Picture from Steampowered.com
Price I paid: The developers, ill winter, gave me a copy of Conquest of Elysium 4 before release. If you think receiving a free copy would influence me to put a positive spin on my review rather than being truthful, I swear on the sales of my books, this is an honest review.
Available on: Windows, Mac, Linux, and Steam OS.
Made by: ill winter.
91% of my knowledge on strategy games comes from playing Dominions 4, and the other 9% comes from hearing my old roommate complain about StarCraft 2. Since the same people who made Conquest for Elysium 4 made Dominions 4, the knowledge I had of the latter did give me a bit of an edge.
In Conquest of Elysium 4, you command an army set on world domination. Each army is different, focusing on unique abilities and strategies based on the commanders and units they have. There are witches, trolls, centurions, necromancers, and much more. Each one offers you different troops and special events that can happen, making each army and each play through exciting and varied. You win the game by taking every citadel on the map so your opponents can no longer spawn units or by wiping out every enemy commander, making it so their troops are unable to execute orders.
Early game exploration. The map is shrouded in mystery, and then areas you’ve explored but are not currently visible have a fog over them.
Starting off, Conquest of Elysium 4 is much easier to grasp than Dominions 4. The learning curve for Dominions 4 was just shy of being as difficult as playing a game in a language I didn’t understand. Elysium 4 has about 40% fewer menus and 80% fewer submenus, making it far easier to comprehend and remember.
An interactive tutorial, even a dull one, would have been a nice option. However, I did feel like I understood many of the fundamentals of the game by paying attention and playing for just a couple of hours. Then I realized I was missing some things and I decided to read the manual.
The manual is a manageable 67 pages long. It goes into greater detail on a lot of things you won’t use right away, so you can skim or skip sections that don’t mention something you think you need to know at the moment. There are some things I learned from the manual that I didn’t figure out on my own. For example, commanders, which can command troops, have green text in the recruitment window, units with fire abilities can burn forests, and there is a hot key for both unit and area special effects.
I printed this table to remind myself of the different hotkeys and abilities… and then totally forgot about it and just played the game normally.
Here’s a tip that helped me: Have the manual open. When you come across something in the game you don’t understand completely, go to the manual and use Control+F to search for the key word in whatever you’re looking for. This helped me understand the rules of assassins, how to transfer magic items, and other things I was too dense to figure out on my own. As I stated before, I know very little about strategy games. This might be common practice. If you are new to the genre, maybe I just gave you a tip all the experienced players know.
The manual did leave out some fundamental points I’d like answered. At least I think it did. I don’t fancy myself to be the most thorough when it comes to reading things about games when I could be playing instead, so I might have, in all honesty, just missed it.
There are some elements you don’t have control over, which might bother you at first. For instance, you cannot choose where units are placed on the battlefield. There are backrow units, like mages and archers, and front row units, like soldiers and other people who like beating things with melee weapons or claws. Since you can’t choose who goes where, you can wind up in some terrible situations. In one game, I had a giant troll plugging the entrance into my enemy’s castle, blocking a dozen or so other trolls and summoned animals from doing anything more than shouting insults while they killed my commander who was stuck in that meat grinder.
The game was surprisingly fast-paced once I got into the groove. If you’re exploring or clearing an area, turns can easily take less than twenty seconds. The “Next Commander” button or hotkey means you can quickly cycle through your commanders all over the map and issue orders with ease. For a scrub like me, that was a huge benefit.
A regenerating troll that magically summoned giant toads and wolves. Those soldiers never stood a chance.
Now the part you’ve no doubt noticed: The graphics. I could say that my one-gigabyte video card asks me if this is a joke every time I boot the game. I could say my wife walked into the room and started making fun of the game because of how it looked. That last one is actually true, but they are both believable.
Much like with Dominions 4, the graphics quickly became coherent and suitable placeholders. They remind me of unpainted minis used in a D&D game: they’re unimpressive at first, but soon you’re so involved with what is happening in the game you don’t care about what they look like. They represent something bigger, something more substantial, and soon I was focusing on that so much their appearances didn’t matter. And to be honest, I started liking the graphics. Those simple sprites left enough to my imagination to help tell a bigger story.
The sound effects are much better in Elysium 4 than Dominions 4. Also, the music is incredible. While I enjoyed the music in Dominions 4, I would buy the soundtrack of Elysium 4.
After a few games and a little more than five hours of gameplay, I feel confident saying I want more. The random events and chance encounters all offered a worthy reward; the armies you can choose are all interesting; the gameplay, exploring, conquering, and failing are all enjoyable; and I can’t wait to get a friend or two into this so we can try the multiplayer.
After creating a coven of witches with followers who quested to bathe the world in dark magic and chaos, I stumbled into a totem pole that obliterated my entire army with an unending torrent of lightning.
9/10 I now have an irrational fear of totem poles.
Ill Winter games have a tendency to be deep and imagination fueled. It sounds like this next iteration of the Conquest of Elysium games is just as juicy as the last.