Conqueror 940 AD is probably not really my kind of game to be perfectly honest. But given I have grown up with my share of strategy games, I figured I’d give it a shot. After all, being a 90s child, Age of Empires and Sim City were part of my childhood in a major way.
I was kind of hoping Conqueror 940 AD would fall into that same genre of building a city, managing resources, defending against invaders, all that good stuff. It kinda has all that but it falls a bit short in several areas. But let’s get into the nitty-gritty details of what this game achieves, and what it doesn’t.
A Tale Of Two Kings
The story isn’t all that complicated and is told through a rather cringy comic book style intro where the camera awkwardly zooms in and out of comic panels. I honestly could write a novel about the art direction in this game, but let’s not get into that just yet.
In either case, the story is that you grew up with your brothers in the kingdom of Penalia, where the firstborn became king. However, he became paranoid of his brothers wanting to take the throne (the game never goes into any detail on why he did). So the princes all began having fatal “accidents” until you were the only one left.
You fled the kingdom to establish your own, and that’s where the game begins properly. The game is rather light on story elements from here on in, though how you play does affect how the game plays out from then on.
I have to mention that the current version I played had a lot of typing errors. Stuff like “stength” instead of “strength” and other various errors kept popping up in the game. Another example was “the person IS gaudy clothes” instead of “the person IN gaudy clothes”. The game could use some proofreading.
Building The City
So your goal is to build a city and gather resources. Fair enough. Any building you wanna make has to be researched beforehand, as do your troops and technologies. Now you better be damn sure that you pick the right thing to research cause your choice is seemingly locked once you have clicked on something. There is NO way to cancel research once it has begun, and unless you invest in some high-level tech, it will take WEEKS for research to complete in some cases.
Oh, and yeah, this game goes by one day at a time. Since it is turn-based, that means once you have chosen what to do for that day, you click that big hourglass icon and flip over to the next day. So what do you do every single day? You stare into a menu.
That’s right. Buildings? You can’t choose where to place them. Gathering? You don’t command anyone to go out, it just happens automatically once you have the right buildings for it. You have surprisingly little control over stuff despite being the king, so much so that the game becomes nothing but choosing what to build and research.
It really makes everything that happens feel incredibly distant. You don’t get any visual clue of how you’re doing other than numbers on top of your screen. The image of your town is just a static image that changes when you add new stuff, but never shows people or anything. The whole game just feels kinda lifeless.
While the game is called “Conqueror 940 AD” it specifically puts you in the role of a king. So despite the so-called roleplaying being an aspect, you’re kinda forced to play a king here. Then there’s the topic of the casual sexism going on…
Now, I’m not gonna say sexism doesn’t belong in a game set in the middle ages. It wasn’t exactly the most woman-friendly time to be alive. But there’s also a way to go about it and what angle you choose. The issue with Conqueror is just that, the angle. I got the impression that you are distinctly playing the role of the oppressors in this case. With the screenshot higher up, you can see what I mean.
One of your petitioners comes in asking if a friend of hers can stay. “If I must.” is probably the least offensive answer, but comes off as kinda whiny. It is the only place in the game where simply saying “No.” comes up as if the king doesn’t even wanna discuss her or be nice to her. Then there’s the middle answer… “If she is pretty, she can stay.” which entirely judges the woman on her looks.
There are also numerous other examples, such as the ability to research a Brothel as possible entertainment for the people. In my opinion, if you’re gonna make the game sexist, it is probably a better idea to put you in the role of a queen who has to build a nation despite sexism and a macho attitude from her peers. It might not be a problem for you if you’re playing the game, but for me, it stood out immensely.
The King’s Court
One huge aspect of the game is Petitioners. These people will come into your court every few days to discuss matters of politics, the King’s health, or your strategies. For each person, you are given 3 answers. There really aren’t any wrong answers here, but some answers will have negative consequences. But it depends on what choices you want to make and what kind of King you want to play.
That being said, a lot of these Petitioner questions can be… a little weird. The one example I shared higher up is a good one but then there was that time when I was asked where Vambraces are worn and I said: “the knees” and the guy answered “Incorrect answer, it’s the knees” so I picked the right answer but it registered as the wrong one? What?
In addition, there are cases where the game outright tries to encourage you to blackmail the other kingdoms, giving you no reward for choosing the “no blackmail” option even though BLACKMAILING YOUR ALLIES MIGHT NOT BE A GOOD IDEA. Like, yeah it does strengthen trades BUT ONLY BECAUSE WE ACTED LIKE SNEAKY DOUCHEBAGS.
Then there are all the times when execution comes up as an option and you often get told off for not punishing petty crimes, even though the criminals just probably want food or a place to sleep. It all adds up to making you kinda feel like a complete douchebag in the game, especially with how much focus is put on the king’s posture, athleticism, and hairstyle.
You’re just not really allowed to be who you want to be and you’re kinda forced into this role as a complete douchebag of a king.
There are two kinds of relations in this game. Ladies and Kingdoms. Now, after nearly 13 hours of game time, I could never get any of the other kingdoms up to even 2 hearts in reputation. The reason? You have nearly no tools for building relations.
Relations are measured in either hearts or skulls. Hearts means you’re on good terms with the nation and can trade with them. Get more hearts and your relationship with that nation improves. Emissaries and trading improve relations with these countries in addition to some of the Petitioner’s choices.
Skulls on the other hand mean that nation hates your guts and doesn’t want to trade with you. The only way to get rid of the skulls is to send emissaries.
