Conquest: Frontier Wars
|Conquest: Frontier Wars|
|Developer(s)||Fever Pitch Studios|
|Distributor(s)||Fever Pitch Studios|
|Release date(s)||August 14, 2001|
|Mode(s)||Single player, Multiplayer|
Conquest: Frontier Wars is a real-time strategy game released in 2001 by Ubisoft and Fever Pitch Studios. A good amount of the development was done at Digital Anvil in Austin, Texas, a startup developer originally owned by Chris Roberts, Erin Roberts, Eric Peterson, John Miles, Tony Zurovec, Marten Davies and Robert Rodriguez. Once Microsoft purchased Digital Anvil, Eric Peterson and Tom Mauer left to form Fever Pitch Studios Inc, and lead a team to complete the game as originally intended by the team. On December 9, 2013, the source code was bundled with every copy of the game purchased on GOG.com.
Bases can be constructed on any discovered planet in any system, but would not be operable until a wormhole connecting that system to a friendly one was locked with a jumpgate or until a friendly Headquarters, Cocoon (Mantis) or Acropolis (Celareon) was constructed in the system. Supplies play a vital part in offensive operations, as each ship carries only a limited amount of supplies, which are depleted as weapons and special devices are used. Ships with fully depleted supply stores are completely ineffective except as cannon fodder until they return to a supply base for resupply. For this reason, players usually cannot maintain the momentum of their assaults in enemy-controlled systems unless their fleet is accompanied by supply vessels.
Conquest features a number of Admirals in the single-player campaign, which function similarly to hero units. In single-player skirmish and multiplayer games, Admirals act essentially as leader units (Warlords for Mantis and Magistrates for Celareons). Entire squadrons of other ships can be grouped with an Admiral shuttle; this endows the Admiral's combat bonuses upon the entire fleet and allows the player to better control their forces. When a Leader is joined with a fleet, every ship in the fleet is given at least a 10% bonus to supply, damage, speed, etc., and usually depending on the Leader's flagship in the Terran campaign, an additional 10% bonus is given to certain ships in the fleet for all statistics.
All Leaders are different, and give a 25% bonus instead of the standard 10% bonus to certain statistics depending on their flagship and their role in the campaign. For example, Admiral Steele enters the campaign at around the same time the Terrans meet and form an alliance with the Celareons. Due to differing factions within the mechanical-energy race there becomes a hostile Celareon faction, and Admiral Steele's career garners him more experience in warfare against Celareons than any other Admiral. As a result, in skirmish or multiplayer games Steele has a special bonus to damage solely against Celareons. Likewise, Warlord Kertak, a Mantis rebel and ally, possesses a fighter carrier flagship; her fleets have special bonuses to carriers' fighters instead of larger ships, improving their agility, targeting, and damage.
Humans have long waged war with each other. This has not changed when interstellar travel was discovered. The game is vague on the events leading up to the Frontier Wars; however, a war called the 'Succession Wars' is mentioned to have occurred just before the Tau Ceti incident in the briefing of the first mission in the Terran campaign. After the war, humanity is more or less united, and the Terran Navy is as strong as ever.
Harsh realities of war have forced Terrans to create powerful warships to defend themselves. Since energy shields are a fairly recent addition to ship defenses, most ships are forced to rely on their great hull strength to keep them intact. This, in turn, forces humanity to constantly expand in search of resources necessary for ship construction. The Navy is made up primarily of capital ships with Battleships making up the bulk of the fleet. The most powerful ship class in the Terran Navy is the Dreadnought with powerful cannons and a shield that can be overloaded to make the ship invulnerable to damage, though this ability rapidly uses the ship's supplies, and will soon have to be returned to a friendly repair/resupply platform or HQ. The Terrans also possess powerful battlestations called Ion Cannons, capable of destroying most ships with one shot from half of a system away. An Ion Cannon's main drawbacks are its slow turning speed, low rate of fire, long charging sequence, and high supply use, forcing them to be placed inside a friendly resupply ring if the player doesn't want a resupply ship to be stationed next to it at all times. Terran units and structures cost proportionately more Ore than any other race in the game, but their larger ships also require an almost equal amount of the Gas resource, as well as Crew. Again, the larger/more advanced the ship or platform, the more resources needed to construct it.
"Mantis" was the name given to the first alien race discovered by humanity because of their resemblance to the Praying Mantis on Earth. The Mantis are insectoids, more than twice the height of humans, and have a hive-like social structure ruled by a queen. Unlike Earth insects, the entire Mantis race has only one queen, and the firstborn female offspring of the queen is the sole heir to the throne, often causing sibling rivalry. An example of this sibling rivalry is when the Mantis Warlord Ker'Tak rebels against the Mantis empire, and enlists the help of humanity to destroy the queen, Warlord Ver'Lak. Because of their high reproduction rate, the Mantis are constantly searching for new worlds to colonize and, if necessary, conquer. They tend to see all other races as inferior. It is also very consistent in Mantis behavior to sacrifice many for a higher purpose, as stated by Celareon Magistrate Elan in the briefing of the twelfth mission in the Terran campaign.
