Conqueror’s Blade is a bizarre mish mash of genres that’s hard to put a definitive label on. At its core, this medieval multiplayer game feels very similar to Koei’s Dynasty Warriors series, though there are lashings of MOBA and MMO inspired elements, as well as hints of kingdom building and certain progression hooks you’d expect to find in mobile games.
The game casts you as an aspiring warlord, tasked with leading your army into battle to claim victory for one of its several alliance factions. Character creation is fairly limited for now, though you’ll want to pay more attention to their weapon more than their looks, choosing from almost a dozen different classes.
Each one has its own unique moveset and by earning experience in battle you can spend skill points to unlock new attacks. At a glance, combat gameplay looks almost identical to the aforementioned Dynasty Warriors though the cooldowns, status effects, and skill trees nudge Conqueror’s Blade closer to being a roleplaying game.
The two main multiplayer modes here include a domination style land grabbing match type and slightly more complex siege battles. Field Battles follow a simpler template and are made far more popular thanks to the considerably shorter queue times. Two teams of eight fight it out over three control points scattered across maps which are large in size though fairly quick to navigate.
What makes Conqueror’s Blade so interesting is how it lets you deploy and command units. Each warlord can have one unit active at a time, so full 16 player matches can end up with huge cinematic clashes, but there’s little tactical advantage to be had simply throwing a mass of bodies at your enemy.
Instead, you’ll need to analyse which troops are on the battlefield and plan accordingly. For example, you might want to move an infantry unit to cover an ally’s archers, position missile units on high terrain that’s hard to reach, or have light cavalry hiding in a blind spot waiting for an ambush. Commanding and positioning them is effortless too and can be done while you’re busy hacking away at your enemies.
Although AI grunts can quickly turn into a threat if they outnumber you, warlords can still cut through them with relative ease. However, if they’re backed up by a player from the other team, you’ll likely want to back off or call in your own reinforcements. In large 16-player battles it’s easy to imagine the scope for tactical play, especially if you’re partying up with friends instead of jumping into the matchmaking queue by yourself.
Being able to place artillery such as cannons and ballistae is another strategic touch. Although static, slow, and not entirely accurate, they can decimate enemy units and help lock down parts of the map.
Win or lose, you’ll constantly be earning experience points and resources that feed your warlord and their units. It isn’t long before you’ll be experimenting with new troop types, unlocking new skills, looting better gear, and unearthing many of the game’s advanced systems.
Although you can ease into a loop of playing and queuing for matches, there are plenty of quests on hand too, acting as both a robust tutorial and encouraging you to spice up your playstyle.
What isn’t perhaps so appealing is the way Conqueror’s Blade handles crafting and resources. As a Chinese-developed free-to-play game, there’s an emphasis on grinding out various currencies and points in order to aid your long term progression. Although you can still launch into a match and enjoy some mindless melee action, those thinking about the best competitive builds and Conqueror’s endgame will need to crunch some hefty numbers and get to grinding.
As someone who has religiously been playing Dynasty Warriors since the series became a hack and slash brawler in 2000, there’s a part of me hoping that Koei and Omega Force are taking note. While the multiplayer combat in Conqueror’s Blade feels scrappy at best, it still works nicely especially when paired with those unit management mechanics.
Available to download and play right now, the game has officially entered its first live season. There are definitely signs that developer Booming Games will be injecting more variety and character into the game as it rolls out post-launch updates. It’s certainly worth checking out if only for the reason that there’s nothing else quite like it on the market right now.