One of the best sci-fi RTS games ever created...
The game combines 3D graphics ( space ships, buildings and planets) on a 2D plane and allows you to rotate the camera and zoom-in or out ( that's very helpful during battles or navigation). The game's engine can support a huge number of space-ships on screen at once ( more than in Starcraft ) and there is no frame rate drop even in the most hectic situations. In addition to that there are many small details that impress, like guns tracking their targets and recoiling, units featuring real-time battle damage ( you can easily distinguish the damaged units and send them for repair without looking at their bar indicators), buildings and space ships supporting cool extra-ordinary detailed animations during their construction / destruction or repair phases. .
There are a few things that don't look that much impressive though... the background of empty space and nebulae gets repetitive and boring, if you zoom-in too much on the space ships you will notice that their textures don't look as crisp as in other titles ( like let's say Homeworld), it's difficult to distinguish your units -especially the smaller ones- in too dark or too bright areas ( your map can help you in such situations) and sometimes it' s difficult to distinguish the buildings ( they have similar design and are built on the free slots of the rings, which surround each planet or moon, so it's a bit awkward to recognise and use all of them at once -> however keep in mind that there are hot keys that can help you in this task).
The epic music, although it sounds nice and sets the mood in this one, gets boring after the first few missions. The sound effects are average to good without enough variety to make your ears like... Yoda's and the voice acting in the single player campaign is very good most of the times. I just think that the alien voices aren't as interesting and successful or memorable like the ones found in Starcraft and other similar titles. .
Conquest: Frontier wars is different than most of the other RTS games out there. Yes, you can adjust the behaviour of your units ( attack, patrol, idle, protect etc.), you will have to gather resources ( ore, gas and crew) from planets and moons ( by building specific structures on their rings) or to harvest them ( by constructing specific space ships - harvesters) from nebulae and asteroids, set rally points for your new units etc. However the game isn't your casual RTS experience since it takes the game play of the genre to the next level with a few great additions.
First of all the title takes place in a number of different maps simultaneously. Each game-session is basically broken down into different planetary systems which are connected to each other with the help of wormholes. Since each map can have more than 3 wormholes at once, it can be simultaneously connected to multiple maps and this adds a unique strategical approach to this title. At first you will have to build your base and start mining resources and creating your fleet. After a few minutes you will have to expand your power and influence into new territories and systems and to decide carefully your next step, since each map can be connected to many others at the same time ( there are different paths that you can take) and any one of these maps can also be interconnected with the rest, creating a very complicated diagram of different paths between the systems ( you can have access to this diagram through the HUD of your screen, the one that also displays the map of the current system). .
Another addition that changes completely the way that this game is played is the need for re-supplying your ships. Each space ship has a blue bar that indicates the unit's energy. If there is no energy left your unit won't have the power to shoot. You can either use supply - ships which can become valuable allies during the toughest situations ( you will need to occasionally re- supply AND these ships ) or built supply platforms into the different planetary systems. In order to have a functional supply or repair platform in a new system you will have to construct a new headquarters ( on one of this system's planets) or build a jumpgate atop the wormholes that connect the current system with your own previous ones, in other words you will need to establish a supply line between your home-base and the new maps / territories. So the game isn't all about mining , creating a strong fleet and conquering the world, but it's mostly about protecting your home base, reassuring the stability of your supply line and carefully progressing into new areas. Add to this the fact that most of the maps are huge in size and that you can have more than 15 maps in a single mission and you realise that you may spend more than 4 hours in order to finish just one of them ( not suitable for people who aren't patient enough and want to have the usual 30 minutes-one hour battles).
What's great about these features is that despite their complexity in theory, in practice the interface is really helpful and intuitive. You can use the diagram, that displays all the systems, in order to set rally points in different destinations, watch your active supply lines, notice the areas in which you are under attack or send parts of your fleet into other systems ( the good thing about this one is that the faster ships of your fleet will wait for the slower ones in order to make simultaneously the jump through the jumpgate-> your fleet won't be split up while moving from one area to the other). .
The last really innovative feature is the addition of the Admirals, who will take command of the largest ship in your fleet, increasing the AI of your ships during battles significantly. Again using the Admirals is a very easy thing to do, since you will only have to give a general order to your fleet ( through your Admiral's simple command -interface) and never bother again ( at least for the next few minutes).
The single player campaign consists of 16 different missions, that are huge in size, have many different objectives and are very fun and challenging to play ( it took me more than 50 hours in order to beat the game). There is a nice epic story that is supported by some excellent cutscenes. You will mostly be playing with the humans ( Terrans ) through the campaign but there are also two other races, the Mantis ( reminding a bit of the Zerg in Starcraft) and the Celarons ( let's say the Protoss of Frontier Wars), that you will have to use their technologies and units ( depending on the mission) in order to succeed. There are three different training missions that let you learn the basics of each race. The problem is that despite the distinct looks and a few small differences ( as far as their development tree and their technologies is concerned) there just isn't enough variety ( there are too many similarities between the races and you will use more or less the same tactics with each one of them).
The multiplayer was excellent and very fun to play... and i say WAS and not IS because Conquest is one of those titles that no one almost bought. The game didn't sell at all and Ubisoft stopped supporting the title a few years ago. That's why you won't be able to find the official site of it anymore and there are no servers for you to try its online features, since there is no community and support behind it. And that's a shame imo.
In conclusion Conquest: Frontier Wars is a must-buy, must-play for any self-respected RTS fan. It's as simple as that. Too bad for the lack of support though. It ruins the replay value of the game.