Driven by their need for more worlds, the Mantis have created powerful fleets to further that goal. Because of their hive-like mindset, the majority of the ships tend to be carriers, sending swarms of fighters to overwhelm the enemy defenses and crush them without putting the main fleet itself in jeopardy. This same mindset explains why the strongest Mantis ship is the supercarrier Tiamat, which can launch multiple wings of heavy bombers to leave the enemy no chance of escape. If all fighters/bombers are destroyed, however, the carriers are left completely defenseless. Because of this carrier ships are also supported by other close-range craft such as the heavily armored Scarabs. Mantis units and structures cost proportionately more of the Crew resource than any other race, similar to how Terrans use more of the Ore resource and how the Celareons use more of the Gas resource.
Very little is known about the origins of this race of pure energy. Cursed to spend their lives trapped in mechanical containers, they nevertheless praise their unknown creators. Celareons possess extremely advanced technology. They are even able to create artificial wormholes, and this knowledge is coveted by the Mantis and is one of the reasons the two races are in conflict. Celareons consider themselves to be peaceful and are only interested in the pursuit of knowledge. They do, however, realize that they live in a hostile universe and must, therefore, protect themselves. While usually Celareons are unified, there have been disagreements regarding the war with the Mantis: some believe that peace should be made at any cost, including handing over the artificial wormhole technology to the Mantis; others claim that the Mantis cannot be allowed to get their hands on the technology, as it could allow the enemy to bypass the static wormhole network and strike at the very heart of Celareon space.
Like Terrans, Celareons prefer capital ships to fighters. Unlike Terrans, they have no fighter capability. To a human eye, Celareon ships look like giant creatures of the sea. Their graceful, nearly transparent looks hide deadly weapons and defenses, which they do not hesitate to use when threatened. The most awe-inspiring ship - the Monolith, ensures that most enemy ships do not survive an encounter with the Celareon fleet. Because the Celareons are by nature a peaceful race, most of their ships (Except the Trireme and Monolith, the two most powerful Celareon ships in the game) are not well-suited for close-combat, instead possessing better range and supply. Furthermore, the Celareons possess very powerful and diverse static defensive weapons structures. Celareon units and structures cost proportionately more of the Gas resource than any other race.
Originally the game was supposed to have four races but the fourth race was cut out before the game was released and there are still traces of their code in the game: the fourth race was the lizard-based Vyrium. The Vyrium were planned to be introduced in Conquest: Vyrium Uprising; however, that game was cancelled. A demo version based on the beta code of Warthog Games FTP Servers can still be found online. It was believed that the Vyrium would not use a particular resource significantly more than any other race, but rather their ships would cost more command points to construct. This restriction is explained as their major weakness is that due to a complex hierarchical command structure, they can only field a small number of vessels at any one time. This is because if ever a field commander were to gain a large enough force, he would attempt to seize power over Vyrium space rather than conquer new territory.
Conquest's storyline is set two hundred years in the future, where interstellar travel was possible by jumping through networks of wormholes leading to other systems.
Following a series of internal conflicts, mankind has discovered a wormhole leading to an unknown system, Tau Ceti. Arriving in the Tau Ceti system, the TNS Andromeda, under the command of Rear Admiral Tackwhether Hawkes, is caught between a small, fast, unidentified alien spacecraft and its pursuers. After the Andromeda is destroyed in a collision with a massive alien warship, you, as the anonymous Commander, are ordered by Admiral William Halsey to investigate. With the help of Captain Thomas Blackwell, you begin exploring uncharted wormholes in order to discover what happened to the Andromeda and to find and rescue Admiral Hawkes if he is still alive.
After learning that Admiral Hawkes escaped the destruction of the Andromeda and has been taken prisoner by the unidentified alien race, dubbed the "Mantis", you penetrate deeper into hostile territory in order to rescue him. Soon, Earth and its Navy find themselves embroiled in the middle of a Mantis civil war, with the usurper Queen Ver'Lak fighting her sister, Warlord Ker'Tak. Fearing for its own safety in the face of the massive Imperial Mantis fleet, Earth assists Ker'Tak in the fight. In response, Ver'Lak assigns her chief Lieutenant, Warlord Malkor, to hunt down and destroy Earth.
During a dangerous mission to rescue Mantis warlords still loyal to Ker'Tak, Captain Blackwell's corvette is lost in a rogue black hole while trying to see what happened to a ship you send to scout beyond an uncharted wormhole. In spite of this tragic loss, Halsey and Ker'Tak order a large-scale offensive against Malkor's supply lines in the Orion Arm, assigning Admiral Benson to assist you. Benson is a good soldier, but is hardly pleasant to work with, as she fully blames you for her friend Blackwell's death.
Blackwell turns out to be very much alive, however, returning in a critical moment with yet more alien reinforcements. The Celareons have constructed a type of artificial wormhole technology, and had tested it out in the rescue of Captain Blackwell from the black hole, and used it again to transport him back to a Mantis controlled system that the Terrans are attacking. A meeting is soon arranged between the Terran Admiralty and the ruling council of the energy-based Celareons. The territory of this advanced species sits astride the raging Mantis Civil War, and the conflict threatens to engulf their systems.
