Funcom’s foray into the survival genre, Conan Exiles entered early access and Xbox’s Game Preview Programme back in 2017 to a mixed reception but after numerous updates and patches it is now in full release.
From the moment you hit the character creation menu you can tell Conan was meant to stand out from the plethora of survival games currently available. You play as an exile, one of many nameless warriors left to rot in a desert wasteland. The world is harsh and you must scavenge, build, farm and hunt to survive.
You start by creating your exile, with the option to customise pretty much any aspect of your character from religion to race, hair cut to genital size, it would appeal to fans of RPG’s and there is a lot of fun to be had just in creating your unfortunate warrior.
You start in a desert wasteland and are guided down a broken road with only the most basic of directions. There is no real tutorial and the menu/inventory system is not the most intuitive and as a result can make the first few hours a bit of a pain, trying to work out how to do the simplest of things like equip tools to your quick select menu.
You have the option to play alone or co-op and in either a PVP or PVE server. The online servers hold up to 40 players, due to the relatively small size of the servers it can make it difficult to resume your game in a server once you have left as they fill up quickly. There is the option to rent a server to avoid this issue if you so desire at a price.
The world is filled with NPC’s who swarm and attack you, beasts waiting to eat you and giants wanting to stomp you like a gnat. Luckily the combat is easy to pick up and with the option of ranged, two-handed, dual wielding and sword and shield load-outs there is something here for everyone. You can dodge, maim and hack your prey or enemies to death without ever feeling too safe or out of danger, which makes you cautiously choose when to stay and fight or run back to your stone hut, village or fort.
Building is easy to do and once you have mastered the crafting menus you will be creating some unique and wonderful abodes. By completing journeys (objectives asking you to build a shelter, kill a beast or climb a wall) you will level your character up, unlocking more items to craft/build and more points to increase your attributes. Starting with stone tools and rags for clothes I found within a few hours I was strutting about in some light armour and swinging an iron sword like a badass. Progression feels natural and you never really feel like you’ve hit a wall or slowed down in your quest to be the ultimate barbarian.
Single player mode is not too punishing and co-op is fun but to truly realise the developers vision of the game you really need to be building a community on one of the many PVP and PVE servers.
When creating your character you have a choice of race, every race will give you different perks and an advantage in some way, shape or form, be it more damage or a stronger resistance to the elements. You will also have a choice of religion, this becomes important once you hit the later stages of progression. Depending on religion you can build an altar to your god and through sacrifices summon a player avatar to destroy your enemies and shatter their defences. Depending on your religion you can summon one of a handful of avatars ranging from a giant serpent or frost giant to a lovecraftian floating kraken-like creature named Yog.
You also have a purge meter, once this fills up swarms of beasts will attack your clan and settlements for a period of time. The type of beast that purges you depends on the biome you are currently in.
The world of Conan Exiles is surprisingly dense for its large scale map, with different environments varying from desert wasteland to snowy mountains and even concealing its own rainforest, each biome housing different creatures and craftable properties. The map holds many hidden secrets including giants, temples, towns and even boss battles. Fighting statues in a temple full of green lasers was not something I was expecting.
There is a vast array of beasts to hunt or flee from including giant spiders, crocodiles, wolves, bears and even dragons. This game is not another Ark clone and swaps out taming dinosaurs for capturing NPC’s to make slave armies and workers to assist you and your clan in dominating the world of Conan The Barbarian.
So you cannot talk about Conan without talking about the nudity. I wish I had researched this game before starting my 20+ hour campaign in this vast world as spawning into a server to see dozens of naked women and men strewn across the landscape was somewhat of a different experience than you expect but for parents you can turn the nudity off. I do recommend you have a play with the endowment and breast size meters before you do though. It is good for a few giggles.
Okay, so server reliability…..
In the 20 or so hours i spent with this game I crashed a dozen times, mainly in peak times. When the servers work and you can get into them they are brilliant but they are rather small and can suffer from issues. Playing in a server with friends was nice and easy to do but once again finding a server with space or finding the server you have spent hours building and progressing in is full forcing you to sit in the menu for an hour or so until a space becomes free can be very testing of your patience.
In a genre so over saturated Conan Exiles manages to carve out its own identity and offer a hugely entertaining gaming experience. The epic battles and laughs to be had in this sword and sandals survival adventure is an experience not offered by most current survival games.
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Conan Survives Where Many Have Fallen
- Overall - 8.0/108/10
Conan Exiles shines in a genre filled with creepers and dinosaurs.
Held back by an over complicated menu and inventory system and frustrating server issues, Conan manages to do enough different and offer a very different survival experience.
No game has given me an experience quite like Conan Exiles and I cannot wait to put another 20 or so hours into it over the next few weeks.
Its not Ark, but that’s why its so good!