The PC Gaming Show is often seen as a soporific conference, with too many games and not enough big titles to generate interest. But in 2019 and 2021, ONE game managed to catch the eye of the vigilant. Songs of Conquest, and its beautiful pixel-art environments, presented itself as the worthy heir to the Heroes of Might and Magic saga. Today, the game is available in early access. Does it keep its promises?
Graphics, scenario… A beautiful song
The game has won over players through the eyes, so let’s start there! Songs of Conquest is magnificent. The zoom level allows you to appreciate both large harmonious maps, even if sometimes a bit too linear, but also charming details. It’s teeming with little animations, like those cute pigs bouncing around your farms. Each of the 4 factions has its own paw, both for its cities and its units. Thus, a serious corruption spreads on the ground under the influence of necromancers, while the walk in a forest inhabited by the spirits enchants you, and generates the acute discomfort of not feeling where one should be. The skeletons are freaking out, the frogs are funny… In short, there is cachet.
The visual is magnified by the soundtrack. The music works both for calm times and fights, and the “Songs” of the title takes on its full meaning when, between two scenarios, a cutscene in the form of a song comes to narrate the adventure in progress. The idea of including everything that the player does in this narration justifies a verbose language of the protagonists of the adventure, with beautiful turns of phrase or rhymes. Everything is translated into French, and the adventure is deeper than it seems. No choice to make here: you are being told a story, and you will therefore have to accept the consequences. And sometimes, we wonder if we really play the good guys…
Two campaigns are available, which can take you a considerable number of hours, easily ten depending on your desire to loot the entire map. Skirmish modes and online multiplayer allow you to play with 4 factions, while customizing your game. We are promised more content later, without further details, but we can expect new factions and campaigns in particular. Finally, a level editor is present but it is still very perfectible, and the developers are aware of it and are working on it. If a community aspect intensifies, we will not be bored!
Combat, management… Beautiful conquests, sometimes difficult
If you knew the first Heroes of Might and Magic, this game will delight you, the expected leitmotifs are present! The game takes place in two phases. On the one hand, the main map, where you explore the surroundings round by round. Your Thaumaturge carries his batteries of soldiers around with him and amass wealth or conquer cities. Moreover, there is no specific screen to manage these cities, it happens directly on the main board. Your constructions have locations defined in advance, and your actions therefore have a visual impact. A way to recite the scales of the genre while adding a refreshing tune. Your village will become a fortress, and each building can be looted individually. So there is a fair balance to be found between defense structures, recruitment buildings and buildings that generate resources, it’s fun! Another originality: a research system that improves your economy or your units.
The second phase is the fights, more classic for anyone who has already touched a tactical RPG. We are surprised at the beginning by the fast tempo of the fights. Weak enemies are dispatched… And conversely, our beautiful army can be struck down in a few minutes without really understanding what is going on. As such, we feel a little that we are in an early access. The first scenarios of the campaign leave you with a sense of tranquility, and after a while in the following scenarios, a super-powered enemy comes out of nowhere and annihilates you. It’s surprising and a bit frustrating, the game can fall out of your hands when you realize that you have to start your ranges from scratch to be able to hope to compete, by setting aside more secondary areas, a bit like a die and retry. Especially when this famous big hero arrives after several hours of play and he makes us understand that we have to start all over again, or hide to slowly train a new army…
There is no doubt that rebalancing will be carried out soon by the developers. But let’s not sulk our pleasure, the fights introduce original systems that work well. The magic is subtle: each unit, at the start of its turn, gives you specific magic points. Soldiers give Order points, and spirits give Chaos points, for example. This system forces you to think more about how you build your army. Rather gather his troops to be stronger, or separate them to generate more magic? You can cast as many spells as you have available points, on an already pre-established book. It’s a shame to have everything from the start, it takes away the pleasure of discovering a new spell.
Finally, hats off to the initiative system, well done and which requires to play the conductors. The placement of the units is essential, you have to anticipate the movements of your opponents like a chess game. Ditto for the range system for ranged weapons, at several levels. All put together, it gives fast, nervous fights, with a lot of things to take into account. Exhilarating!
Interfaces a little more “early” than “access”
Apart from the rebalancing issue which will no doubt be fixed in the future, the interfaces also have some problems. The desire to integrate them into the gameplay, rather than putting menus everywhere, is a great idea. But that shouldn’t come at the expense of visibility. Maybe we were lacking vigilance, but it is possible to only find the special skills button of the units after hours of play, when it was next to their life bar from the beginning… The tutorial, succession of texts to read, is not very engaging and does not even tell us that the Alt key on the keyboard allows you to display the clickable elements on the main map, although it is very practical!
Finally, the player could probably be better alerted to what is happening, especially in terms of city management. There is a notification system, not very visible in a corner of the screen. A visual clue that an upgrade can be purchased would be nice, for now you should remember to check the buildings so you don’t forget anything. Finally, leaving troops on duty in a city and organizing the defense is still laborious. These very small gripes should not tarnish the good ideas of the gamebut come on, even if it means being demanding, if the loading times between the combat phase and the main map could be a little shorter… Thank you in advance!
- Gorgeous pixel art
- Captivating music
- Well-written campaigns
- Great ideas for battles
- City management integrated into the map
- Need a rebalancing
- Interfaces not always clear
- Information that is difficult to access
Songs of Conquest is as beautiful and bewitching as it suggests, it’s a worthy heir to the old Heroes of Might and Magic. It brings notable and welcome improvements to the old formula and will already know how to keep you busy from its early access. A few rebalancing and some improvements in the interfaces, and it could well become a staple of the genre!
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