Porting a physical board game to a digital platform is far from an easy task. The essence of the original game can sometimes be lost in translation as the very fabric the game lies with the board itself. Most major boardgames have been drawn in by the touchscreen revolution to largely tepid reviews. So, how do classic board games translate on traditional point and click devices? Conquist 2 has it nailed.
Strategy games, both digital and physical, have always been my favourite from childhood right through to adulthood. Risk, Command & Conquer, Age of Empires—you name it, I own it. Conquist 2 takes its inspiration directly from Risk whilst daring to best the classic at its own game. Adding its fair share of original content, Conquist has the potential to upstage its ancestor, but how does it fair on OS X?
Nothing is Original
There aren’t many boardgames as famous as Risk, the classic military strategy title with one of the only a handful of instantly recognisable boards in the industry. Such ubiquity can take years to develop, and, in the 21st century, only the most popular have managed to hold onto their fame. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean games need their own fame to reap similar benefits.
Conquist 2 takes inspiration directly from Risk by mimicking the classic’s fundamental features and presented for a digital platform. The similarities are so clear that quick search on the Mac App Store for Risk, in the absence of an official game, shows a prominent Conquist icon. Such association is extremely beneficial for the app’s developers, but that’s not to say it isn’t deserved.
Far from being a straight up copy, Conquist 2 features many original game modes and a unique, beautiful interface far-removed from the aesthetics of Risk. Though it does not possess the same reputation in the gaming world as its predecessor, in terms of quality, Conquist’s developers have managed to match the inherent playability and intensity found in the original, and perhaps raising the bar even higher.
From the Roman Empire to a Giant Octopus
One of the ways Conquist’s developers have managed to distinguish themselves is by utilising the advantages of the digital platform. Without the shackles of a tangible board, they have created eight unique maps with each representing a different strategic challenge; thus preventing the game stagnating and rewarding players with quick reactions and several strategies
Once upon a time I’d create my own alternative maps to shake-up the static Risk board, and, to the annoyance of my friends, many would take several sessions to complete a single game. Thankfully, my poorly drawn DIY skills are no longer required. Each new map has been intricately crafted to present a unique challenge; Atoll, for example, is based upon a complex set of rings with players required to be acutely aware of every avenue of weakness.
One hallmark of a great game is playability; the amount of times it can be played without becoming boring—Draw Something being the obvious precedent. In light of such pitfalls, two new game modes have been added to the game; however, though there is no disputing the levels are entertaining, it must be said that they are very similar and lack any true innovation.
Supplementing the standard World Domination and Secret Mission modes first invented by Risk, the Castle and Colonisation modes require players to conquer every capital to win. With Colonisation mode all troops must start at their respective capitals and advance through territories containing unaffiliated units to capture the enemy capitals requiring a perfect balance between attack and defence.
Alternatively, Castle mode seeks to prevent a domineering force being built and thus limits each territory to holding just ten units. Another stipulation requires the transfer of any remaining troops and territory held by a defeated player to their conqueror. Though in theory the second rule sounds like a good idea, in practice the resulting merger has, in my experience, proven to give an unassailable lead to the player reaping the benefits.
Ironically, despite the integration of Game Centre, the best way to play Conquist 2 remains with friends—both locally and online. For me, the inherent competitiveness between one’s friends is what makes this style of game so alluring; however, the intensity of gameplay is lost when playing with strangers. Having the option is great, but nothing quite beats the deal brokering, back-stabbing, and the grudge attacks that can seemingly test a friendship’s foundations—until the dust settles and all is forgotten over a cold beverage!
Unfortunately, even if I preferred playing online, the process of connecting to a new game can be quite painstaking. In the era of interconnectivity the game is found wanting. It may be because there aren’t many regular players, but the majority of games I tried to join took several frustrating minutes to connect. Once a game has been connected performance is usually very good with only the occasional game abandoned after competitors leave—most likely from fear.
Given the ineptitude of the online multiplayer, local or single player are the best ways to play the game. There are 30 achievements to complete via Game Centre with many requiring an abundance of luck and a multitude of game wins to notch off the list. If you’re as intense as I about finishing every last aspect of a game, you should get the best value for your money possible.
Interface & Performance
Asides from the difficulties with multiplayer functionality, the rest of the game’s performance is nothing less than impeccable. In my own extensive use I have yet to encounter a single crash and not even a hint of lag. Even with the game settings cranked up to full speed with moves being made thick and fast by multiple CPU opponents, performance is as stable as can be.
Perhaps the greatest compliment I can give the interface is that the first time I clicked the game’s awesome icon I didn’t have to consider what I needed to do. Designed in a coherent and easy to navigate style, the interface allows you to jump right into a game with just a few clicks. Featuring bold shapes and distinctive colouring, the overall design of the game is very striking without compromising its simplicity.
The absence of many popular board game titles on the Mac App Store is testament to the ambivalence of developers in bringing ports to the Mac. The platform is not as natural a fit as the iPad, for instance. However, there is definitely a market for such titles if, and only if, they are properly developed. Conquist 2, despite its failures with online gaming, is without doubt one of those games and is perfect for lovers of Risk seeking an alternative, digital edition of the classic.