Field Marshal Archibald Percival Wavell of the British Army once said that “war is a muddle” and, quite frankly, we couldn’t agree with him more. The conflict he described was that of World War II; that's the very same that World Conqueror 3D strives to simulate, with messy results. No more than an overcomplicated clone of classic board game Risk, this turn-based strategy title manages to capture all the randomness and frustrations of war without doing justice to the tactics that can make it interesting.
Immediately intimating, the world map sprawls out before you whether you choose a campaign mission or the unmanageably bloated Conquest mode. Static sprites stare menacingly at one another, accompanied by numbers that probably mean something important, but digging into the poorly communicated instruction manual is the only way to find out for sure. After deciphering what you can and hoping the dots you’ve mentally connected are in the right order, World Conqueror begins to make more sense, particularly if you’ve played similar games in the genre (read: Risk).
Three unit types take up arms to defend their respective countries: infantry, tanks, and artillery. Infantry are run-of-the mill weaklings of the battlefield while artillery can strike without fear of countermeasures, but tanks — as the unit page puts it — “continue action when complete destroying the enemies”. Head-scratching translation like this makes it tough to give orders like a boss general, particularly when the results of a given skirmish end in random dice rolls. Every attack your units make as they hop from continent to continent are governed by dice of varying power, which means your brilliant flanking of the enemy coastal base can fall to pieces at the drop of a hat if the odds aren’t in your favour.
But what would gambling be if not for money with which to bet? Each space on the map helps to fill your pocketbook with cash to spend on new units and upgrades, so it behoves you to snatch up every piece of land you can reach. The enemy can steal it back just as easily, of course, leading to a game of military cat and mouse that encourages you to come, see, and conquer on the double. If this were exciting in some way, the strategy might hold merit; yet as it stands, it just slows the game down to a snail’s pace. Once every world power on the block has briefcases stuffed with riches, bases start to pump out obscene numbers of troops until toppling a capital city (the win condition) becomes a teeth-grinding war of attrition.
There’s a lot you can scheme to do in World Conqueror — outfitting units for sea travel is vital, building defences for your home base will pay off for the cautious warmonger, and nobody will deny the effectiveness of a nuclear strike — but none of it is particularly interesting. All of that extra depth only serves to muddy up a simple set of rules that Risk had down in 1957, but the board game version didn’t constrain your field of view or lack UI functionality important to flow of play. An oppressively grey and boring presentation does nothing to help World Conqueror’s case, despite serviceable 3D effects and a handful of militaristic tunes that aren’t half bad. A total lack of multiplayer is the final straw that break the Sopwith Camel’s back, and yes, we know that’s a World War I reference, but we couldn’t resist.
When a game’s positive aspects boil down to “mostly playable”, something has gone wrong; World Conqueror is one of those games, and wrong has indeed gone. For every minute spent grinning over a carefully constructed stratagem, you’ll spend five plodding away at monotonous ocean encounters or simply waiting for the AI to finish its turn. When thinking becomes a chore, the battle is already over.