by Sergio Brinkhuis
reviewed on PC
Reign of creativity
Some games are too creative for their own good. There is a fine line between trying to create something new and refreshing and something so artistic that it becomes abstract and difficult to understand. Reign: Conflict of Nations falls into the latter category, offering an experience that is unique but also slightly confusing.
Created by the Russian developer Lesta Studio, Reign: Conflict of Nations takes the player back to the Eastern Europe of the 14th century. Asia and Europe have been devastated by the black plague, causing great turmoil throughout the lands. During this time of chaos, longtime rulers see their powerbase crumble, giving smaller nations a chance to step out of their shadow and strike out on their own. As leader of one such nation it is up to you to survive the onslaught that ensues and carve a path to greatness by creating a lasting empire.
Getting jiggy with it
The game focuses on the region rules by Russia, Poland and the Great Lithuanian Princedom between 1350 and 1650. The area has been divided into dozens of provinces on which no less than 26 factions are duking it out for supremacy. You start by selecting a starting point on the rather sizeable campaign map. This point may consist of one or more provinces and determines your goals for the game that you will be playing. It also determines your ruler and any units that are unique to the faction occupying the territory.
Contrary to some information that says that is a Turn-Based Strategy game, the game actually plays in real time. Time can be paused or accelerated but I doubt many players will ever push the 'fast' button. There is always something requiring your attention and you will have the game paused as often as not. Perhaps the developers think that pausing a game is a turn? Who knows.
The campaign map, while beautifully rendered, can at first be a tad bewildering. The 1998, sprite-ish graphics offer a lot of detail but the color scheme often makes it difficult to distinguish between objects or provinces on the map. These difficulties are further aggravated by an ever-flowing stream of clouds that can't be disabled unless you zoom in on the map. Zoomed in, the game feels a little claustrophobic and quickly restricts your view up to a point that you feel you are missing too much of what is going on. Better get used to the clouds.
If you feel daunted by all the information on the screen, the in-game tutorial will get you familiar with many of the game's basic functions. It will guide you through hiring specialists, starting diplomatic actions, ordering new buildings in your cities, distributing workers and more. While every action seems to involve a inordinate amount of clicks, it's actually not so bad once you get used to it. After that, it's time for – you guessed – war!
Expanding your nation
Armies cannot fight on their own but need to be headed up by generals in order to be deployed. Units can be recruited in cities. This is a slow process and will probably not provide you with units quickly enough. An instantaneous fix is offered by your generals. With the proper ability and a large chunk of cash they can recruit anywhere between 3 and 12 random units with the amount being linked to their level. There is a cool down time on every ability which means that you can't rely on your general's recruiting abilities to keep your army up to strength. Your general's level also determines the amount of units that can tag along for the ride. A low-level general has little chance to take over a city defended by even a small number of units, so chances are that you will have to wait for your general to level up or make multiple attempts. Leveling up happens even without doing battle though battle influences your experience slightly. It is a shame that it doesn't influence any more as recruiting generals is something best done early even if it feels like you are keeping funds away from developing your economy.
Newly occupied territories may not be too happy about your arrival. Especially regions with different religions and low well-being are likely to revolt against your rule. Local religions are influenced by specialist priests, religious buildings and prosecution. The latter is a drastic tool that may cause short-term turmoil that may not be worth the long-term benefits. Well-being can be influenced by buildings too but their effects are not always as clear as one would hope. Adding a new well-being building to your city and fully staffing it and – still – having your people revolt on you is a bit disheartening, especially if it is your home turf. These revolts are nothing to sneeze at either, they – will – destroy your nation if not contained and containing them – will – decimate your forces. I can definitely see players quitting the game because of the immensely overpowering impact that revolts can have on their empires.
Unique looking, beautifully rendered game world.
Poor AI, clickfest, too many sharp edges.