I seem to be on a roll lately with finding odd games that are more interesting than they’d appeared on the surface. Conqueror’s Blade is another one of those titles, and it’s made a bit more interesting by their self-designation as an MMO. There are certainly some MMO elements to the game, but I don’t know that it exactly deserves the designation.
What the game is, is an online multiplayer Mount & Blade. Part of my objection with their odd labeling is that this description alone would have served to get a lot of interest. I’ve really enjoyed the M&B series over the years and was definitely excited to see something that was built to support more robust multiplayer.
I’m going to take a look at some of the things I really like about Conqueror’s Blade today. Of course, I’ll also explore some of the systems that I think need a little work. I’d also add that this game won’t be for everyone, but my hope is that you’ll know by the end of the article whether it’s right for you or not.
I really think Conqueror’s Blade ought to drop the MMO. It draws certain expectations that the game doesn’t really deliver on. For instance, there is progression, but it doesn’t come off to me as being very MMO in flavor. That said, I do actually like the progression system a lot.
In part, what I like about the progression is how open it is. You have several inter-related systems that all need attention. Your personal character has attribute points accrued over time that can be invested to improve different types of specific attacks, as well as armor and health.
Progressing your personal character also involves investing points in a skill tree unique to the specific weapon you use. You can actually unlock additional weapons and these skills are advanced with skill points earned through combat, so I believe you could theoretically unlock all the available weapons (some are gender-locked) and take all skills for each weapon eventually.
Another path of advancement is the troop types available to you. As you gain “Honor” in the game, you can spend those points to unlock new units and also unlock specific bonuses for units. Once you’ve “researched” a unit, you can build it if you have the cash and materials on hand. You can only have a set number of units in your army at any given time, though that number can be increased as well.
Another path for advancement is through the individual units. As you use them and they gain experience, they’ll have their own personal skill path that you can walk through. It’s a tree similar to yours, but it improves things like defense, speed, and unlocks bonuses for different damage types.
There’s also a tree for the resource-harvesting side of the game and you can advance your way through that. Most of the progression is related to the units, though. Since that’s the main feature of the game, it not only makes sense, I think it was a really smart move to link so much advancement there instead of to the player’s character.
The focus on unit progression is one of the reasons that I don’t think the game should really be considered an MMO. Not that being MMO or not has much to do with that aspect, but I think it’s a mistake on the branding side of the game because it doesn’t meet the expectations of what a lot of people think when you say that.
I do like the progression system, but the interface isn’t great. For instance, I can’t tell the differences between these units easily. I have to go through multiple clicks for each, take notes, and then use my notes.
Another area where Conqueror’s Blade is kind of on the edge of being an MMO, but not really, is with crafting. Unlike most MMOs, the crafting system is really a gathering system in which you take the materials to an NPC who effectively trades you for items of the appropriate type.
Again, this is one of those systems that’s a little odd, but that includes some design elements that I really like. Because, while the crafting is a little wonky, the gathering is actually pretty cool. The various units you can unlock all have different speeds, attack types and values, and labor values. Armed serfs may not be the most combat-oriented units, but you need them anyway. They produce a lot more labor than your professional armsmen, and thus you collect a lot more when harvesting.
I really thought this was an interesting take on the gathering side of the economy and am a big fan of how it makes early units worth keeping around in even the late game. I suspect it’s a system that would really support an interesting economy by encouraging players to focus more on the industrial side of warfare or the actual combat side.
That said, it all kind of goes a little sideways for me when I get those materials back to town, because the “crafting” is really just a glorified exchange with an NPC. First to convert raw materials into the refined good, and then you trade those refined goods in for different types of gear, which are then traded to another vendor for a military unit.
I would have really liked to see them do something for crafting that’s similar to what they did with gathering. A unit of blacksmiths for forging arms or a unit of leatherworkers for armor. Plus, it doesn’t look like there’s much you can do with crafting in the current game. No crafting-related advancement really detracts from the ability for players to be more involved in the economy, and that’s always a red flag for a game’s longevity in my book.
The last thing I’ll harp on is the open world, which again is just almost like what you’d expect for an MMO. In this case, the world is open, you just have to be able to get there, and again this is a really cool concept that also happens to not be very MMO-like.
When deploying your units, you carry some amount of food. How fast it’s eaten depends on the numbers of troops you’re taking with you and how much they eat. This directly impacts your ability to craft because you have to make it back to town before you run out of food.
So, the world map is pretty open, but getting from one town to the next takes a lot of time and you need to keep your army fed as you travel, or they’ll get negative traits that impact their moral and regeneration between battles. The effect is a world that’s a lot larger than the map would imply, which again is such a cool idea because the mechanic gives certain gravitas to long-range migrations.
The downside is that you have to plan out your route carefully. You usually strike out to collect the specific material you need for whatever new bit of crafting you’d like to… well, hire someone else to do. This limits exploration and limits the resources you have readily available.
There are two factors that go into whether you can harvest a resource node. For one, you can only harvest each point once per day, which I’m not a total fan of because it limits the opportunities for players to roleplay an industry baron. Also, nodes can be taxed by whatever faction controls the area, which means you have to pay for the privilege of harvesting most nodes. That cost further limits your ability to quickly collect some resources.
The movement across the map feels very similar to Mount & Blade, which I did appreciate. I’m sure some won’t like the restrictions on movement, but I happen to be a fan of it. It makes the map feel larger through limiting your ability to travel early on. It also helps create this sense of significance when your guild owns territory.
In the end, I think the design goals in this game were pretty clear. It’s a game that’s designed around sessionized multiplayer combat and everything else is just window-dressing. That’s the final reason that I wouldn’t really consider the game an MMO. It’s more like a War of the Roses with more action-based combat and a squad of some infantry, archers, or cavalry that the player can lead into battle to capture control points.
Whatever you call it, the combat is fun. It’s not as serious as some of these other games based in the same general time period and with similar combat styles (for instance, I’ve never backflipped away from combat and disappeared in Mount & Blade). I think that relaxed take on combat will make it a lot more approachable for many, though. It’s sort of like the fast-paced shooters compared to Arma. I really like realism and sometimes I want it. Sometimes I just want to jump into a match and troll tweens for a while, though.
If you’re the sort who likes the combat style of Mount & Blade or Mordhau, but don’t really have a lot of time, Conqueror’s Blade may be a good game for you. I think it’s a good balance between the other two games because it doesn’t require the time investment of M&B, but there’s still a little more strategic thought than you’ll normally see in a faster paced game like Mordhau or For Honor.
As for me, I’ll definitely spend a little time playing Conqueror’s Blade, but I’d really like to see a little additional depth in crafting and the economics of the game. I don’t really think that’s the direction the dev team will be going, but that’s an area that I feel could be most improved with less effort. I’d also like to see weapon types unlocked so that everything is available regardless of gender. If you’re going to make nearly every weapon available across the board anyway, there’s no reason to suddenly gender-lock a couple specific ones.
Either way, Conqueror’s Blade is now free to play, so you can’t lose anything by trying it. I’d be interested to hear from you readers what you think about the game and whether you’ve liked other games with similar combat styles. If you’re more of an industrial player like myself, what do you think about the gathering and crafting systems? Let me know down below.