Conan Exiles Early Access Review
Crocodile the Destroyer
Between the time when the oceans drank the northern hemisphere and the rise of the sons of Hitler, there was an age undreamed of. And unto this, <Enter Character Name Here>, destined to wear the jeweled crown of PvP upon a fully customizable brow. It is I, her chronicler, who alone can tell thee of her saga. Let me tell you of the days of…
Oh crap nevermind, she died from eating those berries.
I usually try to start reviews by looking at where a game fits in on the current gaming landscape, but with Conan Exiles, I’m honestly mystified. Conan in itself is not a franchise that’s had a lot of luck in recent years, with the most recent addition to it to get any attention being the 2011 movie, which seems to have been despised by both fans and critics. Given how bad video game adaptions usually go, trying to use one to revive a barely-remembered, kinda-niche franchise seems like a bit of a gamble. 2015’s Mad Max was something of a dud — even if it had dudes determined to like it because you can shoot a harpoon or something — and that followed Fury Road, which to this day people can’t stop being wrong about.
That’s not to say a Conan game has to be bad: the franchise actually has a few fairly well-received games in its past. But if this is your way of making the series that spawned Red Sonja a big thing again, you better be bringing your A-game.
Unfortunately, that is not the case. Instead, Conan Exiles seems to be, at its best, a fairly generic survival game, complete with crafting, dodgy combat mechanics, and of course, the stamina, hunger and thirst meters that have never made a single game more enjoyable.
Exiles makes a good first impression, with a character customization menu that’s quite robust without making things too complicated. The presets for hair and different body parts are plentiful without being samey, and fine-tuning is available for those who want to make their character truly feel unique.
There’s also a boob/dick slider. So that’s good.
After character creation is done, Exiles plops you in the middle of a large desert, in front of a towering monolith. Upon interacting with the monolith, a rather impressive voice-over tells you to go to the city and fight for justice or something.
From that point onwards, things go downhill fast. Exiles apparently expects you to start crafting immediately, otherwise, you will easily be overwhelmed by monsters. This means mashing the E button (I wouldn’t try playing this game with a controller) a lot all the time to get crafting materials until you can make some better crafting tools, so you can get more crafting materials, so you can make weapons, and so on.
It’s all rather basic survival game stuff, but I must admit that due to a very friendly UI, there is a weird charm to the process.
“All in all, single-player Conan Exiles is a perfectly functional survival game. Multiplayer, on the other hand, is a complete disaster.”
The problems start once you notice that your thirst meter is going down, which happens fast. Once you realize you can’t keep screwing around making swords out of twigs, you find yourself compelled to explore further, leading you directly into conflict with the game’s bestiary. Combat is an inoffensive enough matter, with the normal attack-shield-dodge mechanics you would expect from a game like this. However, enemies are plentiful and relentless, meaning you will quickly to find yourself surrounded by all sorts of imps, bandits, and crocodiles. Oh god, the crocodiles. These bastards notice you from miles away, and never, ever, leave you alone. They’re also tough as nails. I get that crocodiles are dangerous, but I don’t think they specifically seek out to fuck with humans who pose absolutely no threat to them. Then again, I come from a tragically crocodile-free country, so what do I know.
All in all, single-player Conan Exiles is a perfectly functional survival game. Multiplayer, on the other hand, is a complete disaster. I have a fairly strong internet connection, and I found PvP to be laggy and awkward, constantly causing my character to move all around the place and completely killing NPC reaction times, to the point where circle strafing armed bandits was a highly effective strategy. I would say that at this point, the multiplayer component of the game is borderline unplayable, which is maybe not the state you want your online survival game to be in, even in early access.
If the net code is improved, Exiles might be worth it for that intersection of gamers who are into both Conan and survival games. Even then, the rest of the Venn diagram is unlikely to be impressed. Either way, for now, I would definitely recommend to give it time.
Worth Your Money: Maybe Later