Expeditions: Conquistador - First Impressions
Logic Artists describes Expeditions: Conquistador as a "story-driven tactical roleplaying game with a touch of strategic resource management and a pinch of choose-your-own-adventure" - quite a mouthful but it certainly had us intrigued. We first noticed Expeditions as their Kickstarter campaign launched a few weeks backs and Logic Artists offered the opportunity to play a press build - with around one week to go before their fundraising campaign ends, we can offer some first-hand impressions.
Unfortunately, a hectic schedule has meant I have experienced a chunk of the press build over a few hours but I haven't experimented in much depth with different characters or choices. This is very much a "first impressions" piece as titled - but hopefully, there's enough here to give you a feel for the game, particularly in conjunction with the videos and material already released.
Set in Central America in the early 1500's, Expeditions: Conquistador offers players the opportunity to take the role of a Spanish Captain on an explorative mission of the New World, leading a troop of soldiers and other followers. The heart of the game is the tactical, turn-based, hex-grid combat but exploration and dialogue play key roles in the gameplay. The setting is historical - no magic here - but while the tone is authentic, Logic Artists aren't trying to re-tell a piece of history; players have the opportunity to pursue their own story, changing history in the process.
The game opens with the main character creation where you choose a name, portrait and five stats - Tactics, Healing, Diplomacy, Leadership and Hunting. These are not used in combat directly, but influence elements such as dialogue, the cost of healing, feeding your troops and so on. Next, players select a roster of followers from a selection available. There are 10 "slots" in your troop and you can choose from a range of Doctors, Hunters, Scholars, Scouts and Soldiers.
Each follower has Endurance, Defence, Ranged, Melee and Movement stats plus three traits, such as "Aggressive", "Proud" and "Adventurous". Since these units represent you in battle (the main character leads from off the battle field), these stats are directly used in combat. The combined troop also adds to the leader's stats - Scholars will increase your Diplomacy and Doctors increase Healing, for example. Obviously, part of the gameplay is choosing a play style - do you have more soldiers, or sacrifice outright strength to improve healing and hunting for provisions?
Once your troops have been finalised, the gameplay opens with an overhead view of the map replete with hex-grid and the main character and followers represented by a single mounted soldier. You start in a small port town, with half a dozen buildings. "Events" are represented by an icon hovering over one of the hex grids and you click on hexes to move about or encounter one of the events.
I was broadly reminded of Mount & Blade-meets-King's Bounty. There's an abstracted view of the game world coupled with hex movement and turn-based, "arena" combat.
The first event players encounter is a minor interaction at the docks, but you can immediately glimpse the potential depth of the dialogue system. There are choices, Diplomacy impacts your success and, sometimes, there are other actions; that first encounter sees local officials confiscating your equipment and supplies and one of the actions is to leave a man behind to make sure nothing is stolen. It's a small event but you can see the potential for bigger choice-and-consequence down the track. I also really appreciated the descriptive text; beyond the actual dialogue lines, you often get descriptions of NPCs' demeanour and reactions. It seems well-written and adds considerable flavour.
Exploring the map, you may find treasure and food (your troops need rations every day!) but, of course, combat is one of the main gameplay pillars. Combat encounters take place on separate maps - you are transitioned away from the abstracted overworld map to a detailed local combat map, after selecting the troops to join the battle. One of the first "tutorial" fights is a six-on-six battle that introduces barricades. You can choose where to place these strategically and then the battle begins.
Expeditions combat will feel familiar to any fan of turn-based combat -- but there are some unusual twists (bear in mind this may be different further into the game or in the final version). In each of the battles I played, my troops moved first - I'm unsure if this is always the case, or whether my superior Tactics score gave me an advantage. Unlike many turn-based systems that use a "stack" based on Initiative, I had the choice of using my followers in any order. Selecting a follower shows their movement range in green hexes and you can move, act and move again in any order, until that unit runs out of movement points.
For example, I wanted to use my doctor to heal one of the soldiers, but the area was narrow and a hunter was in the way. I was able to move the hunter, send the doctor over to heal the soldier - but then return to the hunter again to move into a good position behind partial cover to fire his musket. Once you have finished, pressing [space] finishes your turn and the other side gets to engage. Actions include skills (one of the early skills trades ranged accuracy for getting off two shots, for example) but I didn't get to level up enough to speak much of the options available. It's a simple but flexible system that shows great promise and I look forward to playing some more advanced scenarios when the game is released.
Beyond the basic gameplay what really impressed me was the quality of the presentation and the attention to detail. As an indie venture, the graphics aren't going to stretch your top-of-the-line video card but the Unity-powered visuals are crisp and attractive. More importantly, however, it's clear the developers include some talented artists and designers who have pulled everything together with a consistent and appealing theme. The GUI is attractive and well-designed and the music features acoustic guitar that nicely complements the setting.
From the limited time I've had with the game, Expeditions is impressive on many fronts. The visual and thematic consistency, the possibilities of the dialogue system and the turn-based combat all show as much potential as I've seen from an indie development - especially considering this is a an early build. If you love turn-based combat or if you like the idea of a roleplaying game that tries something different, this is well worth a look. Check out the Kickstarter here - $15 gets you a copy of the game with an estimated delivery of January 2013. You can also vote for Expeditions on Steam's Greenlight.
Information aboutExpeditions: Conquistador
Developer: Logic Artists
Play-time: 10-20 hours
Regions & platforms
· Platform: PC
· Released at 2013-05-30
· Publisher: Logic Artists