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Commander: Conquest of the Americas

Score: 75%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Paradox Interactive
Developer: Nitro Games
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Real-Time Strategy/ Simulation

Graphics & Sound:

I am not the world's biggest real time simulation fan. I never claimed to be. I am quite fond of several of them, and I am reviewing Commander: Conquest of the Americas because I am the reviewer at Game Vortex most likely to enjoy the game. I wish I did. There was a lot of potential in the game, but somehow things don't quite work together as they should.

The fault, however, is not to be found in the visual or audio quality. The graphics are quite nice for an RTS, with nice looking water effects, ships which can be viewed from far above or zoomed in close to take more direct control of the action, which can be very useful during combat.

The icons are well done and easy to understand, the ship captain images are nice looking and the voices (used to update the player and acknowledge orders) are varied, with enough variation in the responses to avoid annoying repetition. These aspects of the game are done well.

The Main Menu system lags. I don't know of a better way to say it, and it's probably due to overly complex water dynamics and two very large ships running side by side and the amount of calculations required to generate the imagery that sits behind the menu, but it's a little annoying to have visible lag (on the menu items lighting up under the mouse) on the Main Menu. It doesn't bode well. When you actually get into the game, the lag isn't an issue anymore, but I can tell you my heart sunk quite a bit when I first booted the game up and saw the lag.

The menus are named quite strangely, as well. When you want to play a game, the button you select is "Single Player," rather than "Play Game" or something similar. This seems strange, since there is no Multiplayer Mode in Commander: Conquest of the Americas. And, while the menus aren't quite as bad when you're not on the Main Menu screen, they're still annoyingly sluggish from anywhere in the game.


At its heart, Commander: Conquest of the Americas is a trading simulation game. If you want to succeed, employ strategies to get gainful trading going - which means you'll need to get very, very familiar with the auto trade routes. You'll also find some diplomacy and (when that stops working) battles at sea, but it's readily apparent that the main course here is trading.

Conquest of the Americas puts you in charge of the colonization effort of your choice of European countries, each with their specific pros or cons, which may fit in (or not) with your particular style of play. Actually, while I say "countries," one of the entities is actually the Catholic Church, but the gameplay is the same.

You will have to establish a colony (and then a second relatively shortly thereafter) and then control what is done with the exports and select what to bring to the colonies - goods that can be sold to colonists to help pad your ledgers or much needed colonists - the lifeblood of a colony, needed to produce exports and to increase your colony's sphere of influence (or borders, if you will). Another driving factor behind moving in more colonists is that you will, at some point, be required to start another colony. Before you are allowed to do so, however, you have to have five thousand colonists in your colonies. And, while there's that phrase, "the more the merrier"... its not necessarily the case with colonies. You'll need to build hospitals, churches, taverns and other buildings that cater to your colonists needs, or they'll get unhappy... and when the colonists are unhappy, they produce less, making your advisors unhappy... which, in turn, make you unhappy.

In addition to the trading and colony building aspects, you'll also have to build trade ships and war ships, to generate income, provide for your common defense and keep those pesky advisors from nagging you so much. When the time comes, you'll see that those war ships aren't merely for show. There is actually a pretty decent wooden ship battle simulation aspect to the game, which is encountered when things get less than civilized in Campaign mode. These can also be encountered on demand by selecting the ship combat modes instead of selecting the Campaign mode. You'll get to select what type of shot to load in your cannons, from shot designed to injure the ships' crews, shot designed take out the sails and leave a ship motionless or another designed to damage the hull and outright sink the ships. Choose wisely, however, because if you cripple ships and win the battle, you can take the ships for your own and commandeer their valuable cargo, as well.


"Time keeps on slippin', slippin', slippin'... Into the future"
- Steve Miller

Commander: Conquest of the Americas is not an easy game. There are a lot of factors to juggle in your play for a successful colonization enterprise, and these factors are quite often interdependent, leading to a very frustrating "slippery slope" situation, where you can be seemingly doing quite well one moment, then slip into a downward spiral where one thing after another goes wrong, each downturn causing the next failure to be more imminent. This can be very, very frustrating.