The issue is you can only send a single emissary to a single country and the whole process takes days to complete. Once it’s completed, you may have like… 1/8 of a heart filled or skull removed. Just the fact you can’t send multiple emissaries and the fact emissaries seemingly have extremely little impact on a kingdom’s attitude towards you kinda makes it feel discouraging to maintain peaceful relations with other countries.
I literally have zero ideas about how courtship works since after the same amount of time, I haven’t encountered a single lady. I can only guess that you meet a lady from one of the kingdoms if the relationship is strong enough, but I am NOT going to play this game for hundreds of hours for that.
I couldn’t tell you much about how conflict works in the game since I decided to play peacefully. It does seem like warfare is entirely optional since I never encountered a single situation where I was being invaded or threatened.
Sure, some of the other countries will establish that they simply don’t like you once you establish contact with them. But you’re never outright forced to fight anyone, which means you can play the entire game without ever even touching the battle plan screen.
Before you can do battle, you will need troops. You get troops through research as well as constructing the appropriate buildings. You also need to research weapons the troops can use.
The game does an absolutely horrible job at conveying to you what you need to do since there is no tech tree established and you can build things completely out of order. So you may build troops but find you can’t recruit them because they don’t have weapons. Or you can build a blacksmith only to find out you can’t make weapons because you don’t have an armory to store them in, which just gives a generic “not enough manpower” error message.
The one thing that really stands out for me about Conqueror is the art style and visual look of it though. It feels like a low-budget flash game, with some rather unappealing faces to look at that haven’t really been scaled correctly. It’s almost like they were drawn at a higher resolution and then scaled down without any filtering or smoothing.
The font is this kind of medieval gothic font that is near impossible to read at times. Ts look like Cs, letters blend together and it’s just kinda hard to read in general.
The UI is also just kinda messy and hard to navigate, which is an issue considering you spend the entire game looking into a menu. You can select things on the dashboard but also have buttons above for the submenus. The game just doesn’t explain to you have certain game mechanics are meant to work and the only tutorial you get is at the start of the game when only a handful of options have been unlocked.
It’s also kinda buggy at times. Like, forget using your mouse wheel to scroll drop-down menus like in the trading menu. It scrolls extremely slowly using the mouse wheel, forcing you to drag the cursor over the scroll bar instead.
The only nice thing I can say about the graphics is that at least they’re not CGI. I’d rather take horrible 2D hand-drawn graphics over horrible CGI any day.
Slow And Tedious
If there is one feeling I’m left with after playing Conqueror, it’s how utterly slow and tedious it all feels. I already mentioned the problem with the relations, but it goes far beyond that. Trading is equally slow as your capacity starts out so low that you can hardly trade more than one thing at a time, especially if you need a lot of that thing.
Say for instance you wanna build something with stone. Well, for the first 13 hours of the game I wasn’t able to actually gather stone to use, so I had to buy it from other kingdoms. But I couldn’t sell resources and buy stone at the same time without sacrificing a lot of that precious stone because my capacity was so low.
Research feels equally slow to do. Despite getting stuff that supposedly helped speed up research, I noticed no discernable difference in Research speed and it still took me weeks to research new things.
After such a long time and barely feeling like I’m making any significant progress, I just felt done with the game. I was not having fun, the game just felt like I was mechanically clicking the same things over and over, clicking that hourglass to pass the days one by one, slowly.
It also feels like you have significantly little control over your skill levels. You can only train skills once they reach a certain level which defeats the entire purpose of training them since a lot of skill checks rely on you having high skills but only up to a certain point.
The sound is also nothing to write home about. Conqueror features zero voice acting, not even little voice barks when someone contacts you. There are only clicks and such when going through the menu and little fanfares. The whole game feels incredibly lifeless as a result.
Then there’s the music… oh god the music. It legitimately sounds like bad 90s MIDI music at times. Just little to no bass, heavy reliance on what sounds like stock library sounds, and really flat mixing. Like I’m not kidding when the main menu music for this game is some of the worst music I’ve heard recently. A lot of it doesn’t even sound medieval and like it was taken right out of a Pop Cap game.
Some of the melodies are nice to listen to but completely lack any hooks or memorable riffs and just end up sounding like really annoying background music. Why not get some folk-rock in there? Or some actual folk music instead of this cheap knock-off MIDI-sounding music? Like, if you’re gonna do it, do it properly.
Despite my negative review, Conqueror 940 AD isn’t a bad game. The problem is that it isn’t really a good one either. It is extremely average, doing what it sets out to do and nothing else. For being a $15 game, it’s perfectly fine and the casual nature of it makes it a good “clicker” game to play.
I just wish it had a more appealing art style, a more interesting story, better writing with less focus on medieval sexism, and way better music. But if these kinds of strategy games are your cup of tea, you might get some enjoyment out of it. But honestly, with Age of Empires 3 Definitive Edition available, this game just feels kinda pointless.
Thanks to Combat Wombat Studios for providing us with a review copy.
Conqueror 940 AD
An average casual take on the city builder genre that has good ideas but fails to execute them in an interesting way. With better art direction, better music, better writing, and actual city building, this game could've been a lot more appealing.
- Good casual game, easy to play while doing other things
- Low price, won't hurt your bank account too much
- Unappealing art direction
- Bad music
- Confusing gameplay and bad UI design
- Slow and tedious
Sound & Music
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