Hands on preview
Marko was lucky enough to see Expeditions: Conquistador in the early stages of development and he was quite impressed. When we were offered the preview code for the game, I decided to join up for the journey back to the New World.
Expeditions: Conquistador is set around Central America, in the early 1500's, the time when Spain was discovering and settling the New World. Gamers start by selecting their party made of Hunters (ranged class), Soldiers (melee class), Doctors (medics) and Scholars (diplomatic). Each class has their own abilities and each party member is further characterized with their own traits. After the party is selected, the back story is told of how you arrived in the New World, and how you ended up at your current predicament.
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The story plays out almost like a text adventure, with all the quests and important conversations being text driven. Many of the choices made during the dialogue affects the morale of your followers. For example if you have peaceful crew members, they will dislike you going to war, whilst the warmongers amongst your crew will be more appreciative.
Although the main part of the game plays out like an old-school, isometric-view RPG, the combat is turn-based. The turn-based combat is simple to use, but much harder to master. Bringing the right blend of units to the table can be the windfall or the downfall of the battle. The long range fighters can create havoc early, but if melee fighters get to them, they won't last long. Doctors can be handy healers, but again, if they fall victim to the myriad of enemy soldiers they will be of little use.
Selecting the right squad
All fighters though, can be used as ranged or melee in battle, but some are better suited to the task. And each has a special function that uses up a turn, but can be invaluable. The Doctors for instance, can heal units but in their next turn can use a ranged or melee weapon against an attacker. Again, the doctor is not as proficient with the ranged weapon as a hunter or as proficient with melee weapons as a soldier, but in a bind, any extra shot can help. Of course, this is the early 1500's, and rifles were not overly accurate anyway. The melee attacks are far more potent, but getting too close to an opponent can be dangerous. Units also have different move points, enabling Hunters to move further during a turn than a Soldier.
Terrain also needs to be taken into account when the battle commences. Objects such as large rocks and fallen trees can be used as barricades to hide behind. But variances in ground elevation can also help or hinder battles. And if that isn't enough, you are able to build (prior to battle) barricades which can be deployed at the start of battle. Again, these man-made barricades can be used as cover, but I also found that using them to create bottlenecks for enemy units was a viable alternative when they were all attacking from one direction. The hex-based combat field requires that no more than one unit can occupy a space at any time. This can cause a few issues around the aforementioned bottlenecks.