Old World Impressions Review: A Mighty 4X Title
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There’s been a lot of cool indie releases out in recent weeks! I’m back again with more rummaging through the indie game boxes. After a packed Q1, 2022 seems to be slowing down at least on the AAA side. With the delay of Starfield into 2023 and the usual summer lull, things will be fairly quiet. It does make me wonder why everything was packed into the first few months of the year, but that’s how the cookie crumbles, sometimes!
There’s good news, though. It gives me the chance to focus more on the indie gaming scene, which feels as strong as ever. We’ve had plenty of cool stuff released just this past week: Ultimate Epic Battle Simulator 2 with its fascinating new engine, Cantata, turn-based survival game Kaiju Wars, Soundfall, and the excellent Citizen Sleeper are just a few. I hope to cover all of these in due time, but today, I want to bring you my impressions of one of the top sellers on Steam. As with most reviews, these are early impressions, subject to change as development continues. This is especially true of an Early Access game! These are my impressions of Songs of Conquest.
Nostalgia is a hell of a drug. The Heroes of Might and Magic series were gigantic back in the day, with many attempts over the years to revive them. We’ve had a few in the last couple of years, with spiritual successors adding twists of their own. Hero’s Hour is one of those, a game that has been close to my heart for many months.
Songs of Conquest feels like a hegemony to Heroes of Might and Magic III, which many fans believe is the strongest title in the series. In development for several years before its public reveals, Songs of Conquest finally came out on the 10th of May, on the Early Access program.
For £25/30 USD, it’s a fairly standard price for a high-quality indie release. As the overall bar rises for the indie game industry, price tags are slowly creeping up. I’d say £25 is a fair price for the current polish and content available in the game, though I understand people being more careful with how they spend their money in these current times. I can say I’ve enjoyed Songs of Conquest plenty so far, even in this early state. I could make the argument that it’s a high tag for a game in Early Access, but there’s plenty to enjoy already. When in doubt, it’s always worth waiting for the full release because we get access to the entire package in one go.
Songs of Conquest is in a fairly advanced state, with a polished and relatively bug-free experience from my time so far… (Big thanks to Coffee Stain Publishing for being legends and hooking me up with the key for this overview!)
Included in the current game are two campaigns, four factions, a skirmish mode, an in-depth codex and tutorial, and a map editor. The campaigns might be relatively short with just four scenarios each, but so far I’ve enjoyed my time with them. We don’t have too many strategy games these days, and it’s nice for the world to remind us that they still exist. The art design is fantastic, with vibrant biomes and an old-school feel which still feels modern.
While Songs is heavily inspired by HOMIM3, it has its tweaks and niches. Army stacks are limited to a certain number, while city building requires a limited amount of slots. This forces the player to make choices on what they want their settlement to specialize in. Should it be an economic powerhouse? A military bastion? A defensive outpost against the enemy forces? As someone who usually loves sandbox options to explore and experiment with mechanics, I prefer this limitation. It forced me to be selective on what I wanted to bring to battle, as well as organize my settlements. The wrong decision can doom a mission. That’s good, consequences are important.
Songs of Conquest has high production value, and the campaign is pretty heavy on story and character development which is always nice to see. The game ships with two campaigns, and while they are rather short with four scenarios each, both are high quality. There are great musical sequences between missions which adds to the immersion, and I felt for the characters. Strategy games can struggle with bringing an emotional front with their missions, but so far, Songs is holding up well. The map designs are also solid, packed with little mini-stories, side quests, and secrets to discover. There are a few minor balance issues; the final mission of the Stouthart campaign has been notoriously difficult, so much so that it has been nerfed in a recent patch. Admittedly, I haven’t played too many of the campaign missions yet, but so far I’m liking what I see. I imagine I’ll be getting to grips with that later.
With all these cool games, one of the best features any game can provide is custom content. Songs of Conquest was released with the full map and story editor for players to make their scenarios and maps. It’s the same engine used to make the campaigns, and I always appreciate any game which allows this. Mods and editors vastly increase the longevity of a game, and Songs is no exception. It could do with more polish, but it’s fully functional and I’m looking forward to making my maps and missions when I get the chance.
I would like to see a UI scale; the text on my 1080p screen is rather small. It’s nothing unplayable, but for the old fogies like myself who struggle with eyesight at times, small text can be difficult to make out. I’ve seen a lot worse, it is just a quality of life update I would like to see Songs include. Battles also cannot be replayed, and right now, there’s no auto-resolve. With little patches and tweaks, this is all the nature of a game still in development. Provided things are properly communicated and problems are sorted within a reasonable timeframe, I’m happy to keep supporting these projects.
It’s early days, but so far, it looks like Songs of Conquest is living up to the hype. It’s lovely when something desired for so long turns out to be worth it, and this is one of those games when you can nod and say “Well done. Keep it going.” Hopefully, Songs will continue to impress me and become the game Heroes of Might and Magic fans across the world always wanted.