I’d like to start this review off by saying, I found it difficult to accurately determine how I felt playing Conglomerate 451, developed and published by RuneHeads and 1C Entertainment respectively. Players are the Director of a unique agency – taking control of a cyberpunk squad of battle-clones to release the stranglehold that corporations have on Conglomerate City’s sector 451, one mission at a time.
Conglomerate 451 is a grid/turn based first-person tactical dungeon crawler, currently in early access. With elements similar to Darkest Dungeon or X-COM, there is a heavy reliance on RNG, and losses are assured. This is a title definitely not for the faint of heart.
Now, how one derives fun from a product tends to be highly subjective. Therefore ALL forms of review are opinionated, and should be taken with a grain of salt (this included). So let’s examine the product through the lens of more objective metrics such as; Graphical fidelity, story/characters, content/length, controls and gameplay, then finally, sound design and cinematics. I imagine that Conglomerate 451 may not hit the spot for the majority of gamers, but for those with a craving for oldschool turnbased RPGs, 451 may be exactly what you’re looking for.
For a small studio without a big publisher’s budget, 451 looks pretty damn good – easily comparable to many modern AAA titles. Textures and reflections look crisp and refined, shadows are clearly defined and lighting effects look fantastic. I found myself at times stopping simply to admire it’s cyberpunk visuals, even if I didn’t always know what I was looking at. Initially there were quite a few ugly pathing issues with enemy units, but these were patched within my time in Conglomerate.
One detail I feel must be noted; everything seems to have a wetlook, which in the cases of Androids and rainy environments looks natural, but other times feels slightly out of place. Things just look glossy, maybe it’s a stylistic choice. Regardless, 451 ran well on 8GB of ram, an I5-7300HQ, and 1050Ti 4GB. My PC did begin to run hot after a few hours, but there were no noticeable frame drops, or artifacts. In my experience 451 appears to be well optimized. Additionally, the Headquarters (where players spend time between missions to manage their squad and equipment) has some interesting backgrounds, and menus feel reactive, and look polished. My favorite visual aspect of Conglomerate 451 is oddly enough, the load screens. Some of the artwork for 451 is excellent, and makes the inner sci-fi nerd in me gitty with excitement – and that’s not just the Cyberpunk 2077 hype talking.
Characters & Story
As far as characters go, there’s not a whole lot to tell. You’re the Director, there’s your agents, and the funny, quippy AI named Ego that accompanies you on missions. Along with Caleb “Ice” Wenham – 451’s very own Rainbow Six Blackbeard! The story isn’t overly complicated, It’s 2099 and you’re tasked with forcefully removing corporate oversight from sector 451. Unique missions inject bits of simple world building but it’s nothing extensive.
It should be noted that the writing is… strange. From a minor misspelling (alfa-alpha) to odd phrasing, some of the dialogue and text just sounds, and reads weird. During the tutorial there’s a Kobayashi Maru reference, that only Star Trek fans would get and it may be just me, but it felt out of place. The drone that accompanies players on their missions, however, is very charismatic, with Star Wars references and other jokes in abundance.
Content & Length
Being self-described as a roguelike – Conglomerate 451 has the potential to be endlessly replayable, assuming players enjoy the gameplay loop. Two gameplay modes are currently available; Story and Endless. Similar in form, they differ in rules. In the Story mode players have a set amount of ingame weeks to dismantle corporate control from the sector, this mode also has unique missions and subplots. Endless mode has no limit, and continuously generates missions and content for the player to enjoy.
There are currently 3 difficulties, Easy, Normal, and Hard. Each offers varying experiences, from a relaxed playthrough to the possible development of masochistic tendencies. If players enjoy the gameplay loop 451 has to offer, they can play for years.
Controls & Gameplay
Moving on to controls; 451 handles fairly simply, once past the initial learning curve – that is. The majority of the interface can be interacted with through either mouse or keyboard. Though some options, such as hacking targets or skipping turns, are (to my understanding) only available by holding the right mouse button. Keys 1-4 are agent abilities in combat. As per usual, W, A, S, and D keys are movement, however players are tied to a grid. This is not an FPS. Pressing left shift gives players a handy little scan for nearby loot or interactives.
Where players spend their time between missions is their Headquarters, where they can do a few different things. Mainly spending their hard earned resources (from missions) to research, and upgrade their agents abilities and equipment in a variety of ways. This is where players clone new agents, choosing their class, abilities, and stat modifiers.
The core of Conglomerate 451 is it’s strategic, turn-based ‘dungeon’ crawling combat tied with it’s X-COM-esque squad mechanics. For those interested, it runs on the Unity engine. Players can bring no more than 3 agents to each engagement, therefore strategic harmony is not only helpful, but essential. Bringing the right agents with the right abilities can make or break a missions probability of success. Some abilities can recharge shields, heal, reduce the “pain” stat, raise defense, initiative, etc.. Offensive abilities can leave debuffs, and do different damage types such as radiation or electric. From piercing, to mark debuffs, there’s just too much to mention here.
Essentially, players pick a region (procedurally generated tileset) and choose a mission where they are tasked with a specific objective, such as killing a particular target, or finding an item. Most areas are broken up into sections separated by an elevator they must find, confronting or avoiding enemies along the way. There’s androids, drones, cyborgs with swords, pink cyberpunk masked crazy ladies and a whole lot more.
With that said it can feel very slow at times, It’d be nice to have an onscreen toggle to accelerate combat speed. It would also be convenient to be able to hover the mouse over a buff or debuff to see a quick description of it’s effects. There is also a hacking mechanic to access certain objects or items accompanied by different mini-games, there’s a bit of variety here but get a bit tedious after many hours. Additionally there’s red stat deductions that, as far as I’m aware are unexplained reducing damage output significantly. This may be a game mechanic which I am yet to understand, but if it is, it isn’t explained or elaborated on.
Sound Design & Cinematics
Despite the either, bad writing or (possible) faulty translation (RuneHead being an Italian studio), the voice work presented is quite well done at times, others are questionable at best. The drone Ego sounds convincing. Though partway through the tutorial there was a small cinematic with voice acting that was jolting from the immersion. However the sound effects are sharp, abilities sound clean. The music is noteworthy, and ranges from electronic club music to Killing Floor/DOOM sounding metal/thrash, and I must admit it is a good fit.
Ultimately, I found it difficult to articulate my thoughts on Conglomerate 451 because I love it’s setting and what it wants to do, but it felt slow, and for the time invested progression felt at times unrewarding. If X-COM’s missing a 99% chance aggravates you, this probably isn’t for you. But, if you’re looking to buckle down in a procedurally generated rogue-like, with RNG hit mechanics – this could be a very satisfyingly spent $22.79/£16.99 on steam. Maybe all the accumulated imperfections dragged it down, or maybe the genre just isn’t for me; Conglomerate 451 isn’t bad, but its not game of the year either.
What did you think of Conglomerate 451? Let us know in the comments and stick around ABG for all things gaming. If you enjoyed this content, why not check out our Death Stranding PlayStation 4 Review.
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A Strategic Players Playground
- Score: - 7.2/107.2/10
+ Visually Fantastic
+ Great Squad Customization
+ Strategic Possibility
– Hit and Miss Voice Acting
– Too Slow, Could Use 2x Time
– Needs Elaboration On Stat Effects