Conan Exiles [official site] is a survival crafting/building/fighting game set in the savage world of Conan the Barbarian, currently in Early Access. Is it worth buying?
I wake up, thirsty and hungry, cut free from the cross that I was bound to. Who helped me? I’m not entirely sure. I wander through the sandy desert ruins, picking up anything I can find, until three minutes later when I end up in a thriving green forest. A thriving green forest that wants me dead. The first thing to start attacking me is a mutant monster with tiny arms, a fat belly and bulging eyes. I strike him down with my trusty stone pickaxe and continue walking, collecting twigs, rocks and leaves.
Forty seconds later, I come across a large scaly hunchback on all fours, at first looking like it’s friendly. I walk a bit closer. Nope, this thing wants to kill me too. The battle music starts playing and I run for my life. I cross a river in a dramatic attempt to escape, only to be confronted by a massive, vicious crocodile. After another few minutes of sprinting, I manage to lose the crocodile and the hunchback and continue walking for around ten seconds, but I accidentally stroll into a camp of savages who beat me to death with hatchets.
Great way to start a new game.
Going straight into the review, I’ll point out that many of Conan Exiles’ basic functions are broken. Objects often float when you place them, the combat system needs fixing, it takes fifty sticks to make a campfire (fifty!), enemy pathfinding needs reworking, server connections need to be sorted out (which Funcom is currently working on), etc. The game basically needs a small overhaul. Let me explain.
Floating campfires that require fifty sticks? Nuff said. Change, now!
The combat is completely messed up. Enemy reach is too far and player reach is too short, especially when you’re not holding a massive sword. It’s like a Tyrannosaurus trying to bash someone’s head in with a small twig, while your opponent is Mister Fantastic smacking you over the head with another Mister Fantastic. It’s rather ironic, actually, because this is also the case with the tiny-armed mutant monster. The pathfinding of these monsters also needs to be altered, because sometimes I’m halfway through a brawl and they just wander off, then start leaping back to me, the battle music thundering throughout.
Server connections are pretty self-explanatory. I just can’t join most of them, and the one server that I did manage to connect to I got kicked from after a few minutes of extreme lag. Funcom is currently solving this by changing server providers, though, so hopefully in the near future this won’t be an issue.
The loading times were so slow I went and made myself a cup of coffee, washed my hair and cut my toenails before it was finished.
The visuals — when my framerate isn’t slower than Ed Sheeran is at releasing his new album, ultra high settings and all — are incredible; the shaders are spot on and the art style is great (realistic but not full-on realistic, a near-perfect balance). The sound effects are as sound effects usually are in decent games (decent and fitting), and the main menu music is on par with Skyrim’s theme song in my opinion, even if it is short and repetitive.
You can build in the game, starting with the FIFTY STICK CAMPFIRE, that’s all well and good. A bit awkward at times, but for the most part, working. Building can be accomplished by unlocking recipes with ‘knowledge points’ in the ‘skills’ section (similar to ARK), which also allows you to use skill points on real skills such as agility, strength, vitality and the like. There is also a weight system with different carry weights for different objects, and if you go over the weight limit you are stuck in place.
A humble abode.
Levelling up is a thing in Conan Exiles, which can be accomplished by killing creatures and waiting (and collecting items I think, not quite sure about that, though) and it rewards you with more knowledge points and skill points.
The game’s map isn’t randomly/procedurally generated, and I reckon that’s for the best. It’s a well-made map with very few bugs (except for one spot where I was swimming on land), and I believe it should stay that way.
If you so choose, there is also a nifty administration panel which allows you to cheat, basically. You can add to your thirst and hunger meters, become invincible, become invisible, become a ghost (flying through anything), change your movement speed, make items appear out of nowhere, change the time of day, teleport, and so on.
One of the game’s best features is character creation. Select your gender, then your race, then select a religion, then your face structure, then change your face up completely by picking hair, eye colour, jaw size, chin size, etc., then select your body size, then use a slider to change your breast size, then use another slider for your.. ahem.. ‘endowment’. You can be overly generous or painfully honest with yourself. That’s probably one of the most solid parts of the game at this point in time.
There are issues, definitely. All games have issues, notably Early Access titles. Funcom, Conan Exiles’ developers, are being very active with the community in trying to sort all of these problems out. In fact, they’ve been so active they have had to release an announcement apologising for releasing so many patches in such short periods of time. I’m not going to start bashing developers for releasing a game early to get feedback from the community as long as they are going to release a solid game in the future.
TL;DR: it’s too soon to tell. Conan Exiles is far too early in development to warrant someone’s money if they are looking for a good, bug-free and balanced survival game. Nevertheless, the devs have an incredible opportunity here, ripe for the taking if they were to tailor the game to how the community likes it, and I would love to see the game succeed in the future. Changes need to be made, the game needs a lot of updates and fixes (which are already happening frequently), it needs more balance and general polishing, but I think we can expect good things down the track. If you’re willing to toss $30 into a game’s development to receive a prototype version until it is — hopefully — finished, then go right ahead.
I will definitely be revisiting this one at a later stage in production, when it’s more solid and polished.
✊ Conan Exiles is currently too soon in development to decide whether the game is or will be worth the US$30 it is available for.