Released on the 9th of this month, the latest survival game to hit the market, Conan Exiles, survival meets Cimmerian savagery, is ready to enthrall the masses. So grab your Atlantean sword and “crush your enemies, to see them driven before you.” With a bit of Early Access time under its belt, and Funcom announcing new locations being added to the game before the final release, it was quite enjoyable to complete this review on the PC version of the game.
The Story in Conan Exiles is a sparse piecemeal affair that you will have to hunt and kill to get more of it. You are an exile, a criminal “guilty” of various deeds, who has been crucified in the wastes to die for said deeds. Just as you have given up hope, and accepted your fate, coincidentally at the same time the carrion birds are seizing you up, a mysterious man brings you down off of your “corpse tree”. He gives you some water and ponders the thought of it being crueler to take you down than to let you die.
And then you are set free to your own devices into the world of Conan. Build, enslave, explore and survive; as you see fit.
If you are familiar with any survival games, then picking up the swing of Conan Exiles won't be hard. The interface is familiar, with an active item hot bar at the bottom and character inventory. A key thing to note though is while most games of this style, that I have played, Have inventory management based on the number of spots open in the inventory, Exiles is based on your characters weight capacity - which you can level up, more on this later.
Pick up them stones and twigs and build you an empire.
Seriously though, the building in Conan Exiles is just like all the other survival games out there; from a core mechanic standpoint. In Exiles, they mixed it up a little bit. All players have a god they choose at creation, but supposedly can be changed in game through interacting with other temples/priests. The choice will affect the shrines they can build and from there some of the special items that can be made.
For example, for my character, I chose Yog, a Cthulhu-esq monster deity who is the god of cannibals. At the first iteration of my temple I can create a bone hatchet used to harvest flesh from humans, and then I can make that flesh into purified flesh; a food item with great healing properties that never goes bad.
Characters have levels, which dictate your stat potentials and access to specific crafting recipes. Levels are gained either from crafting things or killing things. Although there may be other ways, but if so I haven't seen them. Stats are broken down like a typical RPG: physical damage bonus (strength), dodge and movement (Agility), hit points (Endurance), ranged hit chance (Accuracy), energy/stamina (Grit), carrying capacity (Encumbrance), food effectiveness and I suspect your characters ability to stave off hunger and thirst (Survival).
For every 5 levels you amass in a stat you unlock a perk, for example in Strength you get a perk early on that makes you do double concussive damage with specific clubs, in grit you get one that increases your Stamina regeneration rate.
Combat, in my experience, is a little different in Conan Exiles than in similar games. First of all there are a ton of weapons; combat style can be broken down into five different “types”: one-handed/sword-and-board (I don't think there is any dual wielding of regular one-handed weapons), heavy weapons/two-handed weapons, archery, dual-wielded daggers and thrown weapons (javelins, spears, and throwing axes, “grenades”).
Your combat inputs consist of: standard attack, heavy/special attack, dodge, and kick/guard. Also different from other similar games, there is a combo system and lots of movement. The combo system is just simply the ability to string attacks together, which creates distinct attack combinations based on the order in which you placed inputs.
The game looks and feels amazing! The world feels fully fleshed out and real. The graphics are eye-catching and the environmental effects are top notch for a survival game, if not across all genres.
Let's talk sound. The sound engine is amazing in exiles but could use a little tweaking. Sound plays an integral roll in your survival in Exiles. In a night assault on an exile camp, was that 2 or 3 voices you heard? Was that wolf pack just over this hill or the one next to it? When survival is of the essence, these things are important and the sound definitely pulls it off well in Exiles. The music is also keyed nicely, to correlate with in-game action; so if you are getting stalked by a pack of hyenas you will know it. It needs to be tweaked, because while the sound is great, it has a tendency to travel further than it should. And sound appears to be unhindered by walls.
Of note, on a slight downside, there are a number of little “quirks” in the game:
-Characters have a slight “slow fall” effect on them that makes gauging where you are going to land a little difficult. This also affects your jump, and you can't attack while jumping, so this will slow down your attacks.
-Lot's of getting spawned into or stuck in terrain, usually easily resolved in my experience, but worth noting.
-Some mechanical oddities, like elevators that work intermittently.
But nothing I've noticed is any worse from similar games this early after release. To be honest, this game seems to have a lot more going for it, than other similar games I've played, Such as ARK and 7 Days to Die, at launch.
What It Could It Have Done Better
Not really a negative to this game directly, but just a shortfall of the genre as a whole; if you try to play this solo, without hacks, it's going to be slow going and may get boring real quick...at least in my opinion. So take that into consideration when looking into this game. Do you have a group of friends that would have access to a private server that you can/would play with (which I am lucky enough to have) or are you ok with toughing it out with complete strangers? Also of note, there are PvP (Player-Vs-Player) servers as well as PvE (Player-vs-Environment) servers; and the choice will have a large impact on your play experience.
As far as actual things I think they could improve upon, aside from the few glitchy things I described previously, I only have a few issues/suggestions:
-So we can enslave people to our bidding in game, but it would be nice to also have beasts of burden to aid in hauling all the crap we need to build our bases from one area to another. Additionally how awesome would it be to be a wolf master with a pack of wolves following you around, viciously rending your enemies?!
-The map is HUGE, huffing my ass about one-third of the way north-to-south takes 15 to 20 minutes (real time), although honestly some of that is due to trying to find the right way to go and getting distracted with the gatherings and the killings. Having access to some form of fast travel sooner in the game, even if it wasn't really "fast travel", maybe just automated travel where you don't have to worry about dying or getting hurt, that would be nice.
-I'm a stickler for story, and while I'm sure the team working on the game will address this, it needs to be said. Some early cohesiveness to the story would be nice, but not a deal breaker. Besides, there is a good chance I missed some key important story items. I did, in fact, miss the stone wall you can interact with at the spawn area.
I must admit that I am easily bored with survival games like this usually. Generally, there is just too much repetitiveness for me; build this fort, kit it out, great now move to the next area and do it again. However, I feel that Exiles has added enough qualities to the typical survival game equation to keep me drawn in for at least the foreseeable future.. Exiles, I feel, has added enough to the typical survival game equation to at least keep me drawn in for at least the foreseeable future. But I must stress that this game is probably not going to be fun unless you have a dedicated group of friends to play with or are comfortable with getting chummy with some randos on a public server.