Conflicks: Revolutionary Space Battles tells the story of an alternate
history unlike you've ever heard before: in the year 1519, a month before his death, Leonardo Da Vinci managed to decrypt an ancient alchemists' secret and succeeded to transmute egg yolk into Metamatter - a marvellous substance allowing us to increase intellectual capacities and influence the space-time continuum. With the power of Metamatter unleashed, war broke out and hen houses spread to every corner of Earth until the planet became too small. As the empires of Earth moved up into space to establish even more hen houses on new planets, war followed. In Conflicks - Revolutionary Space Battles, he who owns the most chickens controls Metamatter and owns the galaxy.
This wacky story combined with the unique artwork instantly grabbed our attention and left us wanting more - we especially wanted to find out whether this game is just completely mad or brilliantly insane.
In the tutorial you learn your way around the game with the help of an owl named Unlocky Locke, whose skull contains most of the brain of great philosopher John Locke (yes, really). As this peculiar creature teaches you the basic controls of the game, it quickly becomes clear where the name Conflicks comes from. Instead of using standard controls, you use your mouse to 'flick' your commands. From flying your fleet to creating new ships, almost everything is done with an elastic band-like flick. Similar to a game of pool, you can also flick your ship in to targets to bump them. For example, you can bump enemies, making them crash into planets or bounce torpedo's off of asteroids for a trick shot. Since every move you make costs Metamatter, this feature allows players to think of the most strategic (and therefore cheapest) ways to hit as many enemies as they can but with as few moves as possible. We couldn't help but feel a bit proud when successfully bumping several enemies into oblivion with just one trick shot.
However, whilst easy to learn, the flicking can be difficult to master. It can become outright annoying when yet another one of your ships misses the target and you have to wait for the cooldown to reset until you can move it again. Because you lose Metamatter with every move you make, it can be even more frustrating when you've wasted valuable resources on a bad move, or worse, wasted it on accidentally shooting a torpedo at your own fleet. All the flicking, along with the angry birds (some chickens don't take their slavery very well!), is reminding us of, well, Angry Birds. At that moment of realisation, it made us wonder if Conflicks might have been better off as a mobile game.
After the tutorial, it's time to get serious - or at least as serious as Conflicks: Revolutionary Space Battles gets. There are four different factions: the British, the French, the Middle East and the Chk'Rathii (chickens of human size and intelligence due to an overdose of metamatter). In the single player campaign, you follow the stories from different characters all narrated by Olympia, the Chk'Rathii leader, who ultimately wants to achieve a Galactic Republic where humans and Chk'Rathii live together in harmony. Each character you take control of belongs to a different empire, complete with the unique powers their fleet has.
Despite the unique storyline drenched in humour, we did find ourselves losing interest over time. Since every storyline ultimately boils down to the classic real-time strategy formula where you create and move units across the map, conquering and destroying enemies, one might wonder if a real-time strategy game was the best option to weave this much narrative into.
Because creating ships, using abilities and even just moving (or rather, flicking) around costs Metamatter, it's important to keep supplies up. With your Henship you can populate planets with your poultry, providing you with precious yolks. As stated before: he who owns the most chickens controls Metamatter and owns the galaxy, so your enemies will try to conquer your poultry-filled planets. However, the flicking can become a problem in battle; whilst you are trying to carefully aim a torpedo at your enemy, your enemy has you under constant fire, burning away your hit points, or bumping your ships around like cue balls.
Conflicks: Revolutionary Space Battles also has a multiplayer mode available. In multiplayer, you and no less than three opponents battle for victory by destroying each other's ships and capturing each other's planets. Destroying your opponent's flagship will gain you the most points, and whoever gets to one thousand Victory Points is declared the winner. Unfortunately there were no opponents available to play with, this could be due to the fact Conflicks - Revolutionary Space Battles is a relatively new game and hasn't gained enough popularity (yet). There is however the possibility to play against the AI, but unfortunately that option lacks a real challenge.
Whilst playing Conflicks: Revolutionary Space Battles and unlocking Steam achievements, you'll accumulate special powers to upgrade your ship. Since it seems impossible, at least for now, to play in competitive multiplayer mode, a lot of these achievements and their rewards will unfortunately be unattainable.
Conflicks: Revolutionary Space Battles definitely deserves praise for somehow making the combination of European Renaissance and human-sized chickens in a steam-punk space setting work. The absurd futuristic world with elements from the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries is wonderfully visualised in the awesome artwork. Besides the goofy storyline and unique artwork, the good voice acting is something worth pointing out too.
The gameplay itself will be hit or miss - some players might enjoy the flicking and the possibility of bumping enemies into black holes rather than firing the traditional torpedo, whilst others might be put off by it. Due to the dips in the narrative, Conflicks: Revolutionary Space Battles doesn't have a very high replay value, however it is a fun experience to go through it at least once. If the multiplayer mode ever becomes more popular, this game could perhaps be enjoyed a lot more.