Game of Thrones: Conquest
Game of Thrones is getting in on the mobile craze with Conquest, the newest in the ever-growing lineup of Game of War-style games.
If you haven’t played Game of War, the concept is simple: Start a castle (a ‘house,’ in Conquest), build and upgrade military and resource plots (ad infinitum), build military units, create or join an allegiance, and pillage those weaker than your allegiance until they flee or join your side. While this sounds exciting on paper, in both Game of War and Conquest this is all done through an often boring system of clicking and waiting. Upgrading buildings takes a few minutes in the beginning of the game, but upgrades soon take hours to complete. If you want to attack your neighbor, you click attack on their keep, select which units you want to attack with, then wait. Then, if you damaged their wall and kept most of your soldiers, you can attack again. Repeat until their wall is destroyed and pillage their resources.
Allegiances help make pillaging quicker, thankfully. Working as a team, an allegiance of players can destroy a wall quicker than a lone player. To start an allegiance, you must find someone willing to be your Bannerman. Each allegiance owner can have up to five Bannermen, with each of them having five as well, all the way down to fourth-tier Bannermen, who cannot have any of their own. This allegiance system is a good way of keeping straight who is in charge and passing orders down a chain of command. Unfortunately, it also requires asking strangers to bend the knee if they want to team up with you. This can be fun if you’re powerful enough to be a threat, or it can be frustrating if you’re being harassed by an allegiance wanting you to kneel.
Allegiances fight over Seats of Power such as Winterfell and Casterly Rock. These seats of varying power (King’s Landing is the hardest to take but gives the most benefits) are mostly inactive in the preview build of the game, but allegiances can take active ones, for glory and the tangible benefits they bequeath members of the allegiance, such as increased march speed or resource collection.
The setting and characters you’re surrounded by in a game can make or break the experience. Unfortunately, Conquest’s setting fails to put my mind in the Game of Thrones universe. It feels more classically medieval than Game of Thrones-inspired. My castle only features one building distinctly from Game of Thrones, the Maester's tower, which can be used to research upgrades. The upgrades in the Maester’s Tower, which fall under one of four categories (military, city defense, logistics, and economy), go back to having no relation to the universe, however helpful they are gameplay-wise.
Conquest does feature some of the series’ most popular characters, but they don’t feel like those characters. They mostly pop up in a microtransaction advertisement or to teach a new mechanic, but with no voice acting and written dialogue that breaks the fourth wall more than it tries to stay in-universe, there’s very little connection between the characters in Conquest and the characters on HBO or in the books.
From renting extra workers or Maesters to work on more buildings and research, to buying packs of boosts and currency, microtransactions are hard to avoid in Conquest. What’s most tempting to buy are speedups, which allow you to finish construction, research, or train troops faster. Instead of waiting an hour for a farm to upgrade, a speedup can upgrade it immediately so you can get started working on something else. These speedups are given away for free occasionally, but those who spend money will be able to progress through the ranks much faster than those who try the free-to-play route.
Game of Thrones fans should temper their expectations before diving in, as the game released yesterday, October 19. The setting and characters offer nods to the broader fiction, but what I experienced in the preview version of the game is mostly rooted in a familiar and established mobile game structure. Fighting over Westeros’ Seats of Power with an organized allegiance might fulfil some people’s fantasies, but the fear of microtransactions deciding the fate of those Seats is real. If the game ever manages to capture that Game of Thrones feel however, it has a chance to suck a lot of people in.