“Conan Exiles is already an inspiring survival title…”
Conan Exiles is an early access survival title developed independently by Funcom; the team behind Dreamfall and The Secret World. Perhaps their highest profile title to date, the in-development game pushes the usual survival game elements to new extremes in a brutal but familiar world. If you have ever wanted to experience life in the harsh wilderness of the Conan universe, from religion, to slavery, to the cruelty of strangers, your opportunity to do so has very much arrived…
Before you get into the game itself you get to create your character. Conan Exiles has become “Internet famous” within days of its release for this element alone. It is one particular element, in fact, that has drawn people’s attention; the “manhood” slider. Whilst it is funny to play with, excuse me for saying this so bluntly, “dick physics” for all of 30 seconds, it has to be said that the novelty swiftly runs out, but the creation system as a whole holds a lot to be admired. You can of course choose elements such as your gender, race, age, hair style, physique and the like as in any game, but some factors are unique to this world of Conan. Most notable is your religious persuasion, which outlines both the god you worship and how one might go about pleasing said god with their actions. This is a gameplay element which we will touch upon more later, but even at this pre-game stage of Conan Exiles, you begin to become inspired by what is to come.
All of your base-level features for a survival game are present in Conan Exiles, even at this early stage. Some of these, such as resource gathering, base building and crafting, are features which the early access title already excels in. The crafting system as a whole in the game is very well thought out. There are several stages for example in crafting a new weapon, helmet or table for your settlement. First of all you need to level up and learn the recipe for the desired item. Each element of gameplay in Conan Exiles gains your character experience, so rising through the levels is not too much of a mean feat. With a recipe in mind, you next have to gather the required resources. Some are simple to find, such as wood and stone. Other material will need the correct infrastructure in place to refine them before they can be used. Iron ore for example must be placed in a furnace before the iron itself is useable. Similarly, natural resources like hide must be forged into leather on a tanner. Once you have all of the elements required to make your new toys, you need to ensure you have the correct station on which to forge them, be that a armourer’s bench, a carpenters table or a blacksmith’s forge, for example. As soon as you have these in place, you are largely good to go. This crafting system keeps the game interesting at this early stage. Whilst there is currently a lack of cohesive story to entertain you, finding certain resources will lead you on an adventure of your own nonetheless.
Once you have gathered the resources to create your base of operations and get yourself geared up in case of a fight, you will likely venture a little further outside your comfort zone, exciting your primal desire to explore the unknown. The world of Conan Exiles is a predictably harsh one, so early preparation for the worst is heavily advisable. It is not only your fellow man (and woman) to be feared in the vast wilderness of the desert world in which you now live. Animals, tribes and far more dangerous creatures and foes lurk within the sprawling landscapes, and none should be taken lightly. The inhabitants of Conan Exiles’ world give it a deeply compelling and fear-inspiring aesthetic. Whereas other survival titles stay grounded in reality, Conan Exiles is quick to teach you that these fantasy lands care little for the mortality of your character. If you have the skills and armoury to match however, you can take the world for yourself instead…
NPCs in Conan Exiles don’t exist purely to fight you or die trying. If you are savvy and ruthless enough to construct yourself a Wheel of Pain at your settlement, you might try capturing defeat foes instead. Extreme conditioning on the not-so-friendly device allows you to turn the nomadic people of the world into your personal slaves. You can use them as defenders for your home, or characters to provide a buff to their master, such as dancers who can alleviate the corruption brought on by the dark forces in the world. Of course, if you have enough slaves at home already, perhaps a sacrifice to your god could be a healthy alternative. Whilst upholding your character’s religious background is not forced in the game, it does bring with it significant benefits. Worship your gods well, for they will reward you with power beyond comprehension in the form of gargantuan avatars of their own. These can protect you, or crush your enemies for you, depending on who you worship. Giant snakes and stone statues alike can walk this earth if your god is compelled to make it so. Just throw a victim or a hundred their way and reap the benefits bestowed upon you.
Slavery and religion are unique ideas in Conan Exiles’ fantasy world, and they do it a great favour in helping it stand out from the crowd. Combat in the game has a similar benefit to the title, but not entirely in a positive way. On the one hand, the weapons of the game underline its fantasy backdrop and the brutal executions which often come along with their use are a frequent reminder of just how violent this world can be. The combat itself however is not currently all that inspiring. There is a lot of frantic swinging (and often missing) in play, but little more to be excited about. Similarly, ranged weapons are in desperate need of refining. There is a lot to build on in the combat arena of Conan Exiles, perhaps with some more varied attacks or even just more fluid animations. The current system however serves its purpose for now. Slicing someone clean in half is pretty cool anyway, no matter how you manage to achieve it.
As with any early access title, Conan Exiles is not perfect. It struggles to run the highest graphics settings smoothly on even a high-end system, and even if you achieve that the server lag will bring you down. Not every aspect is perfect either, and several bugs exist. Some stop you from moving, whilst others make it impossible to stop, for example. All of these issues will undoubtedly be worked out as the game continues through its development, but they are noteworthy to prospective buyers whom these problems might annoy. Equally, being an online game, you can expect to be killed a lot without communication by the ever delightful online player base of the game. As with most online multiplayer survival titles, players like to kill first and not ask any questions later either, even if you are a noob. Essentially, unless you are going to play privately with your friends, don’t go in expecting a smooth and easy ride.
Conan Exiles is already an inspiring survival title, with its unique gameplay systems and fantasy background setting it aside from others on the market. Whilst the game lacks in story right now, the early access model offers you a fascinating world and interesting lore to discover and make your mark upon, with the features already in place being plenty enough for players to make their own fun for the time being. I thoroughly look forward to seeing how this game develops and enjoying adventures with my comrades within the world that lies ahead. If a lack of direction and a series of bugs is likely to annoy you at this early stage in development, perhaps bide your time with this one. If you can see around those problems to the intriguing fantasy survival title growing beneath them, then this game is well worth your time to pick up and try out.
Conan Exiles was review on PC Via Steam