American Conquest Gold Edition combines American Conquest and American Conquest: Fight Back, putting you in the shoes of leaders including Columbus, Washington and Pizarro as they conquer America through an RTS interface. Both games play the same but Fight Back contains more missions, countries, units and includes the new Battlefield mode. By and large both games are what you’d expect from any game in the genre.
You start out with peasants; units comparable to Starcraft’s SCV or AOE’s villager. Produced in dwellings, peasants collect resources including food, gold, wood, stone, iron, and coal, as well as build and repair structures. They are also converted into varying types of military units once trained in either the fort or fortress. Wood is gathered and brought to storehouses, grain to a mill and mineral mines operate autonomously once built over mineral deposits. As structures are built they will allow for technological advancements and additional structures. For example, once you have a dwelling to produce peasants, a mill to harvest food and a storehouse to gather wood a blacksmith can be built that allows the fort to produce new types of military units. As your resource stores grow and your technology knowledge improves, you can eventually produce more advanced items including shipyards, frigates, and fortresses.
The unit info window describes structures and units and their available upgrades, however, to locate a specific item you must scroll through every single entry one at a time. The game info window allows you to toggle between general info such as population, market prices, casualty list, resource income, and diplomacy. While useful, both windows cannot be relocated and only one can appear at a time. Fortunately the maps look good especially the water and shoreline areas. There are plenty of animations – including the very long reloading period for musketeers – it looks good but battles with small groups seem to last forever as everyone is constantly reloading. Units are animated to actually enter and exit buildings rather than disappearing in front of them.
The New World
Unlike many similar games, Conquest doesn’t require you to bathe the landscape with supply depots in order to gather resources. The downside to this is that all resources are in infinite supply and fighting a defensive war, while affective to a point, probably won’t get you very far when 2,000+ soldiers storm your fort. Eventually you must go on the offensive-you don’t have a choice. When producing units you can automate their production by holding down control while you click the create button. This way the unit in question (peasants for example) will be produced infinitely provided that at least 500 units of food are available. You can even set a dwelling’s rally point inside of the fort and set your military units on infinite as well. The peasants will continually enter the fort to train and leave as soldiers to your fort’s rally point.
Since you can command several thousand units at a time, after clicking and dragging to select your entire army the group is conveniently broken down into the different types of units within the larger group. Clicking a subgroup will select all of that type of unit such as peasants, officers, bearers etc. With a dwelling selected another click selects all idle peasants, eliminating the need to keep track of each one, insuring that they’re never just standing around. Although you can move over 1000 units at a time, a subgroup of more than 1200 is listed as infinity.
Buildings can be captured by sending units into them. If you capture a building-a dwelling for example-next to an enemy fort your soldiers in the dwelling take out enemy soldiers right as they leave the fort, or enemy peasants if you take a building near a dwelling. You can also click on your occupied building and then target units as you would if a group of your soldiers were selected. Sending units into your own buildings fortifies them and allows your soldiers to kill oncoming enemies by firing from inside. If you begin producing new units or researching upgrades the defensive measures cease. Another interesting feature is the inclusion of officers and drummers (complete with beating drums while marching). When officers and drummers are grouped with your military units you can order a variety of formations that make them more affective in combat and boost morale.
Despite some cool features Conquest isn’t anything special. Campaign intros are long sequences of narrated text giving background on the events and the time period with no animation of any kind. Zzzzzzz. You will occasionally come across neutral tribes which you are unable to attack and only two levels of view are available: very close and very far. In the first level of the first campaign you can’t gather stone because you can’t build mines, meaning your arrow-shooting enemies even on the first level have a huge reach advantage over you. They attack from long distances and your soldiers with bladed weapons are easily picked-off. Autosave can only be turned off in single player ? random map.
Early missions are accomplished by gathering enough resources or building enough units regardless of whether you are under attack. One mission mandated that I survive for fifteen minutes?and by “survive” I mean I had one peasant and three burning buildings remaining?VICTORY! There were no enemy bases to attack on this level and units simply materialized from thin air. Frequently the AI is terrible and units become stuck at map edges and in mission five of the first campaign the “help” sent by the Aztecs spent most of their time stuck against rocks. The group of Aztec archers kept growing in that one spot. Units are often slow to respond to a change in orders if about to enter a building and occasionally wonder off on their own and gunners begin firing from too far away to accurately hit their targets.
Fight Back sports a new Battlefield mode geared towards those who want to jump right in and fight. You can’t gather resources or build anything but you start with an enormous army not far from the opposing side. For twenty seconds the entire map is revealed allowing you time to see where everything is and to make unit upgrades when available. The unit info box can’t be closed until the twenty seconds are up so anything against the right wall is covered. Luck plays a large part in your demise or victory since both armies normally cross paths in the middle of the map while on their way to capture or destroy the other’s fort/tent/camp. Bear in mind you can’t create peasants or gather resources so eventually your army dies of famine if not combat. This is invariably fast and boring and the path to victory is sometimes ambiguous; one of the first battlefield maps instructs you to capture the enemy camp but the only tents on the map are labeled as neutral when you click on them. When your army arrives a message appears stating “mounted officer prevents you from shooting” so your 1,000 units just sit there unable to capture the tents or attack them. Finally on my fourth or fifth attempt after killing some soldiers it said victory?whatever. In my previous attempt as my troops died of famine the cpu ceased attacking and just stood there. Then when I had zero units left the game still didn’t end. AI strikes-and misses-again.
The online play lagged a bit but what really blew my mind was that the online interface for Fight Back wasn’t in English. Assuming it was an error on my part I reinstalled and it still wasn’t in English. I also buffooned upon a five for five crash with both game discs by clicking News and Events in the lobby and then Punishments?also seen before and after reinstallation. For the most part the online interface is good save for the inability to tab between data fields when entering your information. When creating a game you can choose different types of land formations, mineral amounts, map size, victory conditions etc. Players can even type to one another in the lobby no matter what screen they’re on and “mute” specific players.
There is a definite shortage of sound effects and going’s on between missions. Neither game is anything special but there is fun to be found by building up legions of troops with the automated unit commands and swarming enemy bases. I had difficulty overlooking the fact that Conquest wrongly glorifies Columbus; even the tutorial (found only on Fight Back) starts out with you destroying native settlements and capturing their resources.