In December 1997, the NASA space probe Galileo ended its long mission by plunging into the atmosphere of Jupiter. Thousands of anxious scientists back on Earth eagerly awaited the mass of data that Galileo had been collating and was about to transmit. Monumental discoveries about this now-believed inhabitable world were about to be made. However, they were not the only scientists patiently recording this probe's movements and making their own discoveries. The scientists on Jupiter were even more surprised by this intrusion into their tranquil world. This probe was of a substance and type that was totally alien to them. It was solid, hard, and rigid, quite unlike their usual gaseous morphing creations. Their previously sacred scientific theories on life were suddenly shattered; a new lifeform was discovered in their own solar system. SOL 3, long thought uninhabitable because of its oxygen-based atmosphere, was now the focus of Jupiter's scientists. SOL 3, it now appeared, was infested with a destructive and aggressive lifeform who, having wasted nearly all its own planet's natural resources, was now planing to plunder Jupiter's rich hydrogen reserves. The Council of Elders met and what became known as the "Genocide Vote" was passed. Under the banner "Retaliate First," plans for the total destruction of every human form and the conversion of Earth into a sulphur-based habitat were drawn up, and the Conquest of Earth had begun in earnest.
Overall, Conquest Earth is a flashy and ornate casualty in the Real Time Strategy (RTS) gaming war. The overall approach seems sound -- take a cool alien concept, add a beautifully rendered interface, hand-painted photo-realistic maps, and semi-transparent explosions, and you get a real-time strategy game that stands out graphically. However, it is Eidos' decision on how to present the battle and the battlefield that ends up crippling this game -- they took the RTS game and removed standard components such as the mini-map and the friendly unit AI. Conquest Earth replaces the mini-map with a between-battle research/production/information gathering phase. The friendly unit AI is replaced by the mouse button and endless clicking to get your troops to do anything. Whereas the replacement of the mini-map is a change that, under the right circumstances, could add to the enjoyment of the game, the unit command and movement structure completely removes any fun from the game.
Two words sum up the gameplay: "click" and "dumb". To have one of your troops shoot the enemy, you have to move him within range and then click on the enemy the number of times you want him shot. Yes, read that again; you have to click on the enemy the number of times you want him shot. If your unit is not in range, they will stand there and shoot the ground at the far edge of their range. This is where the dumb part comes in. Your units are too dumb to move within range to shoot the enemy, and are also too dumb to move out of range when they are being shot. On top of that, the pathfinding AI gets units stuck any time one of your units has to make a diagonal move; if two units are standing next to one another and one of them comes under attack, they both stand there and wait to be killed. There is almost no gameplay, other than selecting all your units and clicking many times on anything that moves.
Unlike most RTS games out there, Conquest Earth requires the use of both hands to play -- one hand for the mouse and one hand for the space bar. Whenever you want to build something, you have to hold down the space bar. To give troops orders other than the default "stand there and die" orders, you have to hold down the space bar. While not crippling or hard to do, this is annoying, and it sets the tone for the entire game.
There are two separate interfaces, one for the humans and one for the Jovians. The interface is at best unintuitive, slow, and hard to use. At worst, it is nearly impossible to use. For example, the Jovians have the ability to morph and combine into larger units. How do you think that would be done? By selecting the units you want to combine and then selecting a command? Wrong. You select a unit. Select the command to morph. Select the unit you want to turn into. Then select and move the number of units needed to where the first unit selected is standing. And if you think that'shard to conceptualize while reading about it, try to do it in combat where your units don't fire unless they are told to.
The intro, interface, maps, and explosions are all examples of some of the nicest work around. The units, however, are nothing to brag about. The intro looked like one of the better5 episodes, something that belongs on the big screen or at least the TV. The interface is a rendered piece that looks fantastic, but for some reason it slows the game down between missions so much that I spent some time looking for a way to turn it off. The maps look very nice and would have been wonderful to play on if not for two flaws. The first is that it is hard to see elevation changes and places that you cannot get to. The second is the "fog of war" feature. The fog in this game is real. The Jovians place sulfur clouds around them so they feel more at home, and the humans cannot see through them. This slows the game down to a crawl because the units that can clear up the sulfur clouds are slow and stupid, and they only clear areas you attack.
The first time I loaded up Conquest Earth and started a mission, my wife heard the music and asked if I was watching some techno-dance show. The music does not fit and does nothing for the atmosphere of the game. The sound effects are standard to low-grade sounds that I just ignored.
Good luck finding someone to play against. Whenever I checked on the net for a game, I came up empty or I got someone who had not played yet; after we started they got frustrated and left before the game got anywhere.
Required: Pentium 90, Windows 95 or DOS, 16 MB RAM, 4X CD-ROM drive, 640X480 16-bit color video card, 215 MB free HD space, mouse
Reviewed on: K6-200, Windows 95, 64 MB RAM, 4X CD-ROM drive, ATI 3D Expressions+ PC2TV, SB 16
This game was a pain to install (it crashed my system twice during the install), a pain to play, and a joy to uninstall. My friends come over to play computer games at my apartment because I have a network set up just for that purpose. No matter how bad a game is, someone always likes it and thinks that it shows some promise. This time the only people that liked this game were my cats. They liked it because, instead of spending weeks on end playing my new game, I spent weeks on end playing with them in an effort to avoid the game. Conquest Earth has some good ideas, such as the customizable windows in the interface and the Jovian concept, but they just don't overcome the many problems.