Imagine an alternate history where Da Vinci discovers a secret that accelerates humanity’s own progression. No it isn’t splitting the atom or electricity, but instead the humble egg yolk of a chicken egg. Da Vinci discovers that the yolk contains something called metamatter, an element that can be used to increase intellectual power and the ability to cross time and space. This discovery leads to a huge jump in the amount of hens and eggs produced on Earth, until one day there is no more room. In the 18th century humanity looks to the stars, and four empires emerge to control the planets and the metamatter.
This is the set up for Artifice Studio’s Conflicks – Revolutionary Space Battles, a real time strategy game which sees players take on the stories of various characters, all told by Olympia the Chk’Rathii leader. The Chk’Rathii are chickens that got too much metamatter pumped into them, allowing them to grow to the size of humans and to gain intelligence. The Chk’Rathii are at war with the empires that rule space, each of which is modelled on European and Middle Eastern cultures, in an attempt to unite the planets under a new Galactic Republic where humans and Chk’Rathii can live in peace together.
The main humans that join the Chk’Rathii leadership all have their own reasons for it, and you play through each of their stories prior to their alliance. Each one gives a good background and while not all stories are that engaging – for me Act 3 was a bit of a drag – they do well to flesh out Conflicks’ universe. The characters themselves take inspiration from both historical monarchs and fictional heroes of the era in which Conflicks is set.
The clue to the way the gameplay works in Conflicks is given in the name. In each battle you have a flagship that can create other ships using metamatter, but to get the bigger ones like Destroyers and Battleships you need to harvest metamatter from planets. For this you’ll need to create a Henship, click on and hold down the mouse button to flick it in the direction of your choosing. In fact that’s how all ships move, and the longer you pull the mouse back the further a ship will travel, though distance is limited by the type of ship.
It isn’t just a simple case of flicking a ship across maps until you’re in range of the enemy flagships, which have to be destroyed to win. Routes and strategies have to be planned, be they using wormholes to traverse to a different point or firing torpedoes at meteors so they hit enemies or at least block a path for a time. Planning your routes out is required because an errant flick could see your ship get caught in the gravitational pull of a planet or black hole, scuppering any strategies you may have had.
Each of the characters you gain control of is linked to one of the empires, which in turn gives access to the unique powers each ship has. One faction may have a Destroyer that can fire a long range, high powered missile, while another faction has a Destroyer that can harness the power of stars to fire a concentrated beam of energy at different targets. However, one Frigate will not be enough to take on the powerful Flagships, so you’ll need to build fleets to really make an impact.
A Frigate is required to make a fleet as it has the ability to chain a number of ships together so they can all be moved at once. This has the added advantage of allowing the slower ships to move much more further. While in this chained state though ships’ individual abilities cannot be used. When reaching a target area you can choose to unchain one or all the ships from the fleet so their powers can be used. However, this all depends on your tactics and how you approach missions. Some will allow you to plan out your moves with as much time as you need, while other stages will have time limits so you need to get as many ships out as possible to seize victory.
The game’s campaign lasts around 9 to 10 hours but that isn’t the end of Conflicks. There is a competitive multiplayer mode as well which can see up to four opponents face off to gain 1000 Victory Points. To gain these points players need to capture planets, destroy enemy ships, and gain huge points from destroying flagships. Unfortunately every time I tried to play against human opponents the lobby was empty, so I had to make do with facing the AI. While that showed what multiplayer can offer, having already learnt most of the AI’s moves there was no challenge. It’s a shame because Conflick’s multiplayer may be exactly what RTS players could be looking for in terms of a quick fix.
There were a couple of issues I did have with Conflicks, most of that do to with questionable AI in certain missions. At one point I had created a blockade just outside of range from the flagship’s weapons but close enough so I could fire missiles. Instead of sending ships to break my blockade the AI would send fleets towards my flagship which was also defended well. This allowed me to pass the mission quickly since I could destroy the enemy flagship without worry.
Conflicks – Revolutionary Space Battles is an incredibly fun RTS game that deserves to find an audience to help popularise its multiplayer mode. The campaign is a decent length and draws you in with its fun story, though there are a few dips. There is a lot of depth with the various ships which allow you to experiment with different tactics. The art style is pleasing to look at and the music is well composed, blending seamlessly with what happens on screen. While the AI could do with some improvement to provide a bit more of a challenge Artifice Studios has done well here.