Conan Exiles is a survival game through and through, and has very little to do with Conan himself. Apart from Conan being the character that saves you at the start of the game, there really isn’t much else happening with his character. It did prompt a response from me on why exactly they decided to use the name “Conan”, which I will put that down to maybe having a more familiar name to help sell the game. Conan Exiles has been in early access since 2017, however the release to PS4 marks to games exit from early access.
The game starts with players creating their own character, either male or female, going through various standard options such as hair, voice, build, religion etc. After this we meet Conan; the players character has been crucified and left to die in the Exiled Lands. It is here that Conan cuts us down and we begin our journey to understand what the Exiled Lands are and why we are here. From the start of the game you are dropped into a world with nothing, and I do mean nothing. If you choose to play the game with full nudity players will not even have clothes, something which was quite a surprise for me especially for a console game, both female and male character models are displayed without any censorship. Starting off in the desert further adds to the urgency to get out to a safe place where you can start to craft clothes, weapons and find nourishment.
Depending on the direction you choose, you may either land up dead in the desert from dehydration or in an Oasis Paradise filled with resources to help you on your way. Resources are the key to survival; a small bush in the desert can be used to craft some make shift clothing to help shield you from the harsh sun, while rocks and branches can be used to create a pick axe which can be used to break down bigger rocks and trees to help build a foundation for your new home. Pretty much everything in the world can be, and will need to be, used as a resource to help you progress through the game. Various forms of wildlife roam the lands, and the further north you go the more animals you will find who drop fur when they are killed and skinned. To the West you will find thick dense jungles where panthers roam around rhinos and crocodiles.
Your goal is to survive the land and build up your character and home in order to traverse further into the world. Some places at the start will be too dangerous to venture, weather can be fatal to players such as the searing heat in the deserts to frozen wild lands in the north, while animals such as wolves, bears and giant scorpions may be too big of a threat for the unprepared. Deep in caves and below the ground, you may also run into the undead, reanimated skeletons and demons lurk in the darkness ready to take the life of any unprepared explorers. It’s a huge plus for the game, being able to explore various areas with their own ecosystem makes exploring fun and enjoyable - what new creatures await and what will you be able to create from the resources gathered from them?
As players advance through the game and gain levels from being in combat to forging new items, new feats become available; these can be purchased with points earned through leveling up your character. Purchasing certain feats opens up the crafting system allowing players to create items such as a furnace, tannery, blacksmith and armor benches, which will let players craft new weapons, armor, and other materials, which can be used for various other means such as cooking, building and expanding. The crafting system has a massive amount of options and the game does a great job of taking the player through them. It doesn’t throw all these options at players but rather unlocks as you progress through the game, making it feel streamlined and natural.
It's great fun to unlock new items that you want and go on a journey to find the materials needed to craft them, however, some items just seem to require far too many resources and can start to feel like a slog trying to get the materials needed. This becomes more apparent as you progress towards the end of the character levels when weapons and armor become more elaborate and your simple house made out of wood and rock has now developed into a fortress city with its own people under your rule. The limit is really your imagination and how willing you are to farm the materials needed to create your ideal fortress.
Survival is the name of the game and like most games, it’s always better with a friend. Co-op modes allow you to team up with friends to create your own cities and explore together. While this mode can be standalone, it can also be integrated into the PvP side of this where players can team up or go solo against other players to destroy, conquer, pillage and bask in glory or hide in defeat. Defeating other players will let you loot their belongings and destroy what they have built - being well prepared and fortified is definitely the name of the game in PvP mode as it can be a brutal experience. Upon death you will lose everything that you were holding at the time and by the time you make it back to your base you may not have anything to go back to.
Conan Exiles can also be played completely offline and in a single player environment. while it certainly does lose some of its charm, it is still great fun to explore and craft. The lack of any actual story outside of a few pieces here and there may detract long time play but there is enough to do in the world that makes the game a worthwhile investment for those who enjoy this type of game.
Overall combat is good enough, it’s nothing groundbreaking but for a game like this, it is serviceable. Light armour gives you better mobility which gives you more invincibility frames during dodges, making you harder to hit but also lowers defences, whereas heavier armour lowers the amount of invincibility frames but gives much higher defences. Weapons range from single-handed swords to giant two-handed swords to maces, hammers, daggers, etc. There are various weapon classes each with their own combos and attributes. While two-handed swords hit for massive damages they are slow and cumbersome. Daggers inflict less damage but they are fast and inflict bleed. Weapon types will certainly depend on your play style.
Sadly the scale of the world and the amount of things to do, as well as the game coming out of early access, doesn’t come without a cost; there a quite a few bugs I picked up during my numerous hours with the game. While nothing game-breaking popped up, there were some audio issues which lasted a few seconds to some lag spikes in combat at times. It happens often enough to remember but is minor enough to not detract from the game that much. Online also seems to be an issue, with thousands of servers online at the moment on PS4, finding one you can access that isn’t full will require a bit of time and patience.
Overall I am quite excited to see how the game progresses. Funcom have said they will continue to support the game with new updates, areas and times,
but Conan Exiles is a game that requires an investment from players but also one that can be played on and off through the years. If you can overlook some of its technical issues you might just find a gem hidden in here. It’s not usually a genre I would look into and I am a victim of the games naming scheme, but what I ended up with was hours of fun and hopefully many more in the future.
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PC, PS4, Xbox One
8 May 2018
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