Impressions: Conglomerate 451 – Dungon Crawling Without Feeling

Does replacing our limbs with cybernetic parts make us less human? This is a question cyberpunk games tend to ask us. Conglomerate 451 doesn’t ask us this though. Before playing Conglomerate 451, I was pretty excited; the first-person dungeon crawling with turn-based combat and a touch of roguelike elements sounds right up my alley. Yet, Conglomerate 451 leaves me feeling a bit disappointed. The premise is simple: you’re the director of a new agency with the goal of fighting crime to reduce the influence of major corporations. These missions involve killing criminals, recovering contraband or other kinda basic tasks. Each mission begins with you arriving somewhere near your target location and exploring the streets until you find an elevator that will take you to the target area. These areas vary based on your chosen mission location.

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Grimy alleys are a common sight in Conglomerate 451.

While I was really enjoying the heavy industrialist feeling of Conglomerate 451‘s world design, it started to get a little boring when each mission’s key area was almost exactly the same. Apartment blocks found in the game always start with two rooms to your left and sometimes there’s a bridge across the gap which leads to a few more rooms. The sewers are just a series of four-way junctions that you’ll wander around endlessly until you finally stumble upon your objective. Exploration is limited to grid-based movement. The problem is that despite each map being procedurally generated, they all just end up being a series of tight corridors. So when you spot enemies, the odds of being able to try and find an ideal position to get an early advantage on them is pretty slim. Most of the time I just found myself having to charge headfirst at them.

This leads us to combat, which honestly is not great. When it comes to turn-based combat, you want it to challenge you and make you consider every move, but Conglomerate 451 doesn’t give me that feeling. The game sticks to its first-person view but combat triggers when you are within a single step of an enemy group. The problem is on a few occasions these fights would be triggered at an awkward angle. As combat initiates I would just have to watch the enemies shuffle into my view or on my turn I’d have to move around to reposition myself instead. It just felt a little clunky – I feel like it would be way better if Conglomerate 451 just automatically centered its view on the enemies and dropped the movement elements from combat.

That guy with the big hammer sure looks friendly.

As for the combat, I just found that spamming attacks with stunning effects were the best way to survive a fight; stun an enemy, and they don’t do anything on its next turn. Just repeat that as much as possible and eventually, the fight will end with victory. A lot of moves advertise specific benefits and buffs, but most of them felt fairly pointless. Mark an enemy and they supposedly take more damage, yet the numbers barely seemed to change when I used this combination. Targeting specific limbs has a chance to inflict statistic reductions like reducing damage or critical chance, but the actual percentages are so low that it feels pointless actual pay attention to whatever limb you’re targeting. There are damaging status effects too, such as radiation, but even then it looked like they barely made a dent in an afflicted enemy’s health or shield bar. For a turn-based combat game, I just didn’t feel like the game encouraged me to use specific strategies to dispatch my enemies.

As for your party, it’s a cyberpunk crime-fighting team composed of generic clones you can freely create at the cost of mixture resources. When you create a new clone, you first choose their background, which is basically their class. This affects the base stats and what abilities they use in combat. You can choose up to four abilities and then insert a specific DNA which provides another stat boost such as increasing their base damage or defense. The problem is that there’s almost no customization with them just yet. Each background has a specific character model attached to it, and when it comes to their equipment you can upgrade their weapons or install additional upgrades acquired during missions. These upgrades are just tedious though. Each clone has plenty of different statistics but said upgrades are usually just “increase X by 2 percent” or some similar that just feels really minimal. It doesn’t help that your clones seem limited purely to their four abilities you choose when creating them. They can unlock improved versions of said abilities but it feels like they just won’t evolve or change that much as they gain more experience. The lack of customization or any feeling of progression is the main reason I struggled to care for any of my clones in the end. When I lost an entire team of experienced agents during a routine mission it didn’t really bother me like, say, losing a good squad in XCOM would.

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Time to make some clones!

Outside of missions, you’ve got your base of operations where you can spend your acquired currencies as you wish, such as cloning new agents or funding various kinds of research such as military or health tech. Injured clones don’t heal automatically so you have to place them into healing tanks to fix them up. There’s plenty of other little aspects of micro-management elements like sending clones on automatic missions for additional rewards aside from your normal operations. In the end, I just find myself feeling bored with Conglomerate 451. The idea behind it sounds great, but the combat is missing any character or excitement. The lack of freedom with the clones makes me struggle to connect with or even really care about them and the mission structure is pretty basic. Then again it is an Early Access game, so perhaps I’m being too harsh on it. In its current form though, Conglomerate 451 fails to impress.

Luke reviewed Conglomerate 451 with a copy provided by PR. You can purchase it on Steam.

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