My buffer’s running kinda slim, so I’m gonna make this a second post instead of editing the first.
I have realized that the problem with Project Wingman’s Conquest Mode is that it cannot decide whether it wants to be an Arcade Mode or an actual Conquest Mode, and choices made to support one harm the other, so it ultimately succeeds at neither.
If this were a proper Arcade Mode, then you wouldn’t have to pick one of four starting maps and spread out from there, you wouldn’t have to start at alert level 0 and let it slowly build up to higher levels, your choice of mission type wouldn’t be constrained by which happened to spawn into the maps bordering your current territory, and you wouldn’t have to unlock new planes after repeated attempts. The map would just be a fancy level select screen, you’d pick whatever mission type, starting alert level, and plane you like, and you could have a mode that cycles you through every map in random order, starting you at alert level 0 and building up to alert level 30, with an achievement for reaching alert level 10, 20, and 30 in this mode. Since it’s not called “Conquest Mode” and doesn’t feature territory control as a major mechanic, nobody would reasonably expect getting through all 43 maps at once is supposed to be doable in semi-casual play like beating the campaign is.
On the other hand, if this were a proper Conquest Mode, then the lower alert levels would be stretched out considerably and the later ones compressed to make up for it, so that the current alert level 10 would instead be alert level 20, and then alert levels 21-29 would escalate rapidly to catch up. There’d be a difficulty option for perma-death, but it wouldn’t be the default. The rate at which alert level rises would be tied to the number of unconquered territories you currently border, so you’d be incentivized to conquer territories in such a way as to reduce the length of your frontline, instead of the current mode where it’s the opposite, you want to have as much messy bordergore as possible in order to maximize your options for which mission you want to play next. The baseline alert level rise for bordering just one territory would be only 1/4 what it is now (and there would still be a toggle for cutting even that in half), so that with good border management you will generally be facing 1/2 to 3/4 of the current alert level rate, making it easier to reach the end without maxing the alert level out. Enemies would respawn at the nearest edge of the map to the player, or better yet, the edge of the map corresponding to friendly Federation territory, with no respawns possible if you encircle a territory before attacking it.
There’d also be close air support missions where you have to take out enemy tanks and artillery with friendly units on the ground, fortress assault missions where you have to blow up a specific heavily guarded enemy facility, fleet sinking missions where you have to take out enemy naval fleets, and ideally a mission to take out landships since those are already in the campaign, but that’s not as important and I’m already nervous about this proposal, because it so clearly requires expanding the game, whereas I usually try to keep my feedback on this kind of thing limited to what could have been accomplished with the same amount of time, effort, and money as was spent on what we actually got (every game would be improved with an extra six months and $1,000,000 poured into it, pointing that out isn’t really criticism so much as daydreaming). I think the additional mission types really are necessary to the concept of Conquest Mode, though, and if there’s not enough time or money for them, go with Arcade Mode instead. Each territory would have a specific mission type associated with it, so the Bering Strait is always a fleet sinking mission and Yellowstone is always a fortress assault. There doesn’t have to be any plot or unique dialogue associated with these missions, and the amount of enemy fighters, airships, and ground defenses (AA and SAMs and such) can still be determined based on alert level.