Okay, with this game I’m going to try and run over the basics and then skip to the “what the hell do I think of it” part of the article because these damn strategy games and their fiddly interfaces and miriad of features are starting to piss me off. I’m trying to give a good impression here of what these games are like and it becomes frustrating when they incorporate so much micromanagement; you don’t get that in the likes of R-Type. Anyway…
Colonial Conquest 2 is a “giftware” (ie it’s freeware but if you like it you’re encouraged to send a gift to the author) indie title released for the Amiga in 1994. Essentially, this game is an amalgamation of features from two popular, older games: namely Sid Meier’s world-conquering (both in-game and literally) Civilization and the much older build-up-fleets-and-conquer-the-galaxy game Anacreon.
The plot is some guff about colonists fleeing a repressive interplanetary regime called, imaginatively, The Empire. The colonists arrive in an unexplored sector of space and settle on a planet before getting back in touch with the Empire (eh?) in order to beg for assistance (ah) which they don’t get. Well, not for free anway.
In CC2, the player starts on a single planet and the aim of the game is to develop that planet, develop a fleet and expand out to the other planets until you’ve gained control of the 26 different worlds that make up the in-game map. There is a two-player mode but given that I imagine a hot-seat version of this game would be utterly horrible to play most people will only be interested in the one-player version. In this version the player controls human colonists and the enemy is an alien race called “mechs” who are basically machines. The mechs have different units and capabilities than the humans and their way of playing is slightly different. More on that later.
Each planet’s surface is displayed as a small area of land split up into sea, plains, mountains etc. Colonists can initially either be “scientists” or be used to work the land for food or resources. Food goes towards feeding the colony and resources go towards building. Improvements like mining robots and greenhouses can be added to squares to increase the food or resource yield. In addition to this, powerstations supplying energy and various improvements like barracks (which allows colonists to become troops), hospitals and research centres can be built. Any scientists you have don’t just dick around, they contribute science (natch) which allows your tech level to increase allowing for more and better improvements. So far, so Civilization.
Once you build a spaceport you can start building ships. Many of these ships are combat craft (ranging from the crapping little fighters to the massive battlestars) but a few have specific purposes such as transporters which can carry resources or food, colony ships to transport colonists and colonise worlds, troop carriers which do what they say on the tin, spy satellites to scan enemy worlds and exploration ships which explore planets (and look rather like the USS Enterprise, in a nice little nod to that ship’s official mission in Star Trek).
Oh, exploring planets. Here’s a thing (and the only purpose the Empire seem to have in the game). If you explore a new planet (either with an exploration ship or by founding a colony on it) you might find a new lifeform. If you do this then the Empire will reward you with warships or resources – the type/amount depending on the creature’s IQ for some unfathomable reason. This is a small part of the game but its a nice touch, hence its having a paragraph all to itself. Now, where was I…
Ah, yes, ships. Now, the main purpose of fleets is to attack and defend planets. And this is where I talk more about the mechs. As I said, the mechs are a machine race and they too are looking to conquer this sector. The way they go about taking planets is different, though. Rather than found a colony they instead have their mothership (a huge scary f*cker with the power of ten battlestars) come along and install an Alien Central Unit (a big industrial thing which seems to act as some sort of mech control centre) on the planet. On an uninhabited world it just churns out resources, improvements and ships (apart from the mothership the mech ships are the same as yours, except presumably piloted by machines) for the purposes of conquest. However, and this is a nasty little feature, if the mechs capture one of your colonies they turn the colonists into slaves and essentially work them to death building for them, keeping them alive only for as long as they are needed (sentient machines, just say “no” kids!). Losing a world and then sending a spy satellite there to find all your colonists being worked to death by the machines creates a real desire to recapture the world before they all die and smash those evile mechs to little pieces.
And recapturing (or capturing) a world needs troops and this is where the troop carriers come in. You need to win the fleet battle over a planet, have troop carriers with troops orbiting and then land them at which point a ground battle takes place. But the mechs don’t use soldiers, of course, they use mechanical tripods which are much stronger than soldiers so you need to outnumber the tripods to be sure of victory. Of course, sometimes one of your worlds is threatened by mech invasion and in that scenario you should make sure you have a large number of troops stationed on the planet to fight off the tripods otherwise your people will become slaves to the machines.
And that, basically, is the game – build, fight, defend, conquer, try not to lose too many citizens to mech enslavement and get scared when the mothership shows up. There is much, much more to the game – improvements like energy cannons to blast enemy planets for example – but I’ll leave them for you to discover because, despite being written in AMOS(an Amiga basic language synonymous with amateurish and largely crap games) and despite the average graphics (and no sound other than an annoying and very dated in-game tune) this is a deep, involving strategy game which can and I hope will enthrall anyone who plays it. Just be aware, though, it’s very very hard and the war with the mechs, although it takes a while to warm-up, can be an absolute slog. Still, don’t be daunted, get a copy (it’s free, you’ve no excuse), blast off and destroy the evil Mech Empire. Yes.
Oh, and if you were wondering, yes there was a Colonial Conquest 1 but it’s apparently not as good as this and I’ve never played it. So there.