With Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord coming out very soon (depending on when you’re reading this), I’ve been itching for an alternative to play while waiting for it to be fully released. Enter Conqueror’s Blade, an MMORPG/RTS with instanced battles and scheduled open-world wars.
As the title suggests, the best way to describe it is that it plays like a mix of Mount & Blade‘s battle and overworld systems and Dynasty Warriors‘ combat style and game mechanics. There are two main PVP modes that you’ll be spending a lot of time playing in this game: Siege, where up to 15 defenders have to hold off an equal amount of attackers, and Field Battles, which is a sort of “King of the Hill” style mode with three capture points.
Units Actually Matter
Players start off with their weapon of choice, which also determines what type of armor you can wear (don’t worry, you can change all of these later on), and a set of low-tier units that’ll get you by for a reasonable amount of time. In order to unlock new units, you need to collect a resource known as Honor, which can be acquired through fief quests (more on this later) and by playing any type of battle.
While this game plays a lot like Dynasty Warriors, the units in this game actually matter, and as you face higher level players, you’ll experience firsthand just how deadly they can get. As a newcomer, you’ll be matched against a mix of similarly leveled players and bots, and this is the perfect opportunity to learn how to properly control your units. If you don’t master it by the time you get to your 30s, you’re gonna have a hard time catching up with more experienced opponents.
The game doesn’t hold your hand, though I’d argue that it doesn’t really have to for the most part, since almost everything you need to know is covered in the tutorial. What might be confusing to most is that Conqueror’s Blade doesn’t really handle the whole “rock-paper-scissors” approach to unit counters very well. For example, certain cavalry units can easily charge through a line of braced pikemen or polearms despite supposedly being countered by them, while archers are mostly useless in later levels unless they have the ability to bleed/burn enemies (at least in my experience).
1v1 Me Bro
Obviously, jumping into a pile of units alone and expecting to win isn’t smart, but what if you catch a fellow commander as your units are duking it out in the side? The game offers a handful of weapons and three armor types (Light, Medium, and Heavy) that players are free to mix and match to some extent, and each weapon has its own basic skill tree that enables a somewhat diverse amount of playstyles.
Duels between commanders, which can sometimes last way longer than they should, shift the game from an RTS to a more arcadey hack-and-slash type deal, kinda like less skill-based For Honor fights.
Unfortunately, the game fails in this aspect outside of the actual deathmatch modes and hub world duels.
If you expect to see epic PVP action in the heat of battle, you’re going to be sorely disappointed as players will almost always opt to just hit you with a stun or knockback ability before swarming you with their own units, or outright killing you with a stunlocking, high-impact ultimate (looking at you, Dual Blade and Poleaxe users).
This doesn’t bother me much though, as I feel like the game’s focus is more towards tactical combat than literal player versus player interactions anyway.
The world map works very similar to Mount & Blade‘s one, with a lot of added mechanics. First of all, as an MMO, you will see other players running around, and they’re free to pursue you for your resources and vice versa. Knocking out someone’s army will force them to march all the way back to their main town in order to heal up their casualties. There are also rebels and rebel camps that spawn randomly, bringing a bit of life to the overworld.
Conqueror’s Blade features five regions, with the middle “Borderlands” housing the City of Heroes, the most coveted fief in the game that awards its owners tons of silver (one of the currencies ingame that’s used for trading and buying from certain npcs) and bragging rights.
There are resource nodes scattered all around the map. These can be used to craft equipment and artillery for sieges, kits to recruit or heal units, and fief quests, which are used to level up your house’s fiefs for varying benefits.
My only real gripe with this aspect is that traveling can get very tedious, especially if you’re carrying a significant amount of resources or slow infantry. Aside from that, it works pretty much just like Mount & Blade‘s world map.
Houses (this game’s equivalent of guilds) fight over all of the fiefs in the game, except for the main hub towns in each region and a few independent areas. Every week, people are free to conquer fiefs to level up their house and earn useful rewards, such as ridiculous amounts of silver and unit kits, for every member.
This aspect of the game, despite not being mandatory, is probably where most new players will feel out of place after the initial excitement of participating in an all-out world war. If you’re a newcomer, you’ll most likely be relegated to defense as veterans will be running around with maxed out high tier units that will easily trample your forces. However, this shouldn’t discourage you, as you can still assist with attacks on smaller villages, and if you dedicate around a week or two for casual grinding, you can eventually put up a fight against stronger players.
I do hope they eventually expand the world to make room for smaller houses to actually thrive though, as full stacks of vets shine a spotlight on the insane difference between higher tier units versus lower ones. Strategical prowess just won’t save you against a larger house with stronger players, and it essentially locks smaller, less organized groups out of the map.
Again, though, participating in these wars isn’t mandatory nor does it really matter that much if you just want to chill and play both the PVP and PVE modes for fun. Sure, the rewards help skip a bit of the grind, but you can definitely get by without even ever joining a house or leaving your starting town.
If you do want to participate in a very laid back manner, the game features “cohort” houses/alliances, which lets you fight for the AI kingdoms that own the hub towns in each region. With how the game works, cohorts are never likely to be as big of a threat as an organized house, but at least they’re free to raid anyone and experience the open world wars without dipping their toes into all the politics and drama (I’m sure there are discord channels out there with a lot of shady crap and backstabbing going on between some of the large houses, but I can’t be arsed to look into it).
The new player experience is definitely on point for this game, but it can quickly burn you out if you get an unlucky streak of imbalanced matches. However, if you tough it out and unlock or level up some decent units (the Pike Militia you get at the start are actually really good, even at the highest levels), you’re going to have a great time with this game.
Before you hop on though, it’s worth noting that there are different versions of the game, and people from certain regions will want to choose one over the other.
The SEA version of the game, Conqueror’s Blade: Frontier, is being run by the actual devs of the game and receives frequent updates. There are also Chinese-only servers, though I can’t really try them as I’m not a Chinese citizen (they require an ID).
NA and EU players should opt for the free-to-play version, as it has cross-server queues and, obviously, less lag for people in those aforementioned regions. It’s run by a different company though, and it’s way behind on updates as they still lack a bunch of features found in Frontier.
Frontier is where I currently play as I do live in SEA, and there are a few key features that make the grind way more fun and bearable, such as the addition of bots that scale to your level and fill up games if your queue takes even just a minute longer than expected (I’ve had the occasional field battle where I was the only player, and the AIs aren’t pushovers). I’ve played on NA before, and it just seems less lively and incredibly toxic at times.