Developer: GSC GameWorld
Released: February 2003
Genre: Real Time Strategy
Capabilities: Online play via Internet, LAN
Review Written: March 31, 2003
American Conquest is a real time strategy game developed by GSC Game World,
the same people who developed the acclaimed Cossacks line of RTS titles. At
first glance, American Conquest may seem like the Cossacks game with a different
theme slapped, but it is much more than meets the eye.
AC is set in the newly discovered North America continent and takes place from the 1600’s all the way until the end of the eighteenth century as opposed to the European empires that Cossacks is set in. In these years you’ll be recreating many of the memorable wars such as French-Indian War, the Columbus Expeditions, and the Revolutionary War, among others. There are many different factions in the campaigns you’ll have control over such as the British, Spanish, French, American Colonists, and several of the Native American tribes such as the Sioux, Incan, Mayan, Pueblo, Delaware, Aztec, Iroquois, and the Huron.
If you played any real time strategy game before, then you should have no problem adapting to American Conquest. The concept is just like the rest, harvest resources with peasants, use the resources to construct more buildings and train troops. Then use the army you built to seek out and destroy your opponents base. The thing that sets AC apart from the rest of the RTS titles is its ability to handle a plethora of units battling onscreen with not much slowdown on the average PC. Another thing is recreating those classic battle sequences when you can set long formations of troops across the valley. Hell, there are even drummers that march with you to help boost morale. Instead of destroying buildings you can also capture them by having troops invade them and vanquishing any enemies that may be garrisoned inside.
The campaign missions place you in a wide variety of scenarios. They are all based heavily on actual history, and there are great briefings with lots of interesting facts pertaining to the mission. They are a tad bit on the lengthy side, but if you’re history nut like me you will milk every seconds worth of info out of them. The first missions are easy tutorials to get you familiar with the controls on how to make units, construct buildings, advanced tactics, and so on. Aside from the usual “destroy opposing base” missions there are other interesting types of scenarios thrown in there for variety such as defending your own base for a specific amount of time, or completing missions with only a limited amount of troops. These put me in for some real challenges, yet they didn’t drag on and get boring like they do in other RTS games such as Battle Realms, and Conflict Zone.
Each faction and race has its own units and structures that are unique to them. For example, all European nationalities have the advanced weaponry with guns at their disposal. There is realistic reloading between each shot fired from the gunmen, and if the enemy gets close to them while reloading, they’ll start melee attacking with their swords. The Native Americans are weaker, but their archers and tomahawk throwers pack in a mean punch when attacking in large numbers. Their units also produce considerably much faster. Your army’s moral is also another huge factor. If your troops are really taking a beating from flank attacks, then they may become demoralized and their will to fight will decrease. To help maintain moral having those aforementioned drummers and flag bearers marching along in formations with your army helps a ton. It is mechanics like this help distinguish American Conquest from the rest of the pack.
AC doesn’t go without its flaws. There are some problems with the AI of your troops. If an enemy happens to wanders by and retreats after seeing the gigantic size of your army a couple of soldiers will wander off from your formation and chase him until they run right into the enemy’s base and get killed. There is a stand ground feature, but it must be activated each time after moving a troop to a new location which makes it a cumbersome experience. Also peasants will run away from any wild animals they encounter, and will tend to drift a bit away from your base. It is tiny micromanagement blemishes like these that’ll distract you long enough away from the main mission so you can get your base back in order again.
There are a couple other extra ways to play American Conquest aside from the main campaigns. There’s a random map feature that throws you in a quick match up against the computer and there is the standard multi player match ups playable over Internet or through a LAN. There is also a handy Mission Editor included so you can make your own maps to duel on. All these extras will add hours of replay value, and they’re the perfect break from the challenging campaign scenarios.
American Conquest uses a 2D graphical engine that consists mostly of sprite-based characters and terrains. However, everything has crisp textures and animates smoothly. There are some nice effects in here, like shadows for the ships at sea, and some slick animations for units being garrisoned inside. The developers made the most out of this engine and I was surprised at how there was practically no slowdown when hundreds of troops were in the heat of battle. The load times are a hair on the long side, but nothing too horrendous to cause damage.
Unlike most other RTS titles, AC doesn’t make use of voice acknowledgements from the units in game play. There are plenty of grunts and groans to be heard from them, but that is how far it extends to. There are plenty of sound effects to be heard for all the game play mechanisms. Good job overall on those, and I was particularly fond of the authentic gunfire. There are a few background music tracks that sound great and set the tone for the action, but the few tracks available get mundane rather quickly. A few more extra music tracks could’ve easily helped.
Game play: 8.7
Replay Value: 8.1
American Conquest isn’t just your average RTS game. Its stunning game play features listed above sets it apart from the rest of the pack, and you actually learn something out of it as well. Fans of the Cossacks games will definitely want to pick this up. AC has a rather deep learning curve, but you will have lots of fun with it, and is definitely worthy your time looking in to.
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