by Marko Susimetsä
previewed on PC
Even though the basic mechanics are relatively simple, they do have some depth to them. First, you have to make some tough decisions when you create your character as you divide points between your talents. If you concentrate on Tactics, it will help you to gain an upper hand in the starting positions of an encounter, for example, while Diplomacy may save you from those encounters entirely. In addition, Leadership keeps your crew in check and Hunting helps you to keep up your food stores on long journeys. And, lastly, Healing will help you overcome those pesky diseases that jungle-like environments come with.
Of course, you may choose to focus on two or three mains skill areas and compensate for your own shortcomings by hiring experts to take care of the rest. The hirelings come in several classes: Doctors, Soldiers, Scholars, Scouts and Hunters. Different classes have different battle statistics (health etc.) and areas in which they specialise in. But in addition to these, you need to keep an eye on the people's personality traits, because they may have differing opinions on what being a conquistador means. Each individual hireling has a combination of different traits from a pool of traits including Pious, Greedy, Open-minded, Cautious, Racist, Aggressive etc. that affect their way of looking at the world and the decisions that you make. And if they disagree with you too much, you may lose the skills that they provide.
The followers will also gain experience as you play the game. They all start as recruits, but can advance through ranks and become sergeants and lieutenants. However, you can only have one lieutenant and two sergeants at a time, so you will have to make good decisions on who to promote and who not to promote as you gain experience.
In the press build, I did not have to worry about starvation when I ran out of food products, but I did notice that the food kept running out quickly when I was out exploring. And, at the same time, foodstuffs cost rather a lot, so you will have to balance your requirements with medicine and equipment if you do not want to starve to death in the final game.
The most pleasant aspect of Expeditions: Conquistador is that you really get dialogue in it. Most modern games shy away from large bodies of text even in dialogue, but Conquistador is not afraid to make you read a lot more than that. The writing is very nice, although I would have liked to see a bit more humour to it on occasion to lighten things up a bit – and perhaps make some characters more memorable. But even now, as you read the back stories of your hirelings and the dialogue that comes later, you will be completely immersed in the game world.
The campaign in the press build is basically the introduction storyline and the developers state that it is pretty linear in comparison to the campaign that comes after that. In the main campaign you can choose to return to Spain at any point in the game and you will receive a different kind of ending based on the riches that you have collected, the friendships that you have created and the people you have got killed during your adventures. It all makes me believe that the developers have played their quota of Sid Meier's Pirates! before they started designing their own game.
Everything that I learned about Expeditions: Conquistador during my game session made me respect it more and more: the storyline will branch and let you see the long-term consequences of your actions, the crew morale will chance according to your leadership skills and the decisions that you make, and the crew members will take part in the dialogue if they have something to say. It all sounds pretty immersive to me and something that I will be looking forward to very much.