songs of conquest interview key art

Songs of Conquest interview – a personal spin on classic strategy

Songs of Conquest is a 2022 turn-based strategy game, at the moment still in early access, in development by Gothenburg studio Lavapotion, published by Coffee Stain Publishing. It offers to the players an interesting mix of classic turn-based action and exploration, with some unique touches like songs written specifically for the game.

The game came out in early access on Steam in early 2022 and it has been racking up positive comments all around, both from players and the press. The inspirations seem to clearly be the early 90s turn-based games, but we were curious to ask the developers what else they were hoping to bring to the table.

For the Songs of Conquest interview, answering Voxel Smash’s questions will be Magnus Alm, Lavapotion’s CEO, and Carl Toftfelt, the game’s main designer. We thank both of them for their time.

Voxel Smash: How did the idea to develop a game such as Songs of Conquest come about?

Magnus: I always wanted to create a game in the spirit of the old Heroes of Might and Magic games. I loved them as a youngster (still do in fact, even though I rarely play them these days!). Fortunately, I found a bunch of old friends/co-workers that had the same dream and we decided to give it a go together!

How long had the game been in development before hitting Early Access on Steam?

Carl: About five years, but somehow feels like a shorter time. Guess time flies when you work on something you love!

Were you happy with the overall feedback from the Early Access version? What do you feel were the most important points/critiques you’re taking into account?

Carl: I sure was, lots of stuff that was expected and lots that wasn’t. We went into early access to find out what we should focus on with our final push of the game. And the demand for both multiplayer focus, more campaigns and a random map generator threw us a bit off guard. We thought other things like an easy-to-use map editor, more skirmish maps and other features would be the main focus of the players so in hindsight it sure feels like the right call to go into early access. Not that we won’t get into doing those other things as well, but it’s nice to see what’s most in demand.

The press has compared Songs of Conquest with several classic games, what do you feel your game is bringing to the table that can make a player decide to go and play your game, rather than just have a go at classics like Heroes of Might & Magic or Age of Wonders?

Carl: Quite a bit. We’re an adventure strategy game just like Homm and AoW but we bring our own formula to the table. Like our magic system, base building and our own world.

By playing the game, it definitely felt to me you’re very interested in giving the player a distinct feel of the world, with atmosphere and story being particularly deep. What do you hope to achieve and give to the player, in that regard?

Carl: We’ve always enjoyed creating a new world for players to discover and explore and the campaign and most of the elements within the game aims to give clues and stories about the bigger world. There are many more things we want to tell about the story of the world, what has happened and what the future could bring.

Music is also a big part of the world of Songs of Conquest of course, this is I feel quite a unique point in the game as opposed to HoMM and Age of Wonders. Can you tell me more about this?

Carl: We always wanted to make music a big part of the game. For us the bards and the storytellers is such a wonderful puzzle-piece in a fantasy story and we were always looking for a way to get that into the game. And now the focus of course is how we tell the stories of the campaigns. We have some ideas of how to further develop and infuse our game with more music but our to-do list is quite long so we’ll see how much more we have time to get in there.

What were your inspirations for the story and plot, outside of the gaming world? Do you plan on also tackling modern issues, like racism or sexism?

Carl: The story and plot were created as we were creating the factions we wanted in the game. And as the factions evolved into what they are now the stories also changed into the current campaign. There are many more stories we want to tell and are now planning to expand the campaign with two more “songs”. So we end up with one song for every faction, it feels very right for us so we’re happy that the players so vocally asked for it.
The idea of the campaign is to tell the story of how the factions came to be and how they came to be at odds with each other.

The issue of racism and sexism is, of course, something that we’re aware of but we’re way more interested in how those issues play out in our fantasy world, rather than trying to portray our modern world. There’s a lot of racism and stereotypes between the cultures of our game and that’s one of the many reasons why the conflicts arise as they do.

Also, I’m curious, is there anything particularly Swedish or European that you feel you’re adding to the game?

Carl: Well, many different European cultures and myths have inspired bits and pieces here and there. But nothing more than that really. There’s no hidden Swedish Fika anywhere in the game.
Magnus: I’d say that to perhaps a certain extent we adhere to a Scandinavian design principle of “less is more” and that we don’t often take things totally over the top, regardless of it is storytelling, UI-design or visual effects. But, that’s just my personal reflection and I’m not sure if it reflects the game well or if it is just my view on it…

What are the next evolution and milestones in bringing the game close to a 1.0 version?
Carl: Many things. Upping the AI, adding more campaigns, adding the final features to our factions, random map generator, better map editor and so on. So much!

Finally, since we’ve been talking about classic titles a lot, are there any modern games that you’re enjoying and feel like were an inspiration for your work?
Carl: Absolutely! Dominions, Battle Brothers, and Total War to name a few.