Conqueror's Blade Siege Tests Debrief
At the end of July 2018, I got an early look at Conqueror’s Blade and was pretty positive that it was a glorious descent into a bloody battle. This massive MMO war front finally gave commanders the chance to test their mettle over the last two weekends with a series of technical siege tests and I managed to slip into the invited ranks and bash some skulls, here’s our after battle debrief.
For those of you that have managed to avoid conscription to My.com’s new game, Conqueror’s Blade is a new MMORPG. It takes the brutal historic combat of games like Chivalry and Gloria Victus and throws players into a range of massive encounters. This is far from the intimate warfare you might have come to appreciate in games like For Honor and developer Booming Games are sparing no expense on the bloodshed. Instead, Conqueror’s Blade blows everything up to a ridiculous scale, featuring huge castle sieges, smaller skirmishes and a persistent open world campaign that pits entire kingdoms against each other.
After an intense introduction to Booming Games and My.com’s new MMORPG earlier this year, as well as a follow-up confrontation at Gamescom 2018, I had a vague idea what to expect from last weekend’s Conqueror’s Blade siege tests. If you haven’t read our initial thoughts you can check them out here. These stress tests were a restricted series of trials, intended to test the capability of Conquerors Blade to cope when real players were given access to something shiny and sharp.
The initial moments of these tests were exactly what I’ve expected from Conqueror’s Blade, a fairly limited character customization screen followed by an overwhelming plethora of combat options for your every character. A number of combat classes are already available for each character, drawing from a range of fighting styles. Short Bows to glaives, shields, swords, muskets and even the nodachi were just some of the options open during the siege test and seemed to give the physical attributes a run for their money.
For newcomers, the short sword and shield is a good melee option. It provides an acceptable balance between attack and defense while eschewing some of the more subtle combat complexities of weapons like muskets or spears. The short sword and shield is a generic hack and slash affair that will feel familiar to anybody who has had some time with stance based combat. It is also why I opted for this option across the next few hours of combat.
In order to get into the game, commanders and generals need to choose a kingdom to fight for before taking the first few steps in this world. Kingdoms were largely irrelevant to my experience in this series of tests, with only a couple of siege instances available to test. Your fealty will, however, have a significant impact in the final game and opens up a massive series of struggles for territory and combat on an epic scale. For this test, Conqueror’s Blade opened up some basic systems and two particular PvP instances.
The Stalemate Creek and Wall Fort hot-join PvP maps that My.com and Booming games added to the extended test roster are a sample of Conqueror’s Blades' 8v8 and 15 v15 instances maps with two very distinct scenarios. Stalemate Creek is an open field event that takes place on a range of rolling hills, arranged into a verdant looking arena. The proprietary CHAOS engine makes for a gorgeous backdrop to the upcoming slaughter. As the sun glared down on my own armies I couldn’t help but wonder how my first battle in Stalemate Creek would fare. Thankfully, success is a relatively simple affair and follows the traditional capture the flag scenario. As a timer ticks down players are pushed towards a series of control points. These are scattered across the arena and invite the two competing teams to clash for ownership. It’s a pretty simple idea, throw open the battlefield, and let the opposing forces slaughter each other.
However simple it sounds, this is where basic troop combat and control shine. Five new brand new troop types were available to recruit and control during this extended siege test and careful planning and control of the three groups of soldiers that follow you into battle makes all the difference in open field attacks. While basic infantry and Levy Spearmen are some of the most versatile footmen, more dedicated units can be utterly devastating if used in the correct way. With the correct communication between players and an ability to read a battlefield, allied players can turn around most encounters before they go bad. Tactical prowess is key and understanding when to unleash another player’s cavalry into the back of a distracted opponent makes coordinated assault entirely worthwhile. Stalemate Creek ultimately provides a satisfying learning curve for commanding officers learning to maneuver more complex units, like the Dagger-Axe Scout, and a real reason to get on the game’s progression track.
The Wall Fort siege is an entirely separate scenario, however. It pits two teams of fifteen, and their assorted armies, against each other in an absolutely epic fortress siege. With one team of attacking forces and another of defenders, there are two objectives, overrun the fortress and capture all the flags or hold off the attacking forces until the clock runs out. Where Stalemate Creek is a pretty but potentially flat knoll, this experience is a sample of the sieges that Conqueror’s Blade has promised players. Giant stone battlements blaze across the landscape as siege engines slowly crawl forward. Arrows arc through the sky and cannons batter the stone structures as the invading forces close in. It’s all particularly impressive.
As trebuchets pelted my opponents and cannons reigned metal on their troops the CHAOS engine seemed to hold up impressively well. With hundreds of troops milling around in castles and explosions erupting around us, there didn’t seem to be any obvious delay in rendering objects. Turning on Conqueror’s Blade’s cannonball camera provides a passing view of the entire battlefield and even while I fly over the heads of my fellow heroes, still things trundle on regardless of the size of the slaughter. While Conqueror’s Blade is undoubtedly a weighty game for client systems, the result is a set of characters and courtyards that look pristine, whenever as you gleefully charge into an enemy line of spears.
As part of the attacking forces in each encounter, I looked up at the seemingly penetrable walls ahead of me in the Wall Fort and it became evident that this is where Conqueror’s Blade will excel. Without trudging through a blow by blow account of my entire experience in this siege, I can say that the scope of these battles is quite incredible. It pulls together basic troop combat, where players order around squads, siege weapons, capture the flag mechanics and draws on the CHAOS engine’s ability to present hundreds of units at any one time. The maps territory of changes significantly as players progresses through the vertical climb to overcome fortress walls, crawl over the battlements, navigate the kill boxes, traverse winding stairs, and push into the courtyards below, all of which tend to favor defending forces.
These obstacles mean that even more than in other pitched battles, understanding the right tool for the job is key. Over the extended siege test, I watched some teams simply hang back, batter defending walls, and make little progress. I also, thankfully, found other comrades in arms who knew when to send in the cavalry. This might mean pushing shield walls in to take the brunt of ranged fire while supporting with another individual’s archers. It could mean building siege weapons to wreck opposing forces as they chase after a feint or it could result in a wave of horsemen storming through the castle doors. As the complexity of each scenario increases and the terrain changes, tactics and cooperation are sure to become crucial, whether it is feigning attacks, picking out cannot cannon fodder, or simply rotating troops on the battlefield.
Participation in combat feeds into a number of the game’s progression systems, allowing players to level up, collect coin, earn honor, unlock skills, and recruit new troops. The silver and honor currencies are plentiful enough to make this set of tests more of a rolling hillside than a steep curve. Despite the nature of the siege tests, the UI felt intuitive, questing and crafts all made sense, and the overall combat controls felt fluid. It is pretty early days for Conqueror’s Blade but this particular battle went well. Although other stress tests regularly see downtime, I did not have any. While other large-scale PvP instances find a need to cull animation and balance performance, the only ax to swing here was in game. While For Honor’s multiplayer felt like a tacked-on afterthought, Conqueror’s Blade is a deeply complex system with so many threads to a siege that I can’t really begin to predict how players will approach each of these challenges. After this weekend's siege test I’m optimistic that if My.com do enough to convince the hordes to descend on Conqueror’s Blade then this could be a battle that is really worth your time.