Survival games are fading with each passing day as the rising popularity of Battle Royal games continues. It’s a shame. There are some pretty good titles out there, but within the last 12 months, the genre has failed to capture audiences as they rely on the same mechanics and framework. Conan Exiles has been in development for quite a few years now. It went into early access last year with mixed feelings towards it. Could this be the juggernaut the genre needs to revive it? Has all that time in Early Access strengthened this survival game into a hulk just like Conan himself? Let’s see.
Survival of the Fittest … Conan Style
Conan Exiles offers a survival experience centered within the mythos of Conan the Barbarian. An interesting choice for a theme that’s certainly filled with plenty of muscle, boobs, blood, monsters and of course, massive cocks … or little ones depending on how you are with the character creation tool. You play as a custom made exile that’s been taken out into the harsh desert, crucified, and left for dead. You are set free by the legendary Conan himself and from here, the world is yours to do with as you please. This is what Conan Exiles is all about – Making a character, setting forth and surviving the harsh world before you. There are no constructed story arcs, character development, plots about good and evil and so on. It’s just you, your survival and your massive genitals, or small ones depending on your mood.
Conan Exiles is not story driven like other RPG’s or some MMO’s, but rather offers tasks which start with basic actions to the more challenging, including defeating a titan-like creation. There are plenty of NPC’s to engage with who offer multiple missions for players and there’s a vast amount of lore to discover and learn about the Exiled Lands. But Conan is survival first and foremost. It has everything including resource gathering, crafting and managing hunger and hydration to stay alive. You can craft from the get-go using raw materials to build pick-axes, weapons, armor and even materials for your own home. You’ll grasp the basics easily enough. After drinking water, finding food, and crafting beginner’s gear, you’ll embark on your adventure.
Grinding like it’s the Wheel of Pain
Conan Exiles is a neat, but not entirely ground-breaking concept for the genre. It’s essentially a grueling survival experience that relies on trial, error, and quickly adapting to the environment. The first few hours can be a tedious grind of baby steps and learning the ropes with minimal hand-holding. I’m happy the developers decided to let players off the leash very early. It’s a blessing to this game’s stance as the ultimate survival experience, but it’s also a complete nuisance. Trying to find out even basic details can be a monotonous task in itself with no tutorials aside from the thread of small tasks such as eating, drinking water and battling cave trolls.
What players experience in early stages is a host of ill judgments, repeated failures and infuriating confusion due to a lack of information. Simply venturing the Exile Lands will most likely end in death. Enemies can be utterly relentless and managing your health is painful due to the small impact food or the rare health pickups have on HP. Only by grinding and learning very quickly will you survive long enough to craft decent gear. Thankfully, combat is serviceable and functions well enough to keep you alive without too many hiccups.
Conan has a form of perma-death. If you die (and you will a lot), all your loot will remain on your corpse for one play-through. You can retrieve it but risk losing it again if you die once more. There’s nothing wrong with this at all. It’s a decent idea for survival gameplay, but rather small issues at the beginning make this mechanic intolerable. You’ll finally be able to craft storage and shelter after hours of grinding and trust me. It’s such a relief when you make your very own bed. Even something like navigation poses a challenge at times. The overview map is a little light on information initially, so it’s up to players to utilize it. You’ll have to place markers and map out points of interest if you want the most of your survival/adventuring experience.
There’s a mixture of problems and interesting gameplay concepts. Early stages are messy with pacing and progression issues, but these pass eventually and make way for something much better.
Despite all the above, I did find Conan fairly captivating with its nurturing elements that rewarded me for my efforts and hard work. Gathering, hunting, and mining resources pay off well. When you can craft vital gear, build your first home, and further explore the Exile Lands, it feels like an accomplishment. Be warned that the tedious resource gathering can be rather mind-numbing at times and there’s a fair bit to do in those difficult early stages. Past the grind comes the progression, and soon enough, comes an engrossing adventure. You’ll be battling savages, beasts and God-like titans while making new friends.
I do have a slight grievance with the building mechanic. It can be rather clunky and restrictive. There is enough for a single player experience, with the main issue being the grind within the initial stages of the game. Of course, this game is far more fun with other people.
There are different modes to dive right into, PVE (Player vs environment) and PVP (player vs player) where players can engage in combat with one another to gain resources and loot faster. This is the ultimate test of endurance as my time in this mode was pretty infuriating. Forming clans and banding together is the best thing to do. It’s also more fun to battle beasts, giant monsters, gather resources, and build with a buddy or two.
Conan Exiles is highly enjoyable, but it won’t set the world on fire. However, it has enough to revive interest in the survival genre until We Happy Few comes out. The game has sold over a million units before release and this number will surely grow. There are plenty of reasons why people are playing right now. While survival mechanics aren’t anything new, the game offers a range of modifiers to accommodate new and old survivalists. Players will enjoy an amazing world engrossed with an exciting lore, deadly creatures to battle, and everything possible to make yourself a bad-ass warrior. Conan isn’t perfect, but it’s a huge deal of fun when you get past the grind – even more so with a buddy.