Conglomerate 451 takes intriguing cyberpunk themes and mashes them together into a repetitive and unrewarding gameplay experience, reserved to the most hardcore of players.
Conglomerate 451 takes the undeniably cool themes of Cyberpunk and combines them with dungeon crawling and turn-based style Might & Magic or The Bard’s Tale series.
Unfortunately, the result is unbalanced, and either discourages you from taking any risks or becomes repetitive quickly.
A City to Burn
In Conglomerate 451, you take on the role of the head of an agency assigned to bringing down evil megacorporations. Using illegal technology, you lead covert operations to sabotage the corrupt corporations and take back the city.
Every in-game week, you pick a team of agents and send them to complete one of the available missions. You can choose between starting at the streets to gather intel and resources, or infiltrate the facility right away.
When starting in the streets, you can find Narks, strengthening narcotics, that you can purchase. You can also hack into terminals to gather intel. This intel triggers an effect on the next area, such as revealing the entire map in advance. The bonus usually comes at the price of more powerful enemies or a combat disadvantage in the following level.
But after spending a long few hours playing on normal difficulty, I realized that the risk was seldom worth the reward. I could not afford to risk the combat disadvantage or the threat of intoxication from using the narcotics. In Conglomerate 451, when your team dies on a mission, they don’t come back. Luckily, you can clone new ones.
Attack of the Clones
In the dark future of Conglomerate 451, it’s cheapest to clone new agents, if your old ones die. Even if they survive, wounded agents will often suffer trauma such as broken bones and damaged organs. If you don’t treat them fast enough using your limited healing tanks, the injury can become permanent, and the agents will suffer permanent debuffs.
While playing on normal difficulty, my returning agents often suffered many different types of trauma. I often resorted to doing the inhumane thing and cloning new agents every time one of my old ones suffered permanent injury.
When your agents manage to make it back in one piece, Conglomerate 451 gives you tools to improve them and prolong their usefulness. You can enhance weapons, install SPUs, and teach skills to make your agents stronger. You can even replace their limbs with cybernetic ones. It’s okay – they’re just clones.
You can earn these upgrades by spending two currencies: Tech and Credits, which you earn by completing missions. You can also research new technologies that unlock additional upgrade levels for your gear. But when it comes down to it, the enhancements aren’t enough to prepare you for the worst. After losing too many agents that I trained and upgraded, I ultimately decided to play the game on easy.
Killed in Action
The difficulty of keeping your clones alive stems from the limited ways you can use them in combat.
In Conglomerate 451, you fight enemy mobs in turn-based combat. At their turn, your three deployed agents can use one of four actions, much like Pokemon. Unlike Pokemon, though, your agents don’t gain new and more powerful attacks. You can upgrade your attacks and switch them around, but they never significantly improve. Battles can become quite repetitive as long as you can keep your team in one piece.
In both of my playthroughs, I managed to form a team that had good synergy. The game provides players with many different systems to create this synergy, but there are some situations that you can’t prepare for in advance.
Conglomerate 451 procedurally generates its maps, and because of that, the game occasionally places two mobs of enemies right next to each other. These situations are near impossible to deal with since the enemies can quickly gang up on you with debuffs and abilities that stun your characters. Whenever I arrived at a point in the map where there was more than one group of enemies, I knew it was “game over.”
Neon Glazed and Crazed
Conglomerate 451 has detailed environments that are a blast to infiltrate. From apartment complexes to streets, docks, or office buildings, the game conveys a dark, dangerous, and unjust future.
But while the world is detailed and intriguing, its residents are not. Each of the cloned characters is very visibly cross-eyed, which takes away a lot of the game’s serious atmosphere. The enemies usually don’t have the same problem, but their animations are not very impressive and get repetitive early on.
Whenever you enter combat, Conglomerate 451’s rock music steps in to set the mood. It’s not particularly catchy, and I preferred the original music tracks that were nothing more than placeholders during Early Access. Some of the sound effects for taking hits can be very irritating, but luckily, you can switch them off.
Conglomerate 451 mixes in many different systems to make it brutally challenging and creates a balance of risk and reward. However, these systems work against each other and discourage you from actively engaging with them. The result is, unfortunately, a repetitive and unrewarding experience that lacks a sense of achievement or progress.
Whether playing on normal difficulty or on easy, nothing felt exactly right. Either I’d invest in a team of agents only to be devastated by a random spawn of two adjacent mobs, or I’d play it safe and breeze through the maps without ever interacting with anything that gives that game its flavor.
Publisher: 1C Entertainment
Release Date: Feb. 20, 2020
Genre: Role-Playing Game
Available On: PC
Reviewed On: PC
Our Conglomerate 451 review copy was supplied by the publisher.Some of our posts include links to online retail stores. We get a small cut if you buy something through one of our links. Don't worry, it doesn't cost you anything extra.