Conclave Review: Fun For Everyone…who Enjoys a Challenge!

10×10 Room is a gaming company started by two guys, and Conclave is their first foray into the gaming world. It’s a browser-based, tabletop-inspired roleplaying game that began as a Kickstarter. They asked for $75,000 and raised $75,885 with the help of 1,375 backers. The goal of Conclave was stated by 10×10 Room as follows:

“Ever wanted to play a tabletop roleplaying game or an MMO with friends but had trouble finding the time?  We sure have. Work, school, family, even other hobbies: they all make it difficult to schedule hours-long regular gaming sessions. Since the alternatives we’ve tried are either clunky or lack the depth we’re looking for, we decided to create an online multiplayer game that captured the experience of a tabletop RPG but didn’t force you to schedule your life around it.  A game that would let you play for as long or short a time as you like, from any web-capable device, without sacrificing story or gameplay.”

Watch the trailer:

Plot

quests

Direct from the website:

In times past, the realms of the Kin extended to the edges of the known world. Even when the first remote realms fell centuries ago, most thought they would soon be reclaimed. But that was the beginning of the Retreat, with the boundary of civilization pushed back every year. Beyond this boundary, the enemies of the Kin grow stronger, emboldened by heretical magics. At times, nature itself seems an enemy: strange beasts roam the wilds, and the weather defies the most trusted almanacs. Now, the Kin have withdrawn to the Conclave, the last realm left to them. Here they marshal the last of their resources, lore, and magics. To aid them in turning back the Retreat, they search for heroes — heroes who have begun to emerge, called to action by their dreams. Are you among the called?

When the game begins, you’re an an inn, but you don’t get to relax for long as you get pulled into a dreamworld and realize that no one is dreaming any more, for some reason. The plot isn’t too central to gameplay (90% of your time is spent in combat), but it’s well-written and has enough of a different vibe that I didn’t feel bored or like I’d seen it before. There are also a few creepy parts, which work well considering that the plot is doled out entirely via text blocks. If you’re playing with others, everyone gets to vote on what action to take next, if applicable, which is great – the party leader doesn’t make every decision.

Graphics and Sound

character_creation

The art for Conclave is gorgeous. All of the character portraits are amazing, and the overhead map is detailed and colorful. The battlemaps are nice as well, and the enemy portraits are small but detailed. This is definitely one of the prettiest browser games I have ever played.

There is no narration or voice in the game. However, the wonderful soundtrack is by none other than Sam Hulick (Mass EffectMass Effect 2Mass Effect 3Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition). I was surprised at how much variety in the soundtrack there is for a browser game; I was expecting the same track to play over and over. You can even grab the soundtrack here for only $4 – there are six tracks. If you play on your iPad, there is no music, so I chose to play on my PC just so I could hear it (the game plays identically otherwise).

Gameplay

combat

You can play Conclave either by yourself or with up to three other people. Inviting others to join your quest is very easy – you e-mail the person and they can hop into your game. You can do this at any time, but it would probably make the most sense to do it at the beginning so that everyone is on the same page with the story and at the same level. You can also find a party that needs more people if you don’t have friends to rope into playing with you.

First you need to create your character. There are five archetypes (read: classes) to choose from: beacon (bard-like), rogue, runecaster (mage-like), true-bow (archer-like), and vanguard (fighter-like). Each of these classes has different starting stats, but when you level up you can increase these stats. Then you pick male or female and your race: forgeborn (awesome humanoid with fire running through them), lumyn (elven), mezoar (lizard person), nix (halfling), and trow (humanoid with giant horns and tree-like legs).

Playing by yourself is doable, but I can see it becoming difficult very quickly. Multiplayer (I got Sarah to jump in with me) was much more fun, and I played for a longer period of time when playing with her.

Combat is done through major and minor actions. Minors can be things like taking aim or using a skill connected to your race (I had Trow Wisdom, which gave me +1 to all my checks). Majors are either attacking someone or standing your ground to heal. This was very intuitive. The game also tells you what moves do before you commit to them – it’s not a guessing game. Clicking on yourself shows your stats, and clicking an enemy tells you a little bit about them. You heal completely between fights, which is awesome, because you will escape within an inch of your life more than once. Leveling up is done between quests at the Pool of Reflection on the map, and you buy things with your renown instead of gold. Renown is gained after every quest you successfully complete.

The game’s action is turn-based. Sarah and I ran into an issue where the game would tell us to hold on because the other was taking a turn – we solved this problem by deciding on a combat order and telling each other through the chat window when we were done moving. This sped the game up and cut down on annoyance. A quote from Sarah from multiplayer:

Shenzi: Think of how badass we look.
Shenzi: Two women warriors, one looking like lava and one like a horned demon.
Shenzi: Just runnin’ around kickin’ ass.

Our characters.

Our characters.

We really did look intimidating – and that was something that was nice to see. Female character portraits were not sexualized, and they looked tough and capable. Good job, 10×10 Room!

Final Verdict

trow_female copy

Conclave is an awesome browser-based game that anyone can play. I would really recommend it to friends who like gaming together (especially tabletop games or D&D), but are separated. It encourages strategizing and socializing, and you can easily pick it up for a couple of rounds or sit down for an evening of play in real time. The only thing that is sometimes discouraging is the difficulty, but after you get your butt kicked a few times, you can figure out a better way to approach the battle.

Score: A-

You can play Conclave by going here. Check out 10×10 Room’s official site, like them on Facebook, follow them on Twitter and Google+, and subscribe to them on YouTube.

The first ten of Conclave‘s twenty-five quests are free-to-play. Purchasing the full game unlocks Legacy of the Dweller, a campaign of fifteen more adventures that complete the story. Only one player in each party needs to own the campaign for everyone to play.

2 thoughts on “Conclave Review: Fun For Everyone…who Enjoys a Challenge!

  1. Great review! You hit on one of the things I really like about the aesthetic of the game: the artwork for the female characters. This is a fantasy game I can play with my daughter without having a depressing conversation about sexist imagery.

    You also mentioned the renown system. I think it’s a neat (and unique, in my experience) take on the “magic item store” trope. Instead of acquiring gold so you can buy magic items from some shopkeeper that somehow got his hands on dozens of powerful artifacts, you’re building a reputation such that the Conclave is willing to loan you the use of the treasures they have collected over the centuries. It’s a nice mechanical twist, too, because your renown is like your equipment budget: between adventures, you can swap out your equipment, so long as the total renown needed stays the same.

    • Thank you for reading, Jon! I quite liked the renown system as well, because it was something different, but I hadn’t really made the connection between the reputation and being allowed to borrow things from the treasury. It’s really cool that you play the game with your daughter!

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