Conclave is as close to the tabletop experience as it’s possible to get through an in-browser game. Whilst other games such as ‘Card Hunter’ have distilled the typical gamer’s experience, Conclave has managed to effectively produce a tabletop game that multiple players can enjoy through a tablet, mobile phone or desktop computer.
Conclave is the creation of 10×10 Room and is completely free to play, though it does hold one of the best systems for in-game purchasing of a product that I’ve ever seen. The basic game is completely free, but you can purchase additional campaign bundles that get added to the game as one-off payments. As long as one member of your four man party has paid for these additional missions the whole group can enjoy them together free of charge. It’s a fantastic system that actually encouraged us all to pay-out simply to support the game developers. Conclave is very much a game designed by gamers for gamers in this regard.
Graphically the game uses some very nice illustration work to show off characters and monsters, with text and menu-driven decision making and large areas to explore through combat that feature semi-photographic texture work. Everything is 2D and elicits the feel of a board-game in action at all times. Characters in battle are represented by tokens bearing the player’s name and face, and monsters similarly so in a ‘Terra Battle’ style that manages to pre-date the mobile game by some time. There’s also a nice clean world-map that’s easy to navigate, but most choices are made and events are depicted through text, allowing for multiple layers of immersion. There’s little that the game does wrong on a graphical front, although adding some splashy combat effects with dynamic lighting would bring everything up to a whole new level. As it is there’s a red flash and a splatter illustration for most damage dealing.
Sound is sharp and crisp, ringing through the speakers of any device nicely but it is overly simple and there is a limited selection of effects between a wide range of moves. It’s not going to stretch even the simplest device playing them, but at the same time it does nothing to stand out. Musically there are some very nice tracks that have been composed for the public sector free of use and are implemented well. Like illustrations used the 10×10 Room team have dipped heavily into the public forum for assets and although they weren’t custom made for the game many feel at home here as the experience has evidently been crafted around what they had to better draw things together.
The story of Conclave is heavily influenced by the concept of pen and paper roleplaying, with the choices placed as firmly into the hands of the player or player party as possible. 10×10 Room have crafted campaigns in this manner that make the most out of creative play, and although they are scripted to an extent there’s great diversity of choice and the game is largely only linear by letting you know what you can and can’t handle combat-wise as a group. The story always starts at a local tavern and you’ll always have to do a couple of small, simple battles at the offset but otherwise the choice is in your hands.
Gameplay is a highlight. You are splitting your time between text-based adventure style choice making, which offers all decisions up to the party as a whole and takes the majority vote (sometimes offering additional choices based on player level, stats or race) and tactical combat. The combat itself isn’t particularly different to other Tactical RPGs but it does offer a depth of options based on your class and character build, a system which gives an immense amount of depth to an otherwise simple experience. Some of these battles do feel immensely unfair unless you have the full party of 4 players, but you can draft strangers if you don’t want to email friends invites. The real center of the games experience is the turn based nature of the experience. You take your turn, make a choice, move or attack and then wait for the other members of your party to do the same. Logging back in allows you to watch through with the others have since done or speed through it, then make an informed choice on your next set of actions. Staying offline between turns for too long will result in the game making a move for you in order to allow others to continue to play. This is a good feature that is well implemented as the AI choices are safe for you and usually helpful to others. There is also a built-in chat feature that allows for note-passing on what your planning to do or which enemy to close in on as a team. Other features include equipping items, development of your character from a HUGE stack of skills and perks as well as reading up on the world they’ve crafted. It’s a surprisingly well developed experience and changing out equipment can significantly alter how a character plays.
Overall Conclave is a very well crafted experience that has recently completed a Kickstarter to expand its ambitions further. If you want to give it a try there’s literally nothing to stop you due to the free-to-play nature of the game and the versatility of devices to play it on communally. Personally I found that logging on and off quickly between work in the morning, lunch and before leaving works very well but others play together locally to further the experience. There’s little wrong with this game and it’s set to expand.