by Jeffrey Lerman
reviewed on PC
A Vast Land To Explore
Conquest of Elysium 3 is an old school fantasy turn-based strategy game developed by Illwinter Game Design. Like its predecessor, it will give you vast amount of territory to explore and conquer in order to destroy your opponents. You can play as a large variety of commanders, each with their own special powers that allow you to play the game entirely differently each time. With some customization you can set up a match and jump into exploring either with friends, computers or just a one-on-one match. It can be slow and boring at first, but entertaining when you find a class that suits how you want to play. You’ll have to take advantage of your surroundings in order to gain the resources you need to become a stronger empire than your enemies. Whether it be gathering gold, human sacrifices, fungi, etc.
The Joy of Customization
When you first start up the game you may feel overwhelmed by the large customization each game will have for you. You can decide how the map plays out in several ways. It is not just a matter of deciding the map size, but also the society/era which will change the terrain and structures in your surroundings. Maybe you’d like to play in the Dark Ages when there aren’t many cities and especially no libraries. How about the Monarchy period in which there are many fortresses and towers, but few cities. Conquest of Elysium 3 makes each play-through a new experience whether you realize it or not. But after deciding the style of the map comes the tough part!
Now you have to decide the commanders that will be in the game, the difficulty of AI, and what team each will be on. Of course you can play with a friend instead of AI or play without teams. Those options may sound simple, but there are 16 classes to choose from, each with their own story to tell. Each class has several abilities or perks, such as cheaper armies, more income, different resources, summoning and more. For example, the Druid can summon animals to fight alongside them with the use of herbs. Herbs can be gathered from forests and then the terrain you are on will decide what creature is summoned. Then there’s the Troll King, who is probably the strongest class when it comes to fighting alone. His strength is unmatched and shortly into the match his Mother will arrive and she has several magical powers. To fuel her powers you’ll need Fungi which can be gathered from forests and swamps. All commanders have their own special abilities along with a storyline, including details about who they are, where they are from, their strengths and weaknesses etc. Deciding a commander will come to be the toughest decision for you in this game as there are just so many of them. I first started just with the random option and messed around with several commanders. The decision becomes easier when you begin to properly understand the game.
Veni, Vidi, Vici
With all the decisions required to get started, you will not be surprised that even more decisions need to be made when you finally get into the game proper. The game will likely leave you kind of clueless at first. Without the modern type of tutorial you have two options: to read the included PDF manual or just wing it and figure it all out over time. Conquest of Elysium 3 tends to be a tough game in the beginning, but after becoming comfortable with a class and the game overall you will have a stronger chance at winning. Then you can take on playing with more AI players or jump into some multiplayer, either hotseat or online.
Let's jump into the game now. You’ll start out with one citadel which is your main base where you can recruit and where you have a commander to control. Recruiting will not happen early in the game so you are stuck with what units you have at start. You will want to start exploring and cleaning up the Fog of War so you can capture valuable territory such as villages, mines and more citadels to rack up resources based on your class. Your main goal is to gather resources to build a larger army and then conquer enemy citadels or take their commanders.
Unless you’ve played the earlier games in the series and understand the game well, you are probably going to lose several times. While you can adjust the difficulty, success is really a matter of experience. Having an army is everything. Throughout the match you’ll have to deal with “Independents” attacking you or getting in your way. Independents are roaming opponents such as animals, undead and brigands. In addition to roaming the lands, they can be found guarding basically any territory that could be useful to you. This can make the game much more difficult as you need to balance out your resources while strengthening your army to take over more land and at the same time search for your enemy. Another factor to keep in mind is that every turn takes a month and each season comes with advantages and disadvantages.
Something I have to say I enjoyed very much about Conquest of Elysium 3 was the music. It sets an ambient mood while exploring unknown lands and an epic sound as you march into battle. Also, each game will never feel repetitive. While the idea of the game remains the same, it manages to feel different each game as there are a large number of classes and societies to play through.
There are, however, some things that you should be aware of. First, at $29.99 the price of the game is kind of steep for an indie title, although it comes with a small discount if pre-ordered. Second, there’s a bit of a learning curve. The game does not lead you by hand and – to truly know what you are doing – you need to read the manual and experiment with various strategies. In addition, something minor that annoyed me is that there’s no way to go back to the main menu during a game.
Conquest of Elysium 3 definitely can be a fun game once you have got it figured out. It is an entertaining turn-based game that can either last for days or only a couple of hours and given the freedom of choice when you set the game up, you will have a unique experience each time.
The music is very majestic and enjoyable. At one point it may be soothing while another it can be intense.
The steep price (for an indie game) holds back it\'s potential.