Expeditions: Conquistador Review

Article Index

Eschalon: Book II

Developer:Logic Artists
Release Date:2013-05-30
  • Role-Playing
Platforms: Theme: Perspective:
  • Third-Person
Buy this Game: Amazon ebay


Back in 2012, when we were all naïve enough to believe that publishers were the big bad and crowdfunding was the future, it wasn't unusual to see millions of dollars go into projects that would inevitably overpromise and underdeliver.

This enthusiasm for crowdfunding, however, allowed Logic Artists, a small Danish studio, to narrowly hit their humble Kickstarter goal of $70,000 and finance Expeditions: Conquistador - a historical RPG that invited us to explore the newly-discovered America as a squad of Spanish conquistadors.

The game launched in 2013 and was successful enough to warrant a sequel - Expeditions: Viking. That one was released back in 2017, with the third game in the series, Expeditions: Rome, currently scheduled to launch later this year, but with how things are these days, we probably should expect it sometime around 2022.

So, at this point, it's safe to say that following that original Kickstarter success, Logic Artists was able to carve out a fairly unique niche for themselves, one that's all about historical RPGs with a strong focus on exploration.

But that's a pretty wide umbrella. The actual games differ greatly from one another. Conquistador took after King's Bounty in its general structure, only with individual units instead of recruitable troops. Viking was closer to a traditional isometric RPG with its overworld map dotted with self-contained locations and a more story-driven adventure. And now Rome promises to shake things up again.

And while we've already reviewed Viking and are eagerly awaiting Rome, up until now, the original game in the series was somehow able to avoid a closer examination. To remedy this oversight, we offer you our review of Expeditions: Conquistador.

Age of Exploration

Expeditions: Conquistador puts you in the shoes of a young Spanish noble with a seemingly simple mission - set sail to the New World and bring back riches and glory for both the Crown and yourself. Now, how you go about this task, is very much up to you.

And to help you decide how you're going to be approaching things, the game will ask you to create a character and assemble a crew of up to ten followers.

Your main character serves the "hero" role and doesn't directly participate in battles. Instead, he or she (and in Conquistador this choice affects a reasonable number of dialogue options and even some quests) has six attributes that include Tactics, Diplomacy, Healing, Survival, Scouting, and Leadership. All of these have clear uses for an aspiring conquistador and can be manually raised all the way up to ten.

Your starting crew will then include a combination of Doctors, Hunters, Scholars, Scouts, and Soldiers, with other, predominantly native classes like Shamans becoming available later in the game.

Followers will not only act as your main fighting force, but also improve your character's attributes, with Soldiers making you better at Tactics, Doctors improving your Healing skills, and so on. Leadership then, is the odd one out, as you can only increase it by promoting your followers to officers. More on that later.

Your followers aren't mere cannon fodder or stat boosts, though. They all come with a small bio section, weapon proficiencies, and three personality traits that run along the lines of Greedy or Altruistic, Racist or Openminded, and so on. With each character having three traits, it's pretty much impossible to assemble a party that would agree on everything, resulting in frequent clashes and confrontations.

Managing your followers' expectations then becomes an integral part of the game, as acting in ways they disapprove of lowers their morale, and that reduces their combat efficiency and can even lead to a mutiny. This forces you to walk a tightrope between the kind of conquistador you want to be and what your crew expects of you.

And the game is very much eager to provide you with plentiful opportunities for that in its two campaigns. The first one is smaller and doubles as the tutorial. There, you'll be dealing with some rebels trying to overthrow Hispaniola's legitimate governor, and in the process learning the ropes, interacting with the natives, and immersing yourself in the game's setting.

The second campaign is the main dish, then. The map is larger, the stakes are higher, and you get to explore all the story threads introduced in the first one. The big thing there is a civil war within the Aztec empire, where you can support one of two warring factions, or alternatively use this chaos to your advantage and pillage a bunch of valuables, since the game's ending depends among other things on how rich you are by the time you're done with your campaign.

