveniently, women do not suffer the common trope of lowered defense or offense at all, nor do they wear impossibly revealing armor. Each character possesses a detailed backstory, a specific role to perform both on and off the battlefield, and three character traits, which affect their responses to your actions. For example, aggressive followers lose morale when you avoid battle, and altruistic followers lose morale when you deny the needy of resources. I appreciated the variety, but the backstories were way too much to read. They should have been integrated into gameplay, so players can get started quickly.
Gameplay is split into three major components: world exploration, camping, and battle. World exploration is accomplished by maneuvering your conquistador about a world map much like old RPGs. It is up to you to discover the map on your own, and goals are often hidden beneath the fog until you reach them. Towns and villages are where you can trade resources and pursue some quests. Conversations and events on the world map are presented in dialog boxes and are occasionally guided by the cumulative traits you share with your team. For example, a high tactical skill can net you advantageous positioning in battle, and a high diplomacy skill can avoid it completely. Although a little crude, these unvoiced dialogues are often quick and easy to read, and the choices presented are creative, allowing you to kowtow to historical accuracy by slaughtering native tribes or write your name in the books by peacefully initiating trade opportunities.
Movement on the world map is limited to a certain number of steps per day. Although it’s faster to travel on the roads, resources, herbs, game, and gold lay on the periphery and invite players to explore forests and mountains. When you run out of moves for one day, you are forced to camp for the night, which brings up another multi-faceted dialogue box. Here, you are able to assign tasks to your followers, disseminate rations and fresh meat to your followers, or tend to wounded followers, who are unable to assist or participate in battle until they get better. On occasion, random events will occur, which can lead to battle or unique opportunities for your team.
When battle is initiated, you choose up to six followers to fight on your behalf, each possessing unique skills on the battlefield. If you managed to surprise or match your opponent, you’re given the option of prepping for battle by setting up traps to ensnare your foes. Each follower can move a set amount of spaces and perform an action, be it an attack or special skill. Battles are still exciting despite being turn-based. I found myself more than once leaning forward in my chair because of how absorbed I was. I’m a poor strategician, so every move my enemy made that dwindled my team’s health or numbers made me very tense. The battle terrains vary quite distinctly, creating different tactical scenario, so the environments rarely get boring. The only disappointment I felt was being limited to six followers when your enemies can sometimes outnumber you.
Overall, I was surprised at how much fun I had playing Expeditions: Conquistador. Underneath the complex systems is an easy game to play, requiring just the one hand on the mouse to do everything. Discovering how the different systems affect each other was also intriguing given how new I am to the genre. The game is rather pleasant to look at, too. Though it doesn’t feature exceptional graphics, the land is colorful and varied and easy on the eyes for extended play sessions. Sound effects are appreciably visceral, and the soundtrack for battles in particular is invigorating without going overboard. The shortcomings in execution come through as bugs, such as infinite death loops that prevent input, and one bug that was almost game-breaking and required a quit to the main menu to shimmy out. I saved often, but the game could afford more checkpoint saves, such as right before battle. Thankfully, bugs didn’t happen often or consistently, and the game loads quickly.
Expeditions: Conquistador is available on Steam, GOG, Gamer’s Gate, and Desura for $19.99. If you’re looking for a fun tactical RPG in a fresh setting for a good price, this game will keep you busy for a good while. Just remember to save!
This review is based on a digital review copy of the game provided by the developer.