Songs of Conquest (Early Access)

Heroes of Might and Magic is a beloved series for many strategy game fans with the third instalment being the one that most generally regards as the best in the series. With the declining quality of the more modern incarnations of these games it’s no wonder that some other studios have taken to try their hand at recapturing the magic of the HoMM series. Along comes Lavapotion then with their spin at the genre with Songs of Conquest which not only aims to be an excellent spiritual successor to the franchise but also aims to mix in RPG elements to make their game more unique. So have they successfully brought an old franchise into the modern day? Let’s find out! Also do keep in mind that this is an Early Access title so things are subject to change as new elements are added and developed on.

The story is your typical fantasy setting with knights, barons, undead and… frog people? Interesting… The game features four main factions; Arleon, Barya, Rana and the Barony of Loth. Arleon is your typical medieval knight faction with squabbling nobles, peasants and big swords but uniquely they also have a pact with the Fae creatures of the forest making them a more diverse faction than at first glance. Barya is a mercenary faction that runs on contracts, trade and their advanced use of firearms. Rana is a faction of swamp-based creatures that are frequently captured and put into slavery but have now mostly broken free and are seeking to take revenge on their captors. Finally Loth is perhaps the most interesting as while it is indeed a group of necromancers and undead it’s also an old nation that wishes to reclaim its former glory through any means necessary. Thus they follow the orders of a mysterious woman who is capable of bringing the dead soldiers of the nation back to life and have a mix of both living subjects and undead ones. I find this perhaps most interesting as it isn’t your typical evil dark wizards group but is instead an actual nation that just uses dark means to bring back their glory. Only two of the factions have story campaigns at the moment, Arleon and Rana, but from what I played they were a fun time and were a good way to introduce people to the mechanics of each faction even if they hadn’t played a HoMM game before. While the stories themselves were fairly generic and I found the dialogue to be a bit lifeless it still compelled me enough to keep going and find out more about each faction. Obviously I’m most looking forward to when they add a story-driven campaign about Loth but the offerings here are fine and work for what they are intended to do.

The battle screen!

Presentation-wise this game is absolutely gorgeous. It’s entirely pixel-art based but it also uses 3D environments at various point such as during battles which give the visuals a feeling similar to that of Octopath Traveller. All of the models are incredibly detailed and animated to a near-fluid extent making this game an absolute treat to witness in motion. The lighting engine too is absolutely gorgeous as it helped to enhance the visuals whilst also keeping different parts of the overworld mysterious through the use of light and dark contrast. I also loved the soundtrack as it held the right notes for climactic and exciting moments whilst also keeping sombre tracks for the overworld to help immerse you whilst not feeling like it distracts you too much from the gameplay. You also get a nice ballad about your antics in the story as you complete each chapter, so that’s lovely! One thing that disappoints me however is that there is no voice-acting at all aside from the songs that are played which can make some of the characters that represent each faction feel a bit lifeless and dull. I’m aware that entirely text-based games work fine but I felt as though voices could have perhaps helped inject some personality into the different people you meet but it is what it is. I also felt that while the visuals may be some of this game’s biggest strengths it can also make things feel a bit cluttered on the overworld. Important resources can sometimes blend into the background environments and lead to you missing out on important things unless you directly mouse over them. Perhaps some kind of light outline around interactable objects could help solve this issue but aside from that minor inconvenience this game is an absolute treat to watch and listen to.

In regards to the gameplay if you’ve ever played a Heroes of Might and Magic game then you will feel right at home here. The game consists of two parts. The first are Overworld sections which requires you to move your armies, manage resources, upgrade/build settlements and dedicate resources to research in order to make your units stronger. The second are combat encounters that take on a hex-style combat grid and see you and your enemies move each unit in a turn-based style whilst also managing magic resources to cast spells as the battle progresses. While this is very similar to most HoMM games the main difference comes in the introduction of small RPG elements such as a dedicated inventory for each character and the ability to level up with XP and choose new skills or upgrades based on which faction you are playing as. This helps to make the game feel a bit more distinct when compared to the series it is inspired by and the actual gameplay here has been refined to an incredible extent. I really enjoyed the combat system as it is much faster paced than the typical HoMM game and thus makes each encounter exciting and hit just the right notes. Every attack, every death scream and every successful use of a good magic spell just feels right and I never wanted to skip a combat encounter even if the option was available and I knew that I would win. The game also comes with plenty of multiplayer options which should help you play with your friends if you’re looking for a fun strategy game although be wary that the games may take a while due to the turn-based nature of them. It even comes with a custom-campaign and map editor so that you can create your very own maps and stories and share them through an in-game browser. Something like that can help a game stay active for many years into the future and hell if we’re missing an official Loth campaign at the moment then I’m sure some talented mapper can make something up to satisfy my needs.

An example of the Overworld, the visuals look gorgeous!

There were some other issues I encountered during my playtime however. One of the biggest hurdles I found was that the tutorial for playing the game was a bit text-heavy. I myself have played a HoMM game before and thus didn’t need too much explained to me however for someone completely new to these style of games the fact that the tutorial of the game just essentially becomes a massive text dump on the main menu can be incredibly daunting. Whilst yes the game does provide more tutorial elements at certain points during the campaign I often found that they still would feel overwhelming to someone not too familiar with a game like this. Rather than telling purely by text it is sometimes best to give a direct task to a player to help them learn by doing rather than reading. I also felt that some of the UI elements could use some adjustments such as the resources counter in the Overworld being a bit more visible and the magic system in combat being more obvious. Frequently during fights I often found myself forgetting to use magic at all due to not being able to see the UI elements available during combat. Finally whilst I didn’t encounter anything major myself there have been reports of some annoying bugs and crashes from others who have played so do keep that Early Access title in mind.

Regardless this was a lovely title to play. It definitely feels like a great HoMM successor and whilst I do not know if it will ever dethrone Heroes of Might and Magic 3 I think it absolutely crushes it in the presentation and combat department. There still is some work to do but due to it being an Early Access title I can see this developing into something truly special. I also am so happy that the developers decided to integrate custom player-made content directly into the fabric of the game as custom content and mods are integral to the long-term survival of a game such as this so seeing a company be so willing and open to things like this is a great step to see. Hopefully the game is successful enough that it gains a decent following as it’s clear that a lot of heart and passion has gone into creating this product and I wish the developers all the best as they continue to work on it over time.

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