I recently got a chance to try out the new Conan title, Conan Unconquered, a pretty interesting take on the RTS genre which has no competitive multiplayer. Instead, the developers chose to focus exclusively on cooperative play. My preview was hosted by game designer Renato Orellana, from Petroglyph Games, who helped me through my first co-op game.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=abRYDUfByxE
Conan Unconquered has a very interesting take on both the Conan mythos and the RTS genre as a whole. The most notable twist is probably the lack of any competitive modes. Most modern RTS games rely on competitive online multiplayer to keep fresh. A game which focuses exclusively on the cooperative side of the gameplay is definitely a novelty.
A lot of thought has been put into how the game functions with two players. Both players share the responsibility of producing resources. Each structure that produces resources will add to the resources generated for both players. Each tick of the in-game resource clock gives each player resources from the collective buildings but they go into individual banks. Producing resources is shared, but you don't need to worry about what you're spending.
Conan Unconquered also handles other facets of gameplay in an interesting way. You can pause time so that commands can be given and the map inspected. In single player, the pause feature is at the command of only one person, but in co-op, both players have access to it. A "gentlemen's agreement" is necessary to prevent the other player from restarting time when you're not ready.
The heroes are also a much more integral part of gameplay than in other RTS titles. At the time of writing, there are three options available. Conan himself, an all-rounder with great combat abilities, Valeria who is much faster but easier to kill, and Kalanthes who is a ranged support character. The enemies come at you in waves, and your hero can basically carry you through the first few waves of enemies.
The heroes and their abilities are important because they allow you to survive long enough to build up an infrastructure. With the business of training and ordering units dispensed with building a defensible base is much simpler early on. That's not to say that the units aren't important. Fires on multiple fronts will require more hands than your hero has available.
As well as contending with waves of enemy soldiers, Conan Unconquered also features strays to fight. These monsters spawn at certain points in the map and are quite useful for grinding your hero and units up. Destroying these 'creeps' base will stop them spawning. Leaving the creeps to spawn, however, is a great way of grinding up your heroes experience.
Another interesting point which came up during the preview was the lack of any "worker" style units. Resources are where you'll actually find your workers, here called 'thralls. Each dwelling you build gives you a finite number and you can use them to power your other buildings. It's a streamlined approach to base management which helps the gameplay feel more visceral and immediate.
The difficulty of Conan Unconquered seems pretty adjustable, with optional challenges and various difficulty modes. My own attempt at surviving co-op didn't end so well. Even with the much more experienced player trying his best to carry me through, we ended up going down around round 10 out of 25 possible.
So, my time with Conan Unconquered drew to a close with a bloody massacre. It seems like the latest from Petroglyph Games offers plenty of challenge for RTS veterans. The focus on co-op gameplay brings some interesting elements to the foreground that don't necessarily get air time in a regular example of the genre. The extra challenges and leaderboards do add a little hint of competitiveness which spices up the game and feels like something which will add some much-needed replayability to the game.
TechRaptor previewed Conan Unconquered on PC via Steam with a copy provided by the developer.