In light of its boundless problems, the scarce pluses only add insult to injury
Conquest Earth is a resounding disaster of a real-time strategy game, failing twofold both by eliminating any semblance of strategy from the genre while making the action elements infuriatingly cumbersome. It's your typical Earth versus Alien Menace scenario, though this time ET hails from Jupiter. As a matter of fact, the Jovian assailants are an interesting lot; they can disguise themselves as inanimate objects or human vehicles, and can even join together to form more powerful combat units. But the innovation stops cold right there.
Conquest Earth certainly looks beautiful. The action erupts in thousands of brilliant colors, as the various human and Jovian units blast away at each other with eye-popping firearms that alight in gorgeous semitransparent explosions. All the battlefield maps are realistically rendered and the various terrain types all look outstanding, if somewhat blurry. Stray shots and explosions leave permanent scars upon the land, making Conquest Earth appear all the more vivid. You'll also be treated to two wildly different interfaces - the hi-tech, metallic human control systems and the pulsating, fleshy Jovian menus. Conquest Earth even boasts a brilliant intro movie with space battle sequences worthy of a feature film.
And yet these visuals are not without their shortcomings: The complicated human and Jovian menu transition animations are painfully slow, and the over-glorified combat special effects make for extreme slowdown during intense firefights to the point where your orders may cease to register until some portion of your battalion has been decimated. Likewise, Conquest Earth sounds either forgettable or irritating. Human soldiers run the typical gamut of screams and acknowledgments, while the Jovians use those same exact lines only with an added warble which makes them sound silly sooner than alien. A tiny handful of atmospheric techno tunes is not nearly subtle enough to justify how repetitive they are. You'll get tired of the music in no time.
Conquest Earth looks flashy right down to the gaudy packaging, but the disguise isn't perfect - before long, the ugliness of the game lurking beneath the glitter will boil to the surface. The combat interface is so cryptic that you'll need to glean the tiny black and white manual several times before you can figure out how to perform even the most rudimentary functions such as ordering a troop to defend itself in a dangerous situation. Worse yet, the human and Jovian interfaces are different enough to demand a complete relearning of the game functions upon switching sides. And while the human controls are merely counterintuitive, the Jovian menu systems are downright infuriating. The tiny pictographs at the bottom of the screen, which represent crucial construction, attack, and defense options, are entirely arbitrary.
Your troops will do absolutely nothing without your command, yet issuing aggressive or defensive orders proves hopelessly difficult: After you drag a box around a bunch of units, you must pinpoint the appropriate attack or defense options button at the bottom of the screen (in the humans' case, you'll need to press and hold the space bar to bring up the options menu in the first place). Now you have a choice of several more vicious little icons that designate extremely basic functions like making your unit defend itself or approach a particular enemy and attack when in range. Meanwhile, most mission objectives are not-so-cleverly worded variations on "kill all the bad guys on this map" and would demand but a few minutes of your time if not for the preposterous "fog of war" feature. In this case, it's a literal fog - oxygen atmosphere obstructs the Jovians' sight, while the humans cannot see through Jovian sulfur shrouds. These ugly monochromatic clouds must be blasted away in bite-sized chunks by specialized troops as you proceed, slowing missions to a total crawl.
Only after scrutinizing the instruction manual and invariably botching the first few missions as you fumble with the interface will you finally grasp just what Conquest Earth is all about. And you'll discover that there's next to no strategy to it whatsoever. Perhaps the manual says it best in the so-called Battle Tactics section: "Select the cream of your forces and group them, then guide them around the map and use direct rapid firing (left mouse click) to defeat foes." Of course, it fails to mention that the selected group will stop dead in its tracks as it shoots toward the designated villain. Units out of range will fire into thin air or straight into their comrades (who emerge curiously unscathed) rather than approach the target and attack from the appropriate distance. Nevertheless, why waste valuable time devising strategies when you're much better off just clicking repeatedly on any enemy that draws near? After all, that enemy will be trapped in a hit stun as it's riddled with ammunition until it perishes. Thus even a few soldiers under the capable command of your index finger can readily deal with computer-controlled battalions many times their number.
Conquest Earth has a couple of good things going for it, but in light of its boundless problems these scarce pluses only add insult to injury. Save yourself the time, money, and health, and direct your attention to one of the other several dozen real-time strategy games due this season.