The game's world is populated with major and minor settlements where you can trade, interact with the locals and take up quests in a very much RPG fashion. Outside of those, you'll be traversing a wild and untamed land packed with events, points of interest, and treacherous terrain. The curious thing here is that you can pan the camera, but only a little, so you never know what you'll discover next.

All of this is presented to you through a bird's eye view reminiscent of King's Bounty or Heroes of Might and Magic, where your party is represented by a lone horseman and all the points of interest are usually just one or two buildings you have to click on to start an event.

Your party has a limited number of movement points that last you longer on roads than they do in some Aztec swamp. Once you're out, you need to make camp and feed your troops. Making sure you have sufficient supplies is crucial, as food in Conquistador has the annoying tendency to run out.

Camping also leads to various events where your followers get to argue or fall in love, slaves become especially rebellious, and thieves will do their best to steal everything not bolted down.

To make things at least somewhat manageable, you'll be able to task your followers with guarding your camp, scouting the surrounding areas, and hunting for extra supplies. While camping, you'll also be able to tinker with your equipment, improving your party's long-term performance. Tinkering also allows you to create consumables like net traps and caltrops you'll then use during battles. And on occasion, contextual events will allow you to go fishing or raid burial grounds.

Still, it's pretty much impossible to perfectly cover all your bases while camping. Things will go wrong. The important thing then is how you deal with those setbacks.

With the game being out for quite a while at this point, you can't help but hear things. And one of the more common complaints about Conquistador is that managing your camp is too annoying. And because of that, Viking already simplified camping, and now Rome is looking like it's going to move even further away from Conquistador in that regard.

And that's really a shame. First of all, there really isn't anything too daunting about camping. When starting your campaign, you need to make sure to use perishable meat before your usual rations, task your soldiers with guarding the camp, hunters with hunting, etc. And that's pretty much that. You have the basic setup that will carry you through the game. You will only have to alter it when a contextual event pops up, you get a surplus of meat, or some of your soldiers get injured during a battle.

But in return for this slightest bit of hassle, you get rewarded with a feeling of managing a party in an untamed land, watching supplies dwindle, and not knowing if you'll be able to find some rations for your troops.

Games with tough choices get applauded, but at the end of the day, most of those are merely flavor. In Conquistador, you can choose to pillage a native village for supplies, or you can choose to tough it out in the hopes of catching a break soon. But if you don't, your party's morale will start deteriorating, which may eventually result in a mutiny and a campaign loss. And so you have to decide where your morals end and self-preservation begins.

Alternatively, you can just be a jolly pirate, pillaging for the fun of it and buying your crew's loyalties with fat freshly-looted rations. The choice is yours. And to think that all of this was gutted because some players couldn't be bothered to check some boxes every once in a while.

Well, whatever the future may hold for the series, and Viking at least was still a very good RPG, we'll always have Conquistador. Few other games out there offer a similar sense of wonder. The game invites us to explore a land of superstition, one where you can never be sure if the supernatural elements are real or merely products of your overactive imagination reacting to being immersed in a new land that's so unlike anything you've seen before.

Conquistador's art, and portraits, in particular, do a great job of selling its setting. Its character all speak in a manner that makes you believe that they really are Spanish conquistadors, as opposed to just modern-day people glued to a slightly washed-out canvas. Or worse, some slapstick routine. And in this day and age, finding a game like this is about as rare as actually discovering the City of Gold or the Fountain of Youth.

Cool Hats for Everyone

Being a conquistador, a lot of fighting is kind of right there in the job description. And in Expeditions: Conquistador that fighting will be happening in a turn-based fashion on a hex grid.

The game eschews individual initiative in favor of alternating turns between two sides of a conflict. Which side goes first is often determined by various skill checks and events leading up to the battle.

