Songs Of Conquest 1.0 Review: A sometimes challenging but often rewarding fantasy tale of war command


Two years of early access have been nice for Songs of Conquest. The fundamentals of the strategy were already so solid that in 2022 they impressed me that it was quite complex to even remember what had changed. But there’s more to it, and although after thinking about it for a while, I don’t think it’s the whole story, quite for me, something good and extraordinary would certainly be enough for me to express almost full support.

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This full version is more of a case of offering more for your money than drastically expanding the gameplay experience. Two fresh story campaigns lead us to four (one per faction), each with four very long and extensive levels. There are now multiple skirmish modes with pre-defined or randomized maps (with an compelling ‘find object’ option as a victory condition, tilting the game’s emphasis towards exploration and side battles over classic outright carnage) and a set of challenge maps that – no thanks, my life I don’t need any more challenges. Thanks to the editing tools, there are already several campaigns and maps created by players.

They all focus on one concept: gather a handful of magical warlords (possessors) and let them take turns collecting things on a vast world map, using them to build and amass armies, and taking those armies to tell other possessors what stupid, ugly morons they are, by interpretive stabbing. Heroes of Might and Magic players probably don’t need this reference, but it would be a sin not to take advantage of it.

In Songs of Conquest, a dragon breathes fire at the enemy.

Image Source: Plama Kawa Publishing House

Turn-based battles in Songs Of Conquest.
Image Source: Plama Kawa Publishing House

Vacuuming is the most essential thing, as it provides XP, resources, and artifacts that will strengthen your wielders. With excellent sound effects, collecting wood or magic stones always feels a bit satisfying, even if you don’t really need them. Treasures are often guarded by neutral, unchanging armies where you can try out fresh tactics. Encountering enemies triggers a turn-based mini-battle on a hex grid, where the already gorgeous and spirited pixel art lends itself to handsome animations and effects. Even the borders feature handsome animated landscapes that you may never stop noticing.

Wielders do not join ranks, but cast spells based on the schools you have trained/equipped them for, fueled by mana from multiple sources, the most essential and tactically elastic of which are your soldiers themselves. Each unit type generates “essence” to power spells for specific schools (about half of the spellbook is for multi-school spells), even if there’s only the last guy left in that unit, which adds more tactical variety to your ability to stack all your crossbowmen, say , into one tanky unit that can withstand and distribute more damage, or splitting them into two or even three weaker units that generate more magic (and potentially tardy down the enemy in melee or in a slower-paced economy).

Your wielders’ skill bonuses also apply to your entire army, so you can specialize one for high-powered spellcasting, ponderous melee offense, or even economy, either through passive resource generation or raiding and pillaging enemy settlements. You can even have one whose role is mainly to ferry reinforcements from your cities to your wielders in combat. Map control is everything, as cities (which are unchanging, with strictly restricted building spaces) are usually simple to take without a wielder defending, but the wielders defending don’t go out to earn XP and goods. You have to keep expanding and pushing, because anything you don’t absorb may end up in the enemy’s hands instead. But they can’t be everywhere, so even the weaker side can sometimes utilize harassing raids and decoy tactics to unbalance and weaken the stronger side.

Each faction’s unit roster is compact, but unique and diverse enough not to be restricted to a single gimmick or playstyle. Take Rana, an alliance of downtrodden swamp frogs and lizard people whose mix Very Slow tanks and brisk cavalry are supported by robust ranged spellcasters and spider riders who weaken adjacent enemies. They seem contradictory, since it’s not really your job to recruit everyone; it’s generally better to have a vast force consisting mostly of one or two key types, paired with a wielder who can further develop their strengths. Some troops (especially the undead faction) are at their best not even fighting, but sitting back, generating extra magic for your spells.

Choosing Brother Hillar's skills after he reaches a level in Songs of Conquest.
Image Source: Coffee Spot Publishing House

Regardless of what skills and magic your wielders acquire, what equipment they have, what soldiers you focus on, and what opponent you face, Songs of Conquest is largely a game of learning all the combos. However, since each unit only has one or two quirks and the rules are generally clear and uncomplicated, it doesn’t feel overly overwhelming or pedantic (though the battle log is disappointingly uninformative, and it’s sometimes complex to see the hex behind the line of huge monsters, without order confirmation anyway condensed battles, an occasional misclick can cause earnest damage).

The game rewards learning but does not require a scholarship. However, you can misplace your tokens and not find out until some point in the game (tip: protection from spell damage is invaluable). The semi-random leveling options work worse than, for example, Wildermyth, partly because some skills are much worse than others. A little more wood or more powerful magic? You’re kidding.

But that variety means that getting hit a few times while you learn how to plan your forces ahead of time is part of the fun. And Songs of Conquest is heap fun. I actually liked the story because each faction’s campaign focuses on its own conflict and sheds fresh featherlight on the larger one. I appreciate that there’s no standard swamp Human Empire or damn elves here. Even the undead faction is a mix of cultists, rats and ghosts, with a more compelling motivation than another “hey let’s wake up the Dark Lord lol oh no my soul” thing. The Baryans, who could be typical evil slavers, come across as a forward-thinking, oddly legalistic culture unlike the aged kingdoms, but with mercantile leanings, meaning that yes, even their main campaign holder was enslaved.

I really like Songs of Conquest. I may not like it entirely, but it’s colorful, luxurious in flavor, and has more strategic depth than it initially seemed. Its main inspiration is clear, but it deserves its place in the sun.

This review is based on a copy of the game provided by the publisher.

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