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Three Moves Ahead Episode 158 – Conquest of Elysium 3

March 1st, 2012 by Troy Goodfellow · 42 Comments · Indie Games, Podcast, Three Moves Ahead


Rob Zacny gets a well earned week off and lets the old people run the show as Troy welcomes Bruce Geryk and Tom Chick to talk about Illwinter’s new game Conquest of Elysium 3. It’s a strategy game, it’s a roguelike, it’s an adventure. Tom talks about how the developers can make the game more engaging, Troy is the only person who thinks it’s pretty ugly and Bruce demonstrates that only he has an ear for music.

But everyone agrees that they really like Conquest of Elysium 3.

Listen here.

Mattias Westlund
Tom’s review
Tom’s game diary series on CoE3

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42 Comments so far ↓

  • Darren

    Great podcast guys. I bought Dominions in its day because of Bruce’s manual. Still the best manual ever written for any game in my opinion.

    I like CoE3 to a degree but I wish the map included impassable terrain such as high mountains. The maps are too random. Some choke-points would be great. I also have difficulty seeing items on the map. I would prefer a more muted base with armies and features that stand out.

  • Procyon Lotor

    re: Bruce’s complaint about the Crusader Kings map.

    AGREED! Though my complaint is less about the aesthetics of the map, and more about the needless hardware hoggishness of such graphics.

    Dominions 3 map FTW!

  • Ben

    I’d like to know what game Bruce was talking about when he said he liked a space roguelike game.

  • Quinten

    I really enjoyed this episode because it was just like the good old days. All you were missing was Julian talking about how terrible he was with the game.

    Maybe you should let Rob take off the next 42 episodes as well…

  • Rob C

    Quinten, that was a really classy statement. Are you that rude in ‘real life’ or just when you post on the internet? You ruined your initial nice sentiment. Just because you can post your opinion doesn’t mean you always should.

  • Troy Goodfellow

    That’s pretty mean, Quinten. Rob has done nothing but amazing work with the show since taking first chair and I am proud to call him my partner in this endeavor. We all like it when Tom and Bruce have a chance to play off each other, and I would love more Tom in general. But that has nothing to do with Rob’s job on the show, which in my opinion has been fulfilled beyond my expectations when I asked him to take hosting duties.

  • Nikolaj

    Don’t listen to the nay-sayer, Rob. You’re doing a great job with the podcast. In my opinion, it’s the best games podcast on the web, and of the very few I bother listening to.

    That said, I enjoy listening to some of the old crew, as much as the next guy, and I wish those guys were on the show more often, but I’d have liked to hear your views on COE3, as well.

    Now, I always listen to these things, while doing something else, so I don’t always catch all of what is said. Did anyone complain about the lack of creature descriptions? Because if anything is missing from this game, that’s it, in my opinion.

    Also, while many of the creatures, spells, and possibly items, have clearly been taken from Dominions 3 (right down to the graphics), I have a distinct impression that this isn’t the Dominions world, but rather a different, albeit somewhat similar world, with it’s own history and so on.

    One of the things that makes me think of a roguelike, when I play the game, is how I can almost piece together an actual story in my head, while I play it, even though there’s hardly any text in the game. I keep getting throwbacks to old trash fantasy novels I read when I was a kid (The Trolltooth Wars!). I don’t mean that in a bad way. Rather, I think that where a lot of games feature derivative, and frankly boring, fantasy worlds, Illwinter just nails it, time after time. I guess that’s because they’re so good at incorporating actual myths, as well as real world history into their games. I just wish they’d have put a bit more text in this one, to flesh it out a tad more.

  • krise madsen

    Why I’ll be…

    Tom Chick actually made a gorram Firefly reference. I may actually start liking him a little.

  • MikeO

    I wish Tom were on more often if only to hear his Zacny impression more frequently. I’m with most everyone else that Rob does a really great job with the show, and he is missed when absent. I’m sure he appreciated the week off, though.

    I’ve been meaning to buy Elysium, so I’ll probably get it this weekend. I too love Illwinter’s art style — ‘retro’ or whatever you want to call it, I just think it has personality, as opposed to the sort of high quality generic look that so many games have nowadays.

    Biggest laugh was at Chick’s reaction when Bruce finished his story on what the CoE3 music sounds like. (and yes, the Dom3 soundtrack is amazing)

  • Tom Chick

    Wait, I made a Firefly reference? If so, I’m pretty sure it was entirely by accident.

    Nikolaj, I like your point about wanting creature descriptions, but I think you’ve hit on exactly what Illwinter is good at. Any other developer would probably write up a brief bit of text for each creature, and I’d probably ignore it. But what Illwinter does is couch those descriptions in stats and little clusters of pixels with personality.

    That is to say, I have all the description I need by looking at the artwork and checking the creature’s icons, spells, attacks, attributes, and so forth. The guys at Illwinter knows how to express themselves in the context of rules and gameplay mechanics.

  • Bruce

    Hey don’t bag on Rob, he does a great job. I see him as a Jim Lehrer type, whereas Troy is more of a David Brinkley. Either way we’re in great hands with our hosts. I like having Tom on, too, even though he’s wrong about everything.

