Posted on 01/07/01 @ 12:00 AM (updated 03/11/05
To many of his critics Conan is seen as a thug, noble at best, mindless at worst, rescuing beautiful monsters from ravening princesses and killing indiscriminately. Yet this man, by the time he was 30, had travelled most of the world he knew, could speak many of its languages, had been a professional pirate, soldier and thief, had commanded armies and was less than a decade away from becoming a king by his own hand. Few aspiring Generals could have wished for more.
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It's also a chance to put across the original story, rather than the abominations in those awful films ;-)
The campaign concerns the first 11 years of Conan's adventuring life, as he discovers the world outside his native Cimmeria and makes his mark on it.
While this campaign is obviously fictional, fantasy fans can be as picky over detail as the most dedicated historian. Further problems are caused by the fact that many authors continued the stories after Howard's death, in some cases causing conflicts or alternative timelines. Therefore, while I have taken a little advantage of gaps between his original stories, it is faithful to them and the timeline.
Play on hardest with high path finding for best effect. All feedback welcome, if it's constructive.
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This is what the campaign is about really. The story is true to the original, the maps are put together perfectly, but most importantly it's incredibly fun to play. The campaign begins with a unique forest trail B&D where I used Armoured Elephants to power through everything. I must admit I found this first mission quite tough, though enjoyable, and I played it on and off for a long time. Once I finally kept the momentum of the charge-through up and got the much needed gold to sweep through into the last stronghold I was hooked on the campaign though, and played it almost non-stop until finished.
Most campaigns start with an amazing level that the rest can't live up to, and contain a lot of "filler" missions. The first level here is only really a teaser of what is to come. The next level is probably the hardest B&D I ever played. I must admit the balance here was on a knife edge, and I considered giving up many times. I began by mastering the building/timing for getting a navy up, and worked out the best researches to make and units to train. It was tough right from the beginning, trying to deal with triremes on both sides. I wanted them to fight each other, but I was the piggy-in-the-middle, and I couldn't bring that to pass. I found the naval part very hard, and often ran out of wood. I couldn't get any gold from either the south guarded by ballista towers or the north on an island in the sea. Eventually I managed to work out all the keys to beating the Oak Fort, but then failed miserably at attacking brown and yellow. It took a long time to work out all the right places to build, units to train, areas to attack from, and order of attacking, but finally I managed to get the gold needed to upgrade to Armoured Eles, and again, with the minor issue of a few conversions, I managed to charge through and smash their base. I must admit the huge number of towers looked very overdone at first, but with the right units they were beatable. I was cursing those Egyptian priests though, so much for the "Macedonian conversion resistance".
The rest of the campaign has some FF levels and some more B&D, and the quality remains very high right to the end.
The campaign is generally quite hard. Most missions will take a good player many attempts to get right. There is a huge depth to them, some requiring you to really master the level in many ways to beat it. You'll need to be able to choose the right units to make and work out which technolgies to research, you'll have to position your troops well and micromanage them perfectly. You must use every resource carefully, treating every potential purchase as a crucial decision. Resources are often in large amounts, but are used up deceptively fast. In the first mission you must get a good start and then get some momentum, and try to steam roll the enemy with a continous charge. As you reach each new gold mine, you will be sorely needing it.
In the second mission there was a huge pile of stone to the south of me, which would appear to be placed at random, but indeed I needed every last bit of it, as well as every last tree and gold mine. The placement of resources in this level was masterful.
Other factors involved will include timing, diplomacy, and focussing on your objectives closely, including monitoring the achievments section to keep an eye on the timeline, or the razings, or whatever else is critical.
The story has been carefully made into a campaign, with a strong connection to the books, but of course also a little improvisation. The maps have a distinct style, with unique fantasy looking eye candy and terrains. The objectives would seem a little dull, being close to conquest in most missions, but it's the gameplay itself that utterly dominates, and the objectives themselves are not even required to boost creativity. Every level both exciting and difficult gameplay, but they also present a new type of gameplay in each new mission, such that the overall experience of is unlike any other scenario that you have played.
Map Design: 5
This area is the only one with any signs of weakness, but given that it was over 4 years ago when it was made, the standard is very high. That's still not enough to get a 5 though, what really stood out was the creative side, and the way every map worked prefectly for playability and balance. The appearance of some areas looks unrealistic, but this is done intentionally to create maps that look unique, after all this is a fantasy setting and without some unusual looking areas it would just be unconvincing. I liked the grass patches, the swamps in the third level, the cliff islands in the second, but the best part was the extensive use of bones in the second mission, which looks fantastic, creating a whole new terrain, and giving the coastlines and other areas a very unique and unexpected look.
The maps are designed to optimize the gameplay - the first level's winding forests make it both tricky to manage your troops, but also easier to defend, and to pick off units from behind a forest. The map's layout makes it a very different experience from a normal B&D scenario. The 4th scenario is designed to make it possible to defend well if you can find the right area to do it from, but impossible otherwise. The resources are placed in such a way that you will have to defeat something to get what you need, and do it in the right order.
The story is told beautifully with long and entertaining passages of text that take you where the game can't. Each level is based around events from the books, yet without compromising the gameplay in any way. The story develops well, with more plot in the last scenarios as Conan meets Olivia. The campaign is great for fans and novices alike, as the story stays true to the timelines and events, but does not assume any knowledge of the books, and presents the story clearly, in a well written and detailed fashion, going into the history section for extra background, and rewarding the player with a good read at the end of each mission. Useful hints and quality bitmaps round it off nicely.
Well, I certainly didn't predict this would get a perfect score, but it got better and better as I played. It was difficult to the very verge of being impossible at times, but once I got into it I couldn't stop until I finished. It's story was almost as much fun to read as the playing side, which most importantly was great fun. Conan's adventures continue in "Conan the Freebooter" in Empire Earth.
PIG!!! Pathetic die-hard moron!!! So many unnecessary wall hinder my movement, moronic setting the most loathsome campaign I've ever played. SHAME FOR THE 5 RATERS !!!