It's been three years since the strategy title Songs of Conquest was revealed at the PC Gaming Show in 2019. I remember being there in person, getting a brief look at this game's trailer. Of all the games, this was the one I wanted to learn so much more about. I won't put words in the mouth of the other writers present, but I feel like it went under their radar. But I remembered and waited patiently until I could finally get my hands on it. Now launching in Early Access, you can play Songs of Conquest as well, and I have a gut feeling that this could become quite the popular game.
Songs of Conquest's Early Access Release Packs a Punch
Taking place in a high fantasy world filled with mysterious faey, nasty undead, and anthropomorphic reptiles, Songs of Conquest puts players in the shoes of various Wielders that cast spells and command troops. It's your job to navigate a large map full of resources to plunder, buildings to capture, bases to build, and enemies to destroy. This is the Early Access version of Songs of Conquest, and as such, there is more content to come. But for now, there's a decent helping of content to tackle with two out of four campaigns available, as well as numerous maps to skirmish on by yourself or with (and against) others. There's even a map editor with a robust amount of tools at your disposal. All in all, I'm impressed.
The focus of my preview was playing the two campaigns. Each narrative-driven campaign follows the story of its own respective faction and their struggles. There's Arelon, a human army that allies itself with the faey. This campaign involves battles with undead and rebellious humans, perhaps paying homage to some of Warcraft III's story beats involving Arthas. The latter campaign is that of the Rana, a faction of anthropomorphic frogs and other creatures rising up against their slavers. A disadvantaged group fighting against their oppressors is another classic theme in various forms of media, but it's satisfying to see the Rana rise up and seize their destiny.
Songs of Conquest's gameplay is split up into a few different portions. There's an overworld where you move around the map with your Wielder -- walking only as far as each turn allows -- gathering resources and amassing troops. You can also build up a base here, where you can erect various resource-gathering buildings, troop spawners, and more. The base-building component is not overly complex and doesn't require the often frustrating task of micromanaging and optimizing that may come with other strategy titles, which is much appreciated for one who isn't a fan of this level of strategy.
Inevitably, you'll run into enemies or other Wielders while exploring around. In comes the second component of Songs of Conquest: combat. Troops can move a set amount of tiles on often cramped, smaller battlefields that really emphasize positioning and strategic thinking. Certain tiles have height advantages which will give you, in turn, an advantage against enemies. Interestingly, your Wielder doesn't partake in such battles on the field; rather, on the sidelines they cast spells that give you certain advantages. It's a clever way of navigating around the issue of utilizing overpowered hero units in battle, leading to balance issues down the road. Regardless, as you use troops you'll gain access to such spells that can seriously turn the tide of battle, either by buffing troops, debuffing enemies, creating obstacles, and more. There's a lot of potential with these spells and rewards for patient play. I'm looking forward to seeing how expert players manage to utilize these abilities.
At its core, Songs of Conquest is not a complicated game to understand, and is rather accessible for most skill levels. Although, I came across some bumps while playing through the campaigns and fighting AI in skirmishes. This brings up the biggest issue I have with this Early Access version so far: difficulty. Indeed, Songs of Conquest can be a difficult game. I was able to quickly grasp the concepts to succeed in the first campaign level, but soon found a steep difficulty curve and faced some very strong opponents. I think enemies in the campaign may be a little too strong and it's common to go against Wielders with the perfect combination of units to dominate you in battle. I think the easy solution is to implement difficulty levels for the campaign -- this feature is present in skirmish, where you can face off against Easy or Normal AI. Surely it's not too hard to do the same for the campaign? Don't let it get in the way of your enjoyment, but do take note.
With Songs of Conquest slated to stay in Early Access for around a year, there's plenty of balancing that can be done to mitigate these issues. I suspect once players are able to face off against each other online, the differences in power between factions will become quite apparent, as we've seen in recent releases such as Age of Empires IV. I am also hoping for Songs of Conquest to receive some optimization so it performs better on machines. Yes, Songs of Conquest is a pixel game, and it is absolutely jawdropping when you're in-game, but it can chug at times. Quickly navigating between two different points on a map will lead to a large drop in FPS since there's a lot going on on the map at any given time. I don't experience such problems while battling, but you'll spend a great deal of time in the overworld -- here's hoping performance fixes are coming soon!
Nevertheless, Songs of Conquest offers up a great deal of fun. I enjoy how straightforward the mechanics are and could see myself getting better at Songs of Conquest than I could at other strategy titles. And when you have an accessible game, it makes it that much easier for a game to get big. I see a bright future for Songs of Conquest, one where a robust population of dedicated fans will fight online and have exciting and rewarding battles. As an Early Access game, there's already a very sturdy foundation and plenty of promise. Songs of Conquest might be under the radar now, but watch out: this one might take the strategy world by storm.
TechRaptor covered Songs of Conquest on PC via Steam with a code provided by the publisher.