  • Troy Goodfellow

    David Brinkley? WTF? Why am I the dead one?

  • Bruce

    You’re David Brinkley in a world where he is always alive, and kind of chuckling.

  • Nikolaj

    By the way, I think you guys are wrong about the longdead equipment. Longdead Triarius is actually a specific creature type, and you don’t normally get it when raising dead. You can get it from the Summon Legion ritual, though.

    Just saying. :)

  • KVolk

    I love this podcast because it has great hosts and a varied cast of panelists. I enjoyed the old group being on to riff about a game but will enjoy next week when Rob brings a equally great group on to discuss something else. The variety and breadth of knowledge and opinion shared here is the reason the podcast keeps me listening each week. Thanks for what you guys do and keep it coming.

  • ShadowTiger

    I always wondered why more companies didn’t re-use their engine to make a different game, and this looks like a great example of that.

    Too bad I am not interested in the game, tactical battles are the main appeal for me in a TBS game. I am having a blast playing through MOO2 again, though its for “research” purposes, I swear.

  • Manresa

    Two questions & a comment:

    How long does this take to play, and how easy is it to get into? My gaming time is limited & there are tons of games in my backlog, so I need to be drawn into a game immediately.

    I’m with Troy on the graphics: they’re terrible (at least in the screenshots I’ve seen). It’s possible to make elegant, modern designs without photorealism. Think R.U.S.E. when it’s zoomed out. Designers of strategy games need to take cues from information design and cartography, not first person shooters and Pixar.

  • kgsan

    I was pleasently shocked to hear that the great old SSG game Warlords lives on as an iOS App. I’ve been considering finally getting an iPad after the iPad3 is released and this may push me over the edge. Warlords certainly brings back fond old gaming memories and would help pass a long commute. Thanks for the (belated) news guys.

  • Peter S (Mind Elemental)

    Very good discussion this week.

    * Completely agreed that the focus of this game is exploration; I personally enjoy the early game a lot more than the late game. I think additional, exploration-focused victory conditions would really play to the game’s strengths; I suggested these to Johan, so let’s see.

    * Variety – some factions are far, far more distinct than others. For example, the Warlock and the Senator look different at first glance — one guy harvests gems and summons elementals, while the other relies on waves and waves of legionaries — but they both boil down to ‘dudes who have to grab towns/mines in order to raise big, conventional armies’. The Troll King feels completely different — you have a handful of elite units, gold and iron are much less of a concern, and the forests are your friends. He almost feels like a supernatural guerrilla leader; pair him with a mage for scrying, and he can wipe out isolated garrisons before disappearing into a friendly forest. The Dwarf Queen not only has an unusual unit recruitment mechanic, but also very thematically emphasises securing mines.

    * I think the music in COE3 is pretty comparable to the Falsobordone/Dram music in Dominions. The three games’ soundtracks are all simple, but beautiful. Best of all, Mattias Westlund lets you legally download his music!

    * Strongly disagree with Bruce about the CK2 aesthetic — that’s my favourite Paradox map by far. Tastes are a funny thing! ;)

  • The Sunday Papers | Rock, Paper, Shotgun

    […] The Three Moves Ahead podcast talks to the creator of Conquest Of Elysium 3. […]

  • Rob C

    This is for any Conquest of Elysium and Dominion player out there,
    As a purely single-player experience, would you recommend Dominions 3 or Conquest of Elysium 3? I know CoE3 plays much faster and therefore easier to get a game in, but assuming a player had the time for either which one would you recommend? Is one more fun and challenging then the other?


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  • Peter S

    @ Rob C – it really is an apples and oranges thing. Do you want a lengthy game about elaborately planning three dozen moves ahead (ahem), or a quick-playing hybrid between RTS skirmish mode and an exploration simulator? Dom 3 is the former, COE3 is the latter.

    For SP, note that Dom 3 has a weak AI, but this nets out against its steep learning curve. While you can annihilate the AI once you deploy the best unit/spell combinations, you won’t be doing that off the bat — even if you look these up on forums, you’ll still need to learn how to implement that advice.

  • Bruce

    Rob, if you’re talking about time spent and value for this time, I don’t really think anyone who plays turn-based strategy games can miss Dominions 3. If you have the time to put into it, I think it has an incredibly rewarding single-player experience. It’s a different experience from CoE3, because there is far more to learn and assimilate, but the process of doing this is part of the joy of that game. The knock on the single-player game is that the AI cannot adequately deal with all the game’s subtleties, but you can compensate for this a lot by turning up the “difficulty”. By the time you’ve gotten through multiple nations and understand why you’re beating the AI on hard difficulty, you’ve gotten hundreds of hours out of the game.

    CoE3 is a challenge for a different reason, and while it certainly doesn’t have “better AI” than Dominions 3, the nature of rogue-likes is that they present a pretty consistent challenge. While that means that this challenge may persist longer in single player, you’re likely to understand the issues far more quickly, and the difficulty will then be the rogue-like randomness.

