Conan Unconquered Review
While the words Conan the Barbarian and RTS may not spring to the forefront of your mind as a combination you need, Command & Conquer veteran’s Petroglyph Games have created just that with their new title Conan Unconquered. Does placing the Conan the Barbarian universe in an RTS work? Check out our Conan Unconquered review below.
What is Conan Unconquered?
Conan Unconquered is a new title out of Petroglyph Games, the studio behind titles such as Star Wars: Empire at War, Heroes of Graxia, and Grey Goo. In Conan Unconquered the players take on the role of a hero from the Conan stories in an effort to defend a kingdom from invaders. These invaders come in waves, with each wave growing progressively harder and harder in difficulty. In an effort to stave off the attackers players must manage resources, manage troops, and research new buildings and units to help on the battlefield.
Release Date: May 29th, 2019
Formats: PC – Steam
Game Modes: Single-player and co-op
My Playtime: 20 hours.
Conan Unconquered Thoughts
Conan Unconquered features a light solo story mode that takes place across five levels. I say light because there really isn’t much of a story. Basically, you are tasked with protecting different kingdoms from Natohk, a nomad who is raising an army in the deep desert. The details of Natohs and his army’s journey across Khoraja are shared in the level descriptions of each level.
Story aside the main gameplay hook can be described as survival RTS with some minor moba elements. In each level you are tasked with surviving waves of enemies as they attempt to destroy your kingdom. Your kingdom is a developer selected location that features a Fortress. This Fortress can be destroyed, which ends your game. You don’t want the Fortress to be destroyed, so, using traditional RTS mechanics, you must build defenses, units, and buildings to help you defend your Fortress. As you survive each wave the numbers and difficulty of the enemies you face increases.
From an RTS perspective you will find a lot of traditional elements in Conan Unconquered. You start the game with a small settlement and only a few buildings. As the game progresses, through resources management and research you will build new buildings and units which will help you survive the waves you face. The goal of each match is to create a kingdom that is well fortified and also highly productive. To do this you need to unlock upgrades and advancements from the game’s tech tree.
To unlock things from the game’s tech tree players must build specific “guild buildings”, then use those buildings to research items within that guild’s skill tree. After you have a guild’s building you research and use resources to unlock the technology you want. This gameplay focus inherently pushes you to expand your kingdom, as not all resources like Iron are typically found right beside your base. While I like the idea of kingdom growth, I found it hard to sometimes reach the tech I needed while also balancing the required resource level for a strong defense. This was especially hard to do in later levels as the wave difficulty is much higher from the start.
Overall I found the tech tree which features a few categories like Sorcery, Engineering, and Warfare to be competent enough. Each branch features a number of unique and beneficial unlocks that will help you deal with higher waves. My only real complaint on the tech tree would be for more unit unlocks as there really aren’t that many in the game.
When you’re not spending your time advancing your buildings and units, you will be spending a lot of time managing and acquiring resources. These resources are split into two types: resources over time and flat resources. Resources over time like Gold and Wood are generated every 30 seconds (when the required building is placed), while flat resources like Thralls and Command are generated once after placing a specific building.
Managing these two types of resources is somewhat difficult on its own (the game doesn’t really explain them to you), but the game’s upkeep system makes even management more difficult in a frustrating way. With the upkeep system almost everything you build has an upkeep cost. This means your units and buildings are all drawing resources from you every 30 seconds. While this works when you are thriving it can also easily swing to the negative and quickly Surrender if key infrastructure is destroyed or you grow too fast. While in the negative you to be unable to create many of the buildings and units. If this occurs in later waves, there’s almost nothing you can do to come back from it. You’re dead.
Any downtime you have from building things and collecting resources, you will spend on giving commands to a hero unit. This hero unit is selected from one of two/three heroes (Conan, Valeria, or DLC Kalanthes) at the start of each level. The hero is a sort of uber unit, with more health, damage, an unlockable active attack called a special ability, and the ability to cheat death (dies and respawns 1 minute later).
The inclusion of the hero unit is an attempt to encourage players to explore the map more than you would in a traditional RTS. Since the maps are randomly generated, players can find a number of interesting treasures to plunder called artifacts which are basically active items their hero can use. I found one artifact which allowed me to summon six snakes to aid me in battler for example. These items are often guarded by guardians who are large boss like enemies.
I honestly enjoyed the hero mechanic in Conan Unconquered. It comes off sort of like a super lite MOBA in that you want to feed and level up your champion so they are stronger than as the waves progress. Having your hero charge headlong into a group of enemies and decimate them is very satisfying. I will say though that having only three heroes and one of them being DLC is a unfortunate. I would love for them to add more in the future.
After you’ve completed the the main storyline you will find another couple of options to extend you playtime. First up is the game’s custom mode, which allows you to set the parameters of your next game. Second there are community challenges which can be completed. And last but not least is the game’s co-op mode.
I got a chance to jump into the co-op mode with HamFiddler. This mode plays out similar to a custom solo game, but you now have a second hero and person running around managing things like resources and building. What’s interesting about the co-op mode is how they handle different things like building and research upgrades. Both players can build structures freely, and research upgrades, walls, and structures are all shared allowing for each player to impact the game equally. As most titles tend to gravitate towards the second player being somewhat removed from gameplay, it is nice to have both players equally invested in defending.
While we only lasted to round 15 during our play time, it was probably the most enjoyable mode for me in Conan Unconquered. Having someone to play with and handle some of the surviving responsibilities was really fun.
I don’t think Conan Unconquered looks bad per se, I just don’t think it looks all that good. For a 2019 RTS game that retails at $29.99, there’s nothing visually that wows me. It has a somewhat dated graphical look that some might find charming, but I personally didn’t. I would’ve liked to see a more modern look to the title.
The game’s looks aside, there are a number of visual options for players to tweak such as Particle Rendering, Environmental Detail, Dynamic Lighting, Bloom, and more. So if you like playing around with those types of settings, they are all here.
Like the graphics, the audio itself is okay, but nothing special. The game’s soundtrack and audio design is fine for what it is, but you (like me) will probably listen to something else after a few hours into the game. One glaring audio problem I had is with the lady that narrates what you’re doing, such as saying things like “constructing”, as she sounds straight out of a Command & Conquer title and not what you’d expect for Conan.
I played the game for roughly 20 hours and ran into a total of zero issues. Kudos to Petroglyph Games.
Conan Unconquered is a competent, stable game, that never really wowed me during my playthrough. While there are moments of fun like the games co-op and hero play, there are also moments of aggravation like the poorly explained upkeep system and the mediocre graphics and audio that left me ready to move on. If you like Conan and wave based survival RTS, I think there is something here you will like. For less dedicated fans I think there are other options that do this style of game better.
This Conan Unconquered review was done on a code provided by Petroglyph.