Review - Pokemon Conquest

Posted on July 25, 2012 - 2:30pm

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The creators of Pokemon join forces with the masterminds behind the classic strategy role-playing game (SRPG) series, Nobunaga's Ambition, to create Pokemon Conquest. Conquest is a fusion of Pokemon's collectable critters and vibrant atmosphere with the strategic nature and strife ridden story of Nobunaga's Ambition. The resulting game is a wholly new experience that is both approachable and immersive.

Pokemon Conquest opens up in the world of Ransei, a land that has been divided into seventeen nations , each of which is ruled by its own warlord. Every warlord specializes in a different Pokemon type, much like gym leaders in the world of Pokemon. Players take control of a young warlord who is tasked with uniting all of Ransei in order to gain the favor of the universe-creating Pokemon, Arceus, and stop the rival warlord, Nobunaga, from destroying the world. Conquest is full of story elements like this that masterfully marry key aspects of lore from both series to give the world of Ransei its own robust lore that still stays true to the franchises that form its foundation.

In order to unite all of Ransei players will need to travel the land recruiting warriors and Pokemon to aid them in their battles against the other warlords. Players can take up to six warriors into battle and each warrior wields one Pokemon. Each of these Pokemon has only one move, but that move tends to be one of that Pokemon's most iconic attacks (ie Charizard has Flamethrower). Each Pokemon's attack has an elemental affiliation and has a set range. Some Pokemon can strike multiple adjacent squares while others can call down thunder or send psychic bolts over great distances. Players will bring these warriors and their pokemon onto a wide variety of grid-based battlefields that are each filled to the brim with pitfalls to trap Pokemon and make them lose their turns, switches that may electrify the ground or open doors, and boost pads that send Pokemon flying  across the stage. Movement is governed by a Pokemon's speed which determines many grid squares they can move as well as how high they can jump. Conquest also takes into account Pokemon type and terrain type when determining the distance a Pokemon can travel. For example, while  battling on the snowy planes of Nixtorm, ice and flying-type Pokemon may move about normally, but all other Pokemon types have their movement severely limited while passing over snow and they slide around when they step onto frozen surfaces. In addition to the terrain and range players must also account for the classic Pokemon compatability system. This system, as fans of the series will no doubt recall, makes Pokemon of one type strong against some types and weak against others. With all these factors to consider it's always a good idea to keep a number of different Pokemon around at all times and Pokemon Conquest gives players plenty to chose from.

Pokemon Conquest features two-hundred warriors that players can recruit to bolster their army's ranks. Each warrior recruited has their own ability and favors Pokemon of a particular types (or combination of types) and when paired with the fact that there are nearly two-hundred unique Pokemon just begging to be captured it creates a truly staggering number of combinations and strategical possibilities. To help players keep track of who is who, Conquest features a convenient gallery that tracks the warriors and Pokemon the player has recruited and which Pokemon the warrior has in their arsenal. Completionists will find plenty to do throughout the game's main story and post game between recruiting warriors and using those warriors to capture loads of new Pokemon. The truly diehard fans can even match up every warrior with that warrior's favorite Pokemon to get the most out of them at the expense of copious amounts of time. For players looking to simply run through the story, Pokemon Conquest features a number of time saving features to help keep players from getting bogged down micro-managing every warrior they control. Players can assign each kingdom under their command a task to complete and each turn that kingdom will automatically complete their given task without requiring the player's direct control. This is truly a blessing in late game when players are looking after more than fifteen kingdoms and would rather not spend an hour completing each turn.

However, for all its complexity, Pokemon Conquest never goes out of its way to encourage players to spend time matching warriors with their preferred Pokemon or recruiting new team members. Since Conquest is based on the same type compatibility from the Pokemon series players are rewarded for using Pokemon that have a type advantage over their adversaries. With each kingdom commanding a different elemental type of Pokemon, the strategy simply becomes finding enough Pokemon that are strong against that kingdom's signature Pokemon type and using them to decimate their forces. To make matters worse, the natural progression of the game feeds into this blatant advantage by conveniently having players take over kingdoms in the one segment that are strong against kingdoms in the next segment. While this sort of exploit makesPokemon Conquest considerably simpler for players new to the SRPG genre it leaves veterans scrabbling to find new ways to make the game challenging.

After completing the main story players gain access to a number of side quests. The developers have even committed to producing several new stories that will be made available as free downloadable content. Each of these extra missions task players with taking on the role of one of the other warlords and performing a particular task, whether it be conquer the surrounding nations or befriend a certain number of Pokemon.  These side stories are usually fairly brief but each one helps to flesh out the world of Ransei just a little bit more. The only real problem that crops up with the story and the lore of Pokemon Conquest is the pacing. Players earn small story fragments every time they conquer a set of kingdoms, but these segments are never very substantial. Often times these tidbits are meant to be just enough to justify sending the player on to conquer the next set of kingdoms. This results in a bulk of the game's story is told at the very beginning and at the very end, which is a shame since the world of Ransei is rife with conflict and stories to tell. Little to nothing is ever said about any of the seventeen kingdoms aside from the type of Pokemon its denizens wield and what types are effective against them. Conquest seems content mindlessly ushering players from one set of kingdoms to the next without taking into account the significant life changes that should be occurring as Ransei is consumed by civil war.

Pokemon Conquest manages to take many of the strongest attributes of both the Pokemon and Nobunaga's Ambition franchises and blend them together to produce what is easily the best Pokemon spin-off to date. It takes the complex nature of SRPGs and makes it more accessible to a broader range of gamers while still maintaining most of the genre's key elements. Fans of either series are bound to get caught up collecting and raising their army of Pokemon if for no other reason than to see what new attack each evolution learns. The only things this title is really missing is a steady stream of story and way to increase the difficulty for players looking for more of a challenge. In the end, Pokemon Conquest is an ambitious title with tons of potential that is definitely worth the money.

7.5 / 10

(7s are very fun that has solid appeal. It has obvious issues that stick out, but can still be enjoyable by anyone.)

Austin Smith is a gamer with a love for all things Bioware. Outside of games Austin loves table top board games along with good old fashion pen and paper RPGs. He is equal parts lover and fighter but above all he is a sender of fell beasts BACK TO THE PITS THAT SPAWNED THEM.

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