Commander: Conquest of the Americas PC
Published by: Paradox Interactive
Developed by: Nitro Games
Whilst the first title we looked at from Nitro Games, East India Company, was quite enjoyable it wasn’t as pleasing an experience as it could have been. The overall experience felt a little shallow but there were enough promising signs that Nitro Games could come back with a more worthwhile game and with Commander: Conquest of the Americas they certainly have. The game manages to build nicely on some of the promise that East India Company showed and for all intents and purposes it's a better game. There's still room for improvement however but Conquest of the Americas is definitely a more satisfying experience.
In Conquest of the Americas you'll play the part of a viceroy who has been charged with sailing to the New World to establish a colony (or colonies) to take advantage of the rich resources that the New World has to offer. You have a choice of representing one of seven nations (Britain, Netherlands, France, Denmark, Spain, Portugal and Holy Roman Empire) and each of the nations has various advantages and disadvantages to consider. For instance, if you choose to represent Britain you'll find that you'll have improved boarding effectiveness, your ships' grapeshot fire does increase damage and your colonies start off with lower morale whereas the Holy Roman Empire have an increased flow of silver ore, increased standing with the natives and higher starting morale for your colonists. The game offers a main Campaign, a Free Campaign (where you're free to experiment with different strategies until the year 1650), a Battle mode which allows you to configure a naval battle of your choice and a Quick Battle mode.
Whilst Conquest of the Americas and East India Company are very similar games, there's a lot more to do in Conquest of the Americas. This is down to the fact that colonies aren't simply trading points as the ports were in East India Company. You'll have to bring colonists, soldiers and tradesmen to your colonies and you're also responsible for building structures that will make life more bearable for them such as the church, courthouse, clothier and theatre. You must also keep a watch on your finances, so you'll want to set an appropriate tax rate in addition to setting up production lines to make the most money possible from your natural resources. You'll also have to keep an eye on the morale of your colonists and make sure it doesn't suffer too much. Then there are the buildings which can help to defend your colony such as the shipyard, fort and garrison and also buildings that will help you make the most of the natural resources that your colony offers such as the cigar factory, tannery and whaler etc. Some of these buildings can be upgraded too, in order to make them more efficient. You'll certainly want to develop your colonies as well as you can because by nurturing them they will grow larger, increasing their sphere of influence which enables them to have access to a greater amount of natural resources. In short you have a great deal of control over how your colony develops and it helps to make for a deeper and more enjoyable experience than what was on offer in East India Company.
Of course there are complications and difficulties to overcome. You'll have to deal with natives, pirates, rival nations and of course your home nation can be a real pain in the rear too. I suspect none of these will give you as much grief as your four advisors however. You'll be taking orders from a Royal, Trade and Military Advisor in addition to an Archbishop. Each will give you objectives to complete and it's in your best interests to keep them happy as best as you can otherwise you'll lose your position which effectively means it's game over. The problem is that it's not long before you're getting orders aplenty dished out and it soon becomes a little overwhelming. Thankfully you can choose to ignore objectives because as long as you keep your advisors generally happy, you'll stay in your position. Still it has to be said that keeping them happy can feel a little too much like a chore at times.
The naval battle system is just as solid and enjoyable as it was in East India Collection. Once again you’re given a choice of playing the battle in either an RTS fashion or you can take direct control of a ship to make for a more immersive experience. Battles can involve up to thirty ships (you're limited to having fifteen of your own split into three squadrons of five ships each) and it has to be said that they can be really enjoyable, probably more so than in other games of this type. If there’s a complaint to be made about the battle system it’s that it doesn’t appear to have changed at all. This will be disappointing for those who have played East India Company and were looking forward to see how Nitro Games could improve on what was already a very worthwhile naval battle system. In truth however, it has to be said that the naval battle system still holds very well and it was better for the developers to have left it alone rather than tamper with it and make it inferior in any way.
There are some legitimate disappointments here however. Those hoping for a multiplayer experience are out of luck as Conquest of the Americas is a single-player only title. The ability to play a multiplayer campaign, if only over a LAN, would certainly have been appreciated. The diplomacy in the game seems limited and I think more of an effort could have been made in this respect, although I have to say that it's a nice touch when offering deals that are unacceptable to the other nation that it can sour relations between them and you. There isn't any land based trading or combat in the game. You are limited to forming colonies on the coastline and engaging in naval warfare. There was a golden opportunity here to make Conquest of the Americas something really special such as having land-based combat and the ability to form colonies and trade inland would certainly have made the game a richer experience. It would have also been great to have had more interaction with the native tribes as their involvement in the game isn't as good as it could have been.
Conquest of Americas' presentation is absolutely fine. Graphically the game looks a little better than East India Company, particularly the campaign map view. The naval battles look more or less the same however which is certainly no bad thing. The interface certainly has been improved and seems more user friendly. I particularly like when you click on one of your colony's resources that you can see the full production chain for that resource. This is a great idea and negates the need to keep looking at a tech tree or guide which is certainly appreciated. As far as its deaf gamer friendliness is concerned, Conquest of America is pretty much the same as East India Company which means there are no real problems. All tutorial information is given in text. Your advisors' requests/objectives are all given in text and can be recalled at any time. You're also clearly notified in text when advisor requests have been received and completed. In fact all of the essential information is given in text. Not everything is subtitled however. The comments your commanders make when you issue orders to their fleet are not subtitled but this is far from being a problem. There are sounds to signify when a fleet has reached your home nation and there is no visual clue for this as such, though the frame of your commander's portrait will change colour to signify he's completed his journey. In short then, the game shouldn't give deaf gamers any real problems.
Commander: Conquest of the Americas is definitely an improvement on East India Company and on the whole is a more enjoyable experience. The game still doesn't have the depth of the Patrician series but it's definitely a step in the right direction. The game does have some limitations that are unfortunate however. It would have been great to have more interaction with the natives. Being able to engage in land-based battles and build colonies further inland is also something that would have enhanced the experience. Simply being confined to the coastline of the American continent seems like a wasted opportunity in some respects. Still I daresay that expansions are in the works and I would say that it's definitely possible that these could resolve the few problems that Commander: Conquest of the Americas has. As it stands however, if you enjoyed East India Company, you're really going to enjoy what Commander: Conquest of the Americas has to offer.