If you get some time to prepare, you can deploy barricades, traps, or even a cannon in order to even the odds, since your enemies are oftentimes more numerous. Your standard battle party consists of six people, although certain scenarios stick you with five or even just three soldiers. Your enemies though can easily double your numbers. The most common objective is to eliminate your opposition, but occasionally, you'll be tasked with just surviving a set number of turns or disabling all your enemies before they escape.

Your followers' classes determine their combat stats, initial weapon options, and active skills. Each class has three unique active skills unlocked by ranking up, and if upon unlocking all of those you keep promoting a certain character, they'll become an officer, begin improving the whole team's morale, and unlock a new active skill independent of their class. With you being the Captain, you can have up to two Sergeants and one Lieutenant in Conquistador.

Ranking up also grants one passive ability and improves a follower's camping skills. While the latter are self-explanatory, the former can improve a character's combat prowess in a variety of ways, like making them more resilient to critical hits or improving the damage they do when flanking.

All in all, the combat system is fairly complex and isn't too streamlined. You're not limited to two actions per turn and are instead free to spend your attacks and movement points in whichever order you see fit. Direct line of sight is significantly more important than mere cover, and flanking requires you to actually flank an opponent, and not just have two or more characters adjacent to an enemy.

On the other hand, the game's classes aren't created equal. Scouts are so much better than just about any other class that you will always want to have as many of them as possible. Their supposed drawback is their lack of ranged weapons. But it just so happens that ranged weapons in Conquistador are borderline useless.

Even your best sharpshooters will have around 80% hit chance on a target in a clear open field, with your other classes scoring as low as base 30%. And if you know anything about probability when it comes to turn-based games, this translates into you never being able to actually hit anything. But when a miracle happens and you land a shot, it will generally do less damage than a melee attack that always hits.

The game's passive abilities are also very much uneven, with some of them being barely usable, while others are an absolute must. And since you only get a few of them, you don't get a lot of room for experimentation. This lack of viable options then makes the game's battles feel a bit samey after a while.

Still, overall, the game's combat system, while not overly varied, is more than solid. Plus, it doesn't exist in a vacuum. The injuries you receive during battles take at least a few days to heal, incentivizing you to be cautious and strive for flawless victories.

Another curious thing about Conquistador's combat and character development systems is that both experience and equipment go into a general pool, with you being free to choose which of your followers to promote. Equipment takes things even further and instead of actual items exists as an abstract resource you can use to upgrade the gear of your followers. And while spending experience is a permanent action, you can freely redistribute equipment depending on who you want to take into battle.

One last thing to mention here is the game's difficulty settings. There are four default presets you can then further customize by adjusting how deadly the AI is going to be or how many resources you're going to find during your travels. There's also an optional Ironman mode if that's your thing.

Technical Information

Unfortunately, Conquistador was one of the early adopters of the Unity engine. Which means the game utilizes way more resources than it has any right to and is prone to occasional stutters even on modern machines. Things aren't too bad, honestly, but you’d expect a game from 2013 to run silky smooth, and that's not exactly the case here.

Other than that, the game isn't prone to crashing and doesn't have any glaring bugs other than an occasional visual glitch.

Speaking of visuals, they're not exactly high-end, but they're aesthetically pleasing, especially when it comes to character portraits and loading screens. Still, with the graphics being fairly basic, it's the game's music that does a lot of heavy lifting to sell the setting to you. And it really gets the job done. The tracks are both memorable and appropriate.

Unlike some other early Unity games that outright claimed it was impossible to implement a proper save system (only to then add it in a post-release patch), Conquistador offers both manual and autosaves that work without any noticeable issues.

The game also has a multiplayer mode that allows you to fight duels with your friends by first putting together two teams and then throwing them into your arena of choice.


Expeditions: Conquistador is a game that despite its budget-related limitations manages to fill you with the spirit of adventure. It is easily one of my favorite games of the whole Kickstarter gold rush era, and I can't recommend it enough to anyone looking for a unique experience. And if you so happen to find the conquistador aesthetic really cool, you'll enjoy it all the more.