The closest thing I've found to a "solution" to the frustrating sudden downward spiral is to avoid wasting any time as "unused." I find that most of my time is spent playing the game at 1x speed or .5 speed, with a good deal of time spent at 0 speed (paused), as I sell my cargo, decide what cargo to purchase, load up with colonists, select a ship or building to build, alter the taxation levels or any of the other micromanagement found in the game. Once I have decided how I want everything, I select where the ship is to set sail and only then do I increase the speed to .5x or 1x speed, using the transportation time to read any new incoming letters from my advisors or consult the diplomacy screen... Mind you, I do this with my finger on the (-) key, so that I can quickly "stop time" again when I have a ship reach at port. Sadly, this not only takes a lot of the fun out of the game, but, as I mentioned above, only works to a limited degree.

Part of the difficulty of Commander: Conquest of the Americas is the learning curve. The tutorial shows you some useful information, but it's not until later that you catch on to some useful things, such as the fact that a ship's captain's photo has a green border when he's in transit, but the green goes away when he reaches his given destination. Little things like this are useful indicators, but not explained very well. As of this writing, a poll is posted on the official Commander Conquest of the Americas website asking whether the learning curve is too high, too low or just right. The results are split almost exclusively (and completely evenly) between "too high" and "just right," with each having forty-seven percent of the votes. As for the six percent who think that the learning curve is "too low" - I don't know that I ever want to meet these people. They are either brainiacs who are too intelligent to be satisfied with games designed for mortals, or they are not intelligent enough to understand the question.

Game Mechanics:

I like Commander: Conqueror of the Americas, but I wish I had loved it. There were little things that contributed together to cause the slippery slope issue that really lead to frustration and annoyance. Setting the tax percentage seemed to need too much attention (before I eventually left it at about ten percent), as one minute the colonists would be happy and costing me a small fortune each month, and the next they'd feel oppressively taxed and they'd stop outputting goods. (See slippery slope above.) I found myself wishing that I could set the tax for a flat dollar amount per month, and simply let the percentage adjust to fit. For a while, I was doing it manually by frequently changing the tax percentage until I would be making between zero and two hundred gold per month, but a month goes by and the amount changes again.

A lot of text in the game stresses the need to move colonists into your colonies, but it's assumed that you're going to be trading heavily and might neglect to move colonists in order to save valuable space on your colony-bound ships. When I first started playing, I was primarily focusing on bringing goods from the colonies to the home port, missing the fortune that can be made on selling needed goods from home to the colonists... because I was focusing on filling the colonies with colonists.

There is an incredibly steep learning curve in Commander: Conqueror of the Americas, especially if you're not a die-hard RTS and Trading game gamer. You will know that you've crested the learning curve when you actually make money over a long period of time, rather than watching your coffers slowly bleed out. For the longest time, I would slowly dwindle from two hundred thousand to nothing (or less). When I was playing and my funds increased beyond one million gold, I realized I had reached a milestone. Later in that same game, I made it to a very comfortable 2 million gold. Taverns and new ships for everybody!

If you're into games heavily based on trade routes and you're looking for a challenge or, for that matter, if you're very patient and interested in the colonization of the Americas, Commander: Conqueror of the Americas will provide hours and hours of gameplay... mind you, some of it may be a bit frustrating. If you're into casual games and you don't like managing little details, however, you should just keep sailing elsewhere.

-Geck0, GameVortex Communications
AKA Robert Perkins

Minimum System Requirements:

XP / Vista / Windows 7, 2 GB RAM, Video Card with 256 MB of dedicated memory with support for pixel shader 3.0. (NVIDIA 7800 or equivalent)*, 2.0 GHz Core Duo or equivalent processor, 4.0 GB free hard drive space, DirectX 9.0c compatible sound card.

*Laptop versions of these minimum video requirements may work, but are not officially supported.


Test System:

MS Windows XP Home Edition, AMD Dual-Core, 3.11 GHz, 2 GB RAM, Award Modular BIOS v6.00PG, Gateway HD2201 21" HDMI Monitor, ATI Radeon HD 2400 (256 MB), USB MixAmp, A30 Gaming Headset, 1.5 TB Western Digital Caviar Green SATA Hard Drive, Sony DVD RW, Cable Modem, VAIO Mouse

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