Conan the Barbarian, it is the movie that put Arnold Schwarzenegger on the Hollywood map, and a film that rests firmly in my childhood memories. Yes, I watched it as a youngster, the violence, the nudity, I was punching well above my years but the memories are fond. Fast forward 25 years (wow, really) and we now see the Conan Universe delivered to Xbox One owners, in survival MMO form. Conan Exiles is in preview form, being developed by long time MMO specialists, Funcom. So is it worth your blood, sweat and tears, read on Barbarian.
Conan Exiles follows the familiar path of most survival MMORPG’s. You start out with the character creation, your character being tied to a crucifix and left for dead in the middle of a desert. The customisation is quite limited in the looks department, but has the odd ability to have your character nude, or partially nude, allowing you to adjust the female’s breasts and male anatomy size. It adds no real purpose, but the freaks among us can have some weird fun. There is some depth to race and religion though, using races and religion from Conan lore, and changing your story partially.
Starting out with nothing is quite brutal, and you need to quickly make your way to find water, food and shelter. To me, Conan Exiles felt like Minecraft, in that you must mine the resources from your environment to craft items, doing so in first person perspective. Recipes for crafting items comes via earning XP which comes via mining items and crafting, it’s a continuous grinding affair that takes quite some time. Recipes are funnelled through different skill trees and balancing these skill trees determines the type of play style you wish to follow. I worked on surviving, looking at ways to better give me protection and shelter, with only basic weaponry for a long length of time.
Unfortunately, this play style led to a lot of running, there are so many things in Conan Exiles that want to kill you. I died more in the first three hours of Exiles than I had in eight hours of any of the Souls series. If you have not slept (saved your progress), you start from the last time you had. The result saw me starting the game from scratch half a dozen times, this was extremely frustrating. Once you garner a higher level, enough skills and items, the game seems to flatten out, resulting in a more enjoyable experience.
Unlike most MMOs, Conan Exiles’ open world contains no questing or side questing, allowing the players to live and do as they please. The further you adventure, the more you accomplish and the more the world has to offer, it does take a huge amount of grinding to do so. If you can find other players who are willing to let you join their group, Exiles changes from Survival to domination. Raiding other strongholds, sacrificing enemies to the gods and chaining slaves to the Wheel of Pain are great, sadistic highlights. It becomes a game of conquering.
Graphics & Audio
Conan Exiles isn’t the most glorious looking game on Xbox One. It doesn’t look as impressive as some triple A titles released even on the 360. However, the world is huge, and offers a range of differing locations. The characters and animation seem dated as well. However, when you progress far enough to encounter the large, boss type enemies, things look better. Dragons and undead demons look quite fantastic, but they are reasonably rare to find.
The world is quite varied with bleak yellow and brown deserts, lively looking oases and the cities and tombs are great locations that offer plenty of variety. You really do get a sense of a brutal, vast land and the presentation defines the maps locations well.
The sound is reasonable, but nothing to get overly excited about. Your character does not talk to NPCs so besides the beasts and a few groans and yelps, there is not a lot to speak of.
Conan Exiles offers solo adventuring along with multiplayer servers. I found that both are quite similar, you are either getting killed by NPCs, beasts or far higher levelled, human controlled Exiles. It does have a Day Z feel, where you can work together in groups or simply kill anyone who is weaker than you. Trust is a definite issue, and I have been slaughtered many times by those who seem harmless only to put me to death. I guess it is to be expected, we are all Barbarians after all.
Conan Exiles is a brutal game. Grinding can be extremely tough, and being able to join an encampment or stronghold before being slaughtered can be a difficult task. The lack of direction via questing was strange at first, as I took a while to adjust and find the solace of accomplishment. The real accomplishment is survival. The game has its flaws, but for those who are after an extreme, survival experience and don’t mind the grind, there are far worse options for your purchase.