    My very personal and humble opinion is that if you’re just asking for “a single-player turn-based strategy game experience” and you’re already ok with all the known Illwinter limitations (certain graphics style, nonstandard UI) you can’t possibly go wrong with Dominions 3. It’s such a deep and rewarding world that just the process of exploring it basically defines turn-based gaming.

  • Rob C

    Thank you Peter and Bruce. Since Dominions 3 has a demo and Bruce’s recommendation is a pretty strong one I figured I would start with that. Looks like the demo comes with a tutorial doc, but not the full manual. Should this be enough to get a decent feel for what the full game will play like, or do you really need the full manual to get a good understanding of the game? I know Dominions has a reputation of being a difficult game to get into.

    Thanks again

  • Bruce

    Rob, the demo will give you a good idea of what the game is like, and will give you a sense of what the issues are and how the game flows. Obviously, it isn’t the full game, but if you’re enjoying the demo, you will certainly enjoy Dominions 3.

    The demo tutorial is the same one that is in the manual. It was written with that in mind.

  • Bruce

    The only thing I can think of is that it won’t give you quantitative info on things like bless effects, scales, etc. and because it is turn-limited (I think) you won’t get to see stuff like high-level summons, endgame spells, etc. But I don’t think those make or break one’s appreciation for the game style. Knowing there is more is often all players need to know once they play the demo to buy the full game.

  • Rob C

    Thanks again Bruce for your help and time. I will take the tutorial for a spin.

  • Bruce

    Rob, I’d be very interested in your thoughts, both positive and negative, once you’ve tried the demo.

  • MikeO

    I forgot to mention earlier that I have read a lot of impressions or reviews of CoE3, and even the people who didn’t care for it mentioned the music favorably. I have played the game (a little) now, and I do like the music. So I think Bruce was on to something to mention it, even if he didn’t necessarily like it as much as the Dom3 music. Not sure I see the Crimson Tide connection, though.

  • Rob C

    Bruce, I went throught the tutorial and I guess at this point I would say I am cautiously interested. I will finish out the tutorial game and then probably try a new one from scratch. I wish they included the full manual with the game. I need to spend some time investigating all the different attributes and such. The interface requires a lot of clicking around, but I do feel that once the player spends some time with it getting to the desired info isn’t too inefficient. I’m not much of a hotkey guy because after playing so many games it is too hard to keep them all straight. The only big complaint I have on the visual aspect is that the units are so small it is hard to see the difference between similar units (javelin vs barechested warrior).

    I do need to put it on the back burner for a bit as I just got a review copy of a game I want to spend some time with. Thanks again for your help and I will revisit Dominions in the near future.

  • Maerlande

    Dominions 3 does provide a pretty substantial single player experience. But it is amazingly poor compared to the multiplayer experience. However it’s not a game that is for the faint hearted in multiplayer. Still, it’s possible to find like minded new players for a casual game and just enjoy it. Just don’t play with the veterans. They tend to eat new players for lunch.

    COE3 looks allright but I strongly find that Illwinter needs some UI updates.

  • Sam

    Totally agree with Bruce about the music for this game. It’s great.

  • Procyon Lotor

    After the podcast I downloaded the Dominions 3 demo and played around with it. I’m now hooked, bought the full game, and am trying to get into a multiplayer game.

    (sigh) So much for the 1,000 home improvement tasks that my wife has lined up for me.

  • Bruce

    Coincidentally, one of my best friends told me he was planning to re-install Dominions 3 and play around with it again, after years away. And I just started my first m/p game in three years. It’s a Dom3 renaissance!

  • Bruce

    Btw Mr. Lotor, please let us know your impressions of the full game.

  • Rob C

    Bruce (and anyone else interested), I finally spent enough time with Conquest of Elysium 3 to have some thoughts on it. I started pulling out my opinions from my review to post here, but it got too long. Troy was kind enough to let me post a link here: http://oneguytoomanygames.blogspot.com/2012/03/conquest-of-elysium-3-review.html.

    Bruce, I saw your comment about a CoE3 review on another site that you felt didn’t treat the game fairly. I would be very interested to hear if you think my treatment of it was fair, even if you don’t agree with my criticisms. Of course the invitation is open to anyone interested. Thanks again to Flash of Steel and Three Moves Ahead for providing interesting coverage of games with a quality of writing / discussion I will never achieve, even if I write 1000 articles.

  • Joe

    In Dom3 terms, CoE3 is similar except magic research is limited to levels 1, 3 and 7, your income is 95% lower, there’s no PD option so any unprotected provinces can be conquered by scouts or the “random attack” event which occurs at 15% of your provinces each turn. I enjoyed CoE3 for the first 10-15 hours, when I was discovering all the units and what they can do, but now it’s just a recipe for frustration. You can either slow your expansion to a crawl or spend all your time re-conquering towns after you lose control due to an animal meandering through. Dom3 single player is much better.

  • Sweeds / The Thing

    Just a minor thing. The people in the original and the new The Thing movies are (supposed to be) Norwegian.