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Review by: Pete Hines
Published: June 24, 1999
Ancient Conquest is a real-time strategy game that focuses on naval strategy and combat. While it is similar to the Warcraft series, in truth, it doesn’t remind me all that much of anything else I’ve played recently. It features some simple resource gathering, but really focuses on the creation of a naval fleet that can wipe out the other guy. While this offering takes a somewhat different approach from other RTS titles, the basics are very simple and straightforward. The story is set in ancient times and centers on a quest to recover the Golden Fleece. You do this mostly through naval exploration and battles rather than standard land-based units. Ancient Conquest features a 14-mission campaign, some standalone skirmishes and the ability to create custom scenarios with a scenario editor. In each, you build up a base that provides support functions while exploring the surrounding seas, returning any resources you come across and destroying anyone who gets in your way. You do this with two basic types of units: merchant ships and warships.
Merchant ships help keep you stocked with the basics, including fish and amber. They go out, collect resources and bring them back to your settlement, where they can be used to purchase ships, structures, armed crews and upgrades. There are six types of warship that offer differing abilities. For example, the Men Killer is mainly used for attacking and killing the crews on armed enemy ships, the Ship Killer is better at attacking and sinking ships, and the Bomber is most handy at attacking enemy fortresses. Warships can be customized to include different kinds of weapons and armed crews. Weapons are built in workshops and include different types of missile weapons, including catapults with varying types of armaments, ballistas and so on. In addition to weapons, you can also add armed crews that allow you to more effectively attack enemy ships by boarding them and engaging in hand-to-hand combat. Armed crew types include archers and swordsman. You can also pick up heroes along the way. These legendary warriors each provide a specific benefit to the ship that carries them.
The support structures are pretty straightforward in their function. Workshops produce and upgrade weapons for your combat vessels. The shipyard is where you build any vessels you want to use, while the dock upgrade allows you to repair damaged ones. The smithy produces and upgrades the armor of your ships as well as their rams, which are used in combat to damage the enemy. To defend your settlements, which are the equivalent of a base, you have the ability to build fortresses. There are small, medium and large fortresses that provide increasing amounts of firepower and defensive ability. The largest fortress can hold more weapons and take more damage to destroy. For any ship or fortress you build, you can choose to accept the default configuration of the weapons and crew or customize each one with whatever you have available.
There are a number of special features that allow you to enhance the abilities of your ships. Temples allow you to use different kinds of magic that can create whirlpools, shields, lightning and even monsters. Special treasures can give you weapons, protection from fire or magic, or special items that will attract heroes. Heroes are mortals with special abilities that provide added benefits to whatever ship they are aboard. This might be increased strength and range, protection from water hazards like whirlpools and reefs, protection from attacks by certain creatures and so on.
To pay for all of this, you need to collect resources. Amber is the equivalent of money and is most commonly found lining the shores in various places throughout the map. By collecting amber and returning it to your settlements, you earn money that can be spent on building ships and upgrades as well as structures. Fish are obtained by sending out your merchant ships to locations where they are abundant. This is indicated on the map by squares that have fish jumping in them. You can also choose to hunt down leviathans, which are huge sea creatures that provide a wealth of fish and amber if you can kill them. Merchant vessels have no weapons or attack ability to speak of, so it’s important to protect them with your warships.
Your obstacles on the way to getting the Golden Fleece are numerous. The Persians, your enemy, and the Barbarians, who pretty much rob anyone, will confront you at every turn and require a mighty fleet to overcome. You’ll also find monsters and creatures of every shape and size, including crocodiles, medusas, harpies and more. As you move from one mission to the next in the campaign, you’ll come across these different opponents as you move to complete your objectives. Mission objectives can be as simple as eliminating the enemy from the map to finding special objects and returning them to a given location.
Ancient Conquest is a title that appears to have been created and developed long ago and only just now released here in the U.S. I know it has been out in various places overseas for a good while now. Herein lies the basic problem; it’s the kind of game that players probably would have gotten into if it weren’t for the innovative directions the RTS genre has moved in since Warcraft. While everyone else has been providing more spectacular graphics and unique gameplay elements, Ancient Conquest uses 2D graphics, a limited number of units in naval-only combat and a short campaign that provides a lot of the same thing over and over, just with different things to kill along the way. It’s not bad, it’s simply one that was released way after it would have been considered current.
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