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Posted on Dec 1, 2010 in Electronic Games

Commander: Conquest of the Americas – PC Game Review

By DeWitt Cave

Commander: Conquest of the Americas. PC Game. Devloper: Nitro Games Publisher: Paradox Interactive. $39.99.

Passed Inspection: Great naval battle graphics, fun trading simulation

Failed Basic: Lacks land battles, game is repetitive

Commander: Conquest of the Americas (CCOA) is a strategy and trading game that was developed by Nitro Games. The game gives the player control of one of the seven major powers of Europe and the task of developing a thriving trade powerhouse in the New World. CCOA begins with the options of starting in two different modes, Campaign Mode and Free Campaign. Campaign mode allows you to expand your nation’s presence in the New World as long as you have money, colonies and, most importantly, the satisfaction of your advisors. Free Campaign mode is more contained, allowing you to run your colonies as you see fit and test out new strategies but only until the year 1650.

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After selecting your campaign mode, you begin with a lone ship in the ocean. Your first goal is to find land and spot a suitable location to start your colony. Finding your perfect landing spot can be a tricky, as the computer automatically generates appropriate places to begin your colony. This adds a level of re-playability, as in the next game you play, that previous spot might not be available. With this mechanism in place, there are draw backs. For example, when two or three nations are all checkered together, the reality of colonies being settled together quickly diminishes. However there is always the option of going to war with another nation to get that coveted spot. Given there are a limited amount of spots to begin a new colony, spending too much time on a couple colonies may find you shorthanded in resources as the game progresses.

Those are who would rather test their skills in combat have the option of jumping right into the action with the game’s excellent naval battle simulations. CCOA provides you with two options for your naval encounters, "Battle" or "Quick Battle." Selecting "Quick Battle" drops you right into the action after you select fleet size (small, medium, large), the location (open sea to snow covered islands) and your preference. Those who truly want to test themselves, can select "Battle", where there are more options as to the types of ships and the time of day.

Where this game truly takes on another life is in the trading and developing of colonies. Each colony has a sphere of influence that expands as you get more colonists from the home country. As it expands, resources that were not available before soon become acquirable. As such, to make these resources work for you, you need to build the appropriate buildings. From missionaries to help tame the natives, to various workshops, they all have a part to play to in developing your trading empire.

Developing trade routes is one of the easiest ways to bring in a steady income. By selecting the good that is available in your warehouse, you can get Global Price Chart of how much that item can be sold throughout your empire. Typically the best place to sell it is the home nation. Looking up the price of Rum and seeing that it’s valued eight times higher than your home port gives you a sense of how of our forefathers became rich using the simple supply and demand economic model.

Throughout the game you’ll be assigned tasks by your four advisors Royal, Archbishop, Trade, and Military. Keeping them happy is an easy way to gain some extra income for your settlement. They don’t work together, so while you may need to build a couple extra trade ships to satisfy your "Trade Advisor" you may be asked by your "Military Advisor" to develop a fleet to patrol a portion of the ocean. At any time throughout the game you can see their level of satisfaction and with careful management you can keep them happy majority of the time.

As you try to expand your colony, you will have to either make peace or go to war with the other nations that are trying to develop a foothold in the New World. The Diplomacy Screen provides you direct contact with each nation as well as displaying an overview of where they stand with their trading ships, colonies and naval armada. It’s a nice source of information when you begin to prepare for your negotiations for resources or agreeing to a pact. During negations, there is a deal bar that helps you determine where your current offer stands and if they are likely to take it. Of course if you feel that what you offer is more than fair, you can always select "Threat of War" which may tip the scales into your favor or find yourself in a costly war that was over a couple hundred spices.

CCOA lacks the robust military strategy element that some may have found intoxicating in other strategy games such as the various Civilizations, Total War or even Dawn of Discovery games. The naval battles do provide a formidable challenge and the battle environment is a fantastic graphical delight that rivals most major games. The naval battle mode has two types of controls, "real-time strategy" and "direct control." Real Time Strategy lets you select the ship and with a click of the mouse set the waypoint the ship should sail to. Those who want a more hands-on approach, will find Direct Control a lot more enjoyable. With Direct Control you are the captain of one of the ships in your fleet and can order it in any direction. Equally enjoyable is having the ability to select the fire button to send off a broadside into your enemy. The downside of the naval battle is that all the movements are slow. Ships tend to start far apart and it takes some time just to get into position, but by increasing the simulation speed it moves the game along rather quickly.

Overall, CCOA is a fun game once you get a handle on the controls and figure out what your colonies need to do to survive. The learning curve is steep and at times frustrating as you seem to be losing money as quickly as you are making it. CCOA is similar to Dawn of Discovery in that the game’s focus is on colonies must find resources scattered across the map and trade in order to survive. Gamers who are looking for a more robust simulation that touches on not only on trading, but also military strategy and a more robust diplomacy option will be feel a little let down. Over time the game does feel repetitive, but for those who favor games focused on trade will truly appreciate the game.

Armchair General Rating: 75%

About the Author:

DeWitt Cave has been an avid gamer since Wings of Fury II on his Apple IIe. Living in Boston has provided him with a strong connection to everything American Revolutionary War, and he believes the 1700s was the golden age of military prowess and honor. When not writing for ACG, he provides online marketing advice to a law firm and asks his wife permission to continue to indulge his love of video games.
 

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