|System: PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Enlight S. / Infinite I.||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: DreamCatcher||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: March 11, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-8||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Nathan Meunier
It's been a long time since a new entry in the Seven Kingdoms series last saw the light of day. Approximately eight years ago the series wooed gamers and critics by providing a pseudo real-time strategy experience that balanced the traditional emphasis on resource gathering and combat with economic, diplomatic, and civilization building options that were a welcome breath of fresh air at the time.
After a rather lengthy development cycle, Seven Kingdoms: Conquest has finally arrived. It's a strong title in some regards, but fans of the first two games may find much of what they loved about the series - features that set it apart from other titles in the oversaturated genre - have either been cut away or molded to fit into a more straightforward real-time strategy system that favors brawn over brains.
The game's story is a watery mishmash of a conflict between humans and demons with cultists and ancient gods thrown into the mix for good measure. Separate single-player campaigns let you play as either the human or demonic factions. Each side offers plenty of interesting powers, units, and abilities to obtain, but the campaigns themselves lack many of the typical bells and whistles that tend to separate an above average RTS PC game from the rest of the pack. Without any form of cinematics in between missions and only a few disjointed narratives to explain the plot, the campaigns lack cohesiveness. The stories for each are unremarkably standard. The human conflict revolves around holding off the increasingly devastating onslaught of the demon horde. The demon storyline focuses on an unholy quest to remake the world as you see fit while crushing the human resistance. Neither is particularly engrossing in terms of plot, but the gameplay makes up for it slightly.
The human and demonic races play quite differently from one another, and it's where much of the ingenuity comes to the forefront. Human civilizations are powered by your typical gold mines and farms, but at higher ages they can summon heroes and even gods to rain down destruction on the demon hordes. Their expansion relies heavily on taking over neutral and enemy cities to gain strength. Defeating foes and taking over cities also accrues reputation points which can be utilized to train powerful units or level-up existing armies to make them stronger. It's an important resource that can quickly turn the tide of battle.
In a slightly sinister twist, demonic forces require blood to create and maintain units and corrupted stone to forge structures. Blood totems keep a steady supply of blood flowing, but demons can harvest additional blood on the battlefield, allowing their armies to grow quickly in power. They also have access to a variety of supernatural abilities to aid in their pillaging. Instead of reputation points, demons generate fear as a resource from destroying opposing armies and cities. Fear points can also be used to level-up units and summon powerful beasts.
Each side has quite a few interesting units available, ranging from fairly generic grunts and ranged units at the lower levels on up to massive beasts and gods as the game progresses. The demons have a few more tiers of units available, mainly due to the fact the developers left out the modern and future age units originally planned for the game. Though it has little bearing on the game, not being able to pilot tanks and robotic mechs into battle against demons is a pretty big disappointment. It certainly wouldn't have hurt the game any.