Songs of Conquest is a turn-based RPG developed by Lavapotion and published by Coffee Stain Publishing. It released in Early Access on Steam and the Epic Games Store on May 10, 2022, but had it not been labelled as Early Access, it could easily have been a full release as it plays amazingly from what I’ve played so far. If you have played Heroes of Might and Magic III and the early King’s Bounty series games, Songs of Conquest takes that formula and adds its own modern twists that are very impressive.
It was June 1999 and while playing Baldur’s Gate, taking turns to play while my best friend was sitting in the chair next to me, we heard about this game called Heroes of Might and Magic III. It was a turn-based RPG where you controlled a knight who had an army, and you could only move a certain number of squares before your turn was over. We found we could play co-op, so I would play my turn and then we would swap chairs while my friend played his turn, then the AI moved. It was incredible gameplay at the time with a decent story and the ability to maintain a kingdom, grow an army, and search the lands for loot and monsters to kill.
There have been many turn-based RPGs that have come and gone over the years, and for a long time the King’s Bounty games were as good as the Heroes series. However, Songs of Conquest can be added to the mantle with these great games, as the gameplay is just as good, if not a better take on the genre. There are two campaigns to play through – The First Song: The Song of the Stoutheart, and The Second Song: From the Ashes. The reference to songs didn’t really sink in until I completed the first mission of The Song of the Stoutheart. When you complete a mission, you have a bard singing about your exploits in the previous mission which is a fantastic and rewarding experience.
Gameplay is just like Heroes III where you have a main character, in this case a Wielder, who has an army of characters with them. There are four factions in the game – Arleon, Barya, Rana and Barony of Loth. In the first campaign, you play as Cecilia Stoutheart who has army units of Rangers and Footmen to begin with. With her limited moves per turn, you move along the map and unveil the fog of war to see items and locations that you can interact with to gain gold, artifacts, find more units to join your army or come across enemy monsters to vanquish.
Combat is turn-based and in Songs of Conquest, you are given a moment before the battle starts to position your troops on the battlefield. This is done because the battlefields can have advantages and disadvantages, choke points and blockages. High ground will give your ranged units a damage advantage. Choke points can be used to funnel melee units through, and I tended to skip my Footmen’s turn while my range units whittled their health down, and the Footmen could finish them off. Conversely, the enemy ranged units used the height advantage too, so while I had some good strategies, I still lost troops each battle.
As combat is carried out, your troops will earn essence for your wielder to use. Each army unit type has different essence requirements. As you build up essence, spells will be available to use on your turn such as bolstering the defence of a unit, increasing the movement, increasing attack power, and so on. Troops lost at the end of each battle can be replenished at villages and eventually once you build a keep, but they don’t automatically join your main wielder’s army. You’ve got to run back to pick them up.
You are almost always rewarded for going off the beaten path on the overland map area, and I loved uncovering as much of the fog of war as I could. There were mines I could visit for resources and gold, new units to discover and recruit, and the occasional battle. If the enemy combatants looked like I could handle them well enough, I would use auto combat to determine the battle outcome and save some game time. This can backfire if you have an evenly matched army as the AI will never be as tactical as you.
How does Songs of Conquest differ from Heroes of Might and Magic III and all the others? Troops in your army have a maximum stack size for a start. Ranged units can move within their movement limit, and then can shoot though with a slight penalty, bringing it more in line with the modern turn-based combat games out there. The battlefield has high ground which boosts ranged damage, and magic is fuelled by essence so your choice of troops to take into battle is a consideration. In terms of towns and settlements, as they grow you can expand with building sites on the overland map but there are limited building sites.
The final and most noticeable difference when I was playing was, once you complete a mission, you are treated to a bard singing a verse about your adventures. Then once you complete a full campaign, the full ballad can be listened to. It’s a cool treat and a reward for your valiant gameplay efforts. Being early access, my biggest hope is for more campaigns to be added to the game. The developers state, “we are currently discussing the option to add more campaigns and factions. If we decide to do it, it will take some time for it to happen, so it won’t be out anytime soon!”
There is no content roadmap as such, rather a section of the game’s official website with upcoming improvements. There is multiplayer already where you can play with up to 8 players which can be both human and AI controlled. While there are four factions in the game at present, the developers do plan to add more post release. Songs of Conquest looks to be in early access for at least a year depending on player feedback.
So far, I can already highly recommend Songs of Conquest for any turn-based RPG fans, whether you have played the Heroes of Might and Magic or King’s Bounty series before or are new to the genre. It takes the turn-based formula and adds its own modern twists that are very impressive. It’s an easy game to pick up and play, and enhanced the love I have for this genre. I’m keen to see what’s in the works for full release when that rolls around.