Sometimes games end up in the bargain bin. Other times, that’s exactly where their developers planned for them to go. Consider Medieval Conquest from Cat Daddy Games. Its web site describes it as a “dynamic blend of real time strategy, adventure, and city building game play styles,” but that’s a stretch. When I played it, I pretty much pegged it as a Majesty clone with a whole lot less going on. Coupling that with so-so graphics, no voice acting, bad AI, bad pathfinding, repetitive gameplay and a short campaign, and it’s pretty clear Cat Daddy Games never had high hopes for the project, and never intended for it to be a good game.
Still, Medieval Conquest comes pretty cheaply. While wandering around looking for the game’s system requirements (which I never found), I noticed it being sold at amazon.com for $10 and a lot of other places for $20. So the question becomes: is Medieval Conquest fun enough for its price? My answer is “probably not.”
Consider Medieval Conquest’s gameplay. You have to build a city that has enough buildings to make adventurers happy. That means you need to construct places for them to eat, sleep, have fun and spend their money. Complicating matters a little bit is that when adventurers gain levels, their tastes become more particular, and so while they might start out being happy sleeping in a shanty, eventually they’re going to want an inn or even a fancy hotel. Similarly, you need to keep your adventurers equipped with nice gear, and so not only do you have to build shops for them to use, you also have to “stock” those shops with the gear the adventurers need. If your city isn’t up to snuff, or if your adventurers can’t find the equipment they’re looking for, then they might abandon your cause, which isn’t any fun.
Speaking of adventurers, there are three types in Medieval Conquest -- rangers, warriors and mages -- and they do about what you’d expect. You have to hire them to come to your kingdom, but once there they start gaining experience based on the enemies they kill. And unlike some games where units can only gain a few levels or only add a veterancy status, in Medieval Conquest there doesn’t seem to be a limit to how many levels adventurers can gain, and some of the equipment you can stock for them goes up to level 50 and beyond. However, when I played the campaign, I only got adventurers to about level 30.
I mentioned Majesty in my introduction, and if you played Majesty (which I’d recommend), then Medieval Conquest might sound a little familiar. But where in Majesty you had no control over your adventurers and could only place bounties to get them to go places and kill things, in Medieval Conquest you have a much greater influence. You can take an adventurer or a group of adventurers and give them a small, circular “hunting region.” That causes them to hunt for enemies in that region, and also return to it if they should need to leave for healing or to buy something. However, that’s it. Your adventurers do everything else on their own -- including picking out enemies to target -- and all you can do once combat starts up is perhaps get your adventurers to retreat by changing their hunting region to someplace safer.
At this point Medieval Conquest sounds like it could work, and that it might be fun enough to try out. But -- and you knew this part was coming, right? -- it’s not. For starters, the combat AI is horrendous. Your adventurers don’t stay in their hunting regions, they don’t target the nearest enemy, and they don’t target the most wounded enemy. As far as I can tell, they instead spread out and try to target as many enemies as possible, so they can get killed really, really quickly. That means you have to keep a close eye on your adventurers, but while you can at least organize them into “battle groups,” there isn’t an easy to way to jump between such groups, and so chances are you’ll only be able to have one group of adventurers do anything complicated.
Or consider how to economy works. Each time an adventurer kills an enemy, no matter what level the enemy is, you gain 400 gold. That sounds a little goofy to me since it means that a level 1 bee is as valuable as a level 70 dragon, but here’s the really goofy part. Since Medieval Conquest is at heart a real-time strategy game, that means your adventurers are going to get killed from time to time, and that means the game has to provide you a way to hire new adventurers and level them up to replace the ones who died. The result is that low level creatures continually spawn on the map, but that means you can sit a few adventurers on the spawn points and have them generate a ton of gold for you. So the economy isn’t exactly difficult to manage.
Also, the four campaign missions aren’t timed, and at only one point is there a concerted attack on any of your cities. That means you can sit around and do nothing, accumulate gold and build up a city, and only attack when you want. In other words, Medieval Conquest allows you to dominate the missions pretty easily, and there isn’t a lot of challenge. Worse, some of the defensive structures you can build are way more powerful than the adventurers, and so you don’t even need to risk your adventurers if you don’t want to. When I got to the last mission and saw that the final boss was level 70, at first I tried sending my level 25ish army at him to see what would happen, and he killed them pretty easily. But then I plopped a large outpost next to him, and the outpost killed him in about five seconds. That wasn’t a very exciting way to finish the campaign.
There are other problems, like a lack of multiplayer and skirmish modes, but that’s enough for one review. Nothing about Medieval Conquest speaks of quality, and I thought the four mission campaign was repetitive and boring (although it did take 15-20 hours, if that makes a difference). So I wouldn’t recommend you buy Medieval Conquest, not for $10, not even for $5. I sort of thought I was wasting my time when I played it, and I got it for free.