By Jef "JeffAlpha" P. on May 16, 2018
When someone mentions Conan some of you might think of a friendly ginger talk show host. Others might think of Jason Momoa's 2011 interpretation of Conan the Barbarian. I personally fondly remember his predecessor Arnold Schwarzenegger and the 1982 fantasy adventure film also named Conan the Barbarian. And then there was the aptly named videogame... yes, you've guessed it: Conan.
This game was released for XboX 360 and PS3 in September of 2007. I actually bought this game and liked it very much. It took a lot of elements from games like God of War which was already popular at the time. The game was an easy to get in to hack n slash adventure. There were cheesy cut scene's, epic monsters and partial nudity. Like in God of War, you could unlock moves and perform violent finishers by pressing the right buttons at the right time.
Here we are, more than a decade later and the Conan franchise has spawned its latest brainchild. This particular installment goes by the name of Conan Exiles. The game was first released on the 8th of May 2018 by Funcom and is playable on PS4, XboX One and PC. As opposed to the previous Conan game this one does not just support a single player mode, but is very much focused on the online and co-op experience. This game has been on my wish list for a while so I'm curious to see if it lives up to the hype.
Story wise I don't think there is much going on, but that has everything to do with creating your own saga, obviously. Since the majority of the action seems to take place online, it is very important to look the part and create a decent persona for yourself. Creating your avatar is easy enough. Choose a gender, change your hair color, perhaps a little eyeshadow and your good to go. In case some of you haven't heard, Yes, it is possible to go full nude and change the size of your dong or rack might you be so inclined. And yes it does take some time to choose between realism and the far right end of the slider. Spoiler alert, I couldn't make up my mind and went with the loincloth. Back to the story. So here you are, left for dead and who comes along? None other than the man Conan himself. He sets you free but that's about all the help you get. Now you're free to go out and starve or get killed any way you want.
I currently possess a copy of the PS4 version of Conan Exiles and the graphics look decent. Of course when comparing it to gameplay footage of the PC version there is an obvious difference. The Conan universe however, is all about atmosphere. And the game does have atmosphere. The desserts looks desperate and the beaches look sandy. In the distance you can make out huge decaying structures that belong to civilizations long gone. These make you want to explore more. The background music fits and the way it changes when you encounter hostile creatures or NPC's is spot on.
Conan Exiles does very little in the sense of a tutorial. The HUD does keep you up to date on the key mapping at all times. This is a very useful feature. The jumping, running and aiming all feel responsive. This is crucial to gaming in my opinion because it makes you feel confident, like you have a fighting chance when you're in over your head. So with all this mobility what can you actually do? Well there is the obvious fighting involved, but in order to do so you need to prep and prep well. Don't get it twisted Conan Exiles is very much a survival game. You need shelter, food, weapons and clothing. The last one preferably with some armor. You are constantly gathering resources learning new recipes and crafting items. Fortunately for me I have played my fair share of Metal Gear Survive recently so I'm no stranger to gathering resources, or so I thought.
The single player feature has an adjustable difficulty setting, which is nice for first time players. I myself prefer not to look noobish online so I started off in single player mode as well. At first the game is pretty forgiving. You can take your time learning about the controls and menu's instead of starving right away or getting attacked by wildlife. This does not mean the game doesn't have some nasty surprises in store for you. The first time you encounter NPC's it becomes apparent that you have no business fighting them barehanded in nothing but your loincloth.
Shelter is not just for show, although it is cool to see what people have already built when you join a server and go online. Building your own little shed does take some effort, as do a lot of the craftable items. They require copious amounts of resources and the right allocation of skill points. It is worth the effort though. The first time a sandstorm hit I was glad to have a little four walled box I could crawl into. So craft like your in-game life depends on it, because it does. Please imagine me, feeling stupid, not having crafted a torch by sundown. Trust me, it gets dark, really really dark.
Conan Exiles is a work in progress, but one that shows promise. From what I understand the developers are still creating more in-game content and I'm confident I've only seen a fraction of the game and its potential.
May 8, 2018