The two races agree to an alliance against Ver'Lak's forces, but the meeting soon reveals a surprising and dangerous development. Admiral Halsey is shown a data transmission, sent from the heart of Terran space to the Mantis, which was intercepted and recorded by the Celareons. Vital information on Earth's location and defensive systems has been leaked to the Mantis by a Terran traitor, prompting a massive investigation to discover who has betrayed humanity to its enemies.
The ambitious Admiral Smirnoff discovers proof to Admiral Halsey that Admiral Hawkes is the traitor, apparently coerced during his captivity by the Mantis. However, Captain Blackwell remains thoroughly unconvinced, and uses his Celareon-retrofitted corvette to shadow Smirnoff's dreadnaught. Listening in under cloak, Blackwell discovers that Smirnoff is the real traitor and that he is trying to eliminate Hawkes. The depth of Smirnoff's treachery is revealed when he destroys his own ship after General Malkor uses the newly acquired wormhole technology to save him from the vessel on self-destruct. Blackwell is able to retrieve Hawkes' prison pod from the ship before it explodes, and the exonerated Admiral returns to service.
It was Admiral Smirnoff who gave the Mantis the plans of Sol's defenses, in the megalomaniacal hope of ruling all mankind as a Mantis proxy following their invasion. Warlord Malkor, however, has no intention of letting the human race survive to pose a threat, and betrays Smirnoff. As a result, you and your forces find yourselves making a mad rush to defend Earth against the Mantis onslaught.
Admirals Hawkes, Steele, and Takei hold back the assault and soon take the war to Mantis territory. They discover from Warlord Ker'Tak that Malkor, nestled deep in the heart of Mantis space, is building a massive superweapon that is powerful enough to render an entire planet uninhabitable. Once completed, Malkor will go on a rampage with this new weapon and the bulk of the Mantis fleet, launching an unstoppable onslaught against the Rebel Mantis, Terrans, and Celareons.
Thus the race begins to get to Malkor's building site before he can launch this devastating weapon. After a series of furious battles, the combined Rebel/Terran/Celareon fleet manages to break through the Mantis defenses, destroying Ver'Lak, Malkor, and his superweapon. The cost, however, has been high. Earth herself has been attacked, thousands of Terran warships and several colonies have been destroyed, and mankind's casualties alone rack up in the billions. Celareons themselves have disappeared shortly after victory, erasing all trace of their existence from Terran computers and networks, but the Terrans still left alive haven't forgotten about the Celareon's existence.
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The is one of the first strategy games where the game is actually challenging to players and when you set the difficulty to hard, it actually is hard. In the Quick Battle mode, you can set the difficulty to Easy, Medium, Hard, or Impossible. Many players struggle to beat the enemy on Hard, let alone Impossible. Another interesting strategy from the game is the use of cheats. While in most games, the cheats benefit you, in Conquest, every player gets the cheat, including the computer. So that can make for a very interesting game. The main strategy for the Terrans is to send in large, heavily armored fleets composed mainly of battleships and dreadnoughts along with missile cruisers into enemy space without having to turn around and retreat, because Terran ships are very slow. The Terrans are the only race with the ability to use a variety of ships, from carrier-based ships, to stealthy ships, and to heavy ships. The main strategy for the Mantis is very different. While the Terrans and the Celareons have more of a variety of ships, the Mantis are limited to using carriers. This does not mean however that they are at a disadvantage. The Mantis are at their best whenever they launch several long ranged Tiamats and Hive Carriers with Scarabs and Frigates as protection. The Tiamats can wipe out any ship or platform with one launch of her bombers. The Celareon's main strategy is stealth. With the ability to create artificial wormholes, which enable them to appear out of no where, they can cripple your home base, far from the battlefront. All of their ships are very fast, and can maneuver better than most Mantis or Terran ships. Their main fleet consist of Monoliths, Triremes, and Auroras.
However, the game suffered a crippling lack of publicity. Despite this, the game went on to sell around 300,000 copies, according to the project lead.
Despite the lack of publicity, Conquest still remains one of the key cornerstones in the development of space-themed strategy games. It is also known to be challenging, especially for a 2001 game.
Conquest 2: Vyrium Uprising was announced in 2004 as successor to Conquest: Frontier Wars. The developer Warthog Texas, née Fever Pitch Studios, was bought by Tiger Telematics and made to work on games for the ill-fated Gizmondo hand-held game console. The fate of Conquest 2 was unclear after Tiger's subsequent bankruptcy.
Recently, the original developers resurfaced to form a Kickstarter campaign: Conquest 2 Vyrium Uprising - RTS fans unite !. Their aim was to crowdsource the development of the game, which they claim was about 50% complete. The Kickstarter startup was cancelled on May 30, 2012
- GOG.com (2013-12-09). "Classic Gem Promo: Conquest: Frontier Wars". cdp.pl.
- Conquest's Metacritic page