Conan Exiles from Funcom is a Survival Game that I had been waiting for since it was first announced. As someone who generally doesn’t go for this genre of game I’d hoped that being in Robert E. Howard’s famous fantasy world would pummel me into seeing what was so popular among fans of this genre.
The first thing that surprised me was that it can be played both online (how I expected it to be) and also in an Offline Solo Play mode.
Just as a small disclaimer: The bulk of the review below has been done using the Solo Play mode. As I didn’t want any external factors of my internet connection or other users influencing my review.
However, I asked one of our other members (Alex, who is also incredibly handsome, funny, and smart) to give me his thoughts on the Online Party play to give a little bit of a varied opinion.
Note: Alex added the incredibly handsome, funny and smart part in his attempt to be all these things (and failing)
Given the different parts to Conan Exiles, I think it’s only right that I divide the gameplay part of the review into a small sub section for each one.
As is normally the case with this style of game, you’re very much left to your own devices from the first moment. There are no tutorials and no real story line for you to follow. As the trailer says it is very much ‘Survive, Build, Dominate’.
I think it’s only right that I start by briefly looking at the Character Creation mode. Since this is where the journey will start for your Exiled Adventurer.
The Creation options are a little limited in my opinion when compared to other games. However, there’s still plenty there to give you a unique(ish) look. For each section there’s a slider to select the basic look / size (Yes, this includes Character Genitals). Then a choice of colour (Skin, Eyes etc.). Nothing overly complicated to get through but it does the job well enough. It won’t be long before your wearing armour etc. anyway.
There are some issues here which are impossible to ignore. The facial hair looks terrible, it doesn’t matter which style or colour you choose it reminded me of the old WWF Smackdown Vs Raw days on the PS2. This immediately raised an alarming eyebrow given they have invested in being able to customise the size of genitalia (which will be covered for 99% of the time) but didn’t seem to mind a facial hair eyesore.
Once you have spent an age trying to make facial hair work, then decided to remove all hair from your character. You will be shown your character nailed to a cross with a sign on their body. This is a summary of your character name and reasons for your exile. Make sure to read this as some of them can be quite funny
After being unleashed into the world I found myself aimlessly wandering around pushing random buttons to see what I could do (due to the lack of any kind of tutorial). It didn’t take long to realise I needed to start collecting supplies to create weapons, clothing and shelter.
This is where I think the game would have benefited greatly from a simple tutorial. I actually really like the crafting system in Conan Exiles now I’m familiar with it. But, it can be a bit of a grind to work out how to create these items. Especially with their being subtle differences in the way crafting works for each item type. The positive was that once I had this sorted I felt like I had a purpose and objectives that allowed me to settle into the game.
As shown above, your inventory is on the left and items you can craft on the right. At the bottom right is the list of ingredients / items you require to craft whatever item you are looking for.
The further you progress you will find you need to create different types of workbenches to craft larger and better items. Again, these work nicely and once in the swing of things I was collecting items ready to build my own luxury penthouse (ok a small hut.. but don’t tell anyone).
This works in an almost identical way to crafting to create the walls and foundations and roof etc. for your inventory. Be mindful here though as you can imagine walls etc. weigh quite a lot so clear the area of enemies first.
Once you have the items in your inventory the building task itself is very much a snap in place design with the R2 and L2 buttons there to rotate which way around it should face
Quick tip (which our own Stuart Shortland found out mid live stream), Check that you can place the foundations for the house in all of the squares you want to use before starting, or you might find you get stuck half way through.
If you want to see more of that Live Stream Click here.
In offline mode your house is very much your safe zone. No creatures or other exiles will attack you. However, in online mode this isn’t the case. You have been warned!
In my opinion the combat mechanics of Conan Exiles are average at best. While it does work, the options for attack are very limited, and the aim is less than reliable. At times I could physically see my sword go through the enemy and do zero damage.
Once you get used to these restrictions and problems you can work around them and it does minimise the annoyance. It is functional and at times can be very brutal so I’m sure anyone looking to bash some skulls will enjoy the gore levels.
Online (Party Play – Provided by Alex)
While locked away trying to compile this review (Evidence of the dedication I give to my reviews right there!), Alex has been hacking away online with a bunch of friends. He had a few words to say specifically on this section of the game which I have put below:
Let me start out my portion by saying that playing with friends allows Conan Exiles to really unfold. By having people you can rely on, you can each use your feat points to upgrade into different areas becoming masters of different crafts. By working together and combining resources the game is much more conquerable. We were able to defeat groups of enemies and monsters and even explored a dungeon (OF WHICH WE HAD NO RIGHT GOING INTO). However, as is the case in Ark and other survivor games. If you get the confidence to go into the online world alone I would suggest going into one that is PVE because in PVP any established clan will hunt you down for some giggles or use you to farm their resources…. and then kill you.
Conan Exiles shines when other people are there to share in your failure or glory. From figuring out how far down a jump is by offering them armour, to making sure you hoard all the resources in hidden boxes around the map. I had a blast both working together and against my friends. I might add that being naked and afraid with friends can be quite HARD. But, with some teamwork and genital creation you won’t come up short.
Overall I think that while the gameplay has its problems. There’s more than enough content to keep coming back time and again for (especially when you’re trying to craft items). For example; yesterday I planned to jump into the game just to capture a couple of screenshots I needed to finish this review. 3 hours later and I’m battling giant Spiders and Mitra Priests… (Guess I was a little side tracked).
Sadly, this is where Conan Exiles started to become a little annoying. At one point I was so frustrated I even rage quit! (Luckily my 20th Anniversary Dualshock 4 didn’t take flight across the room).
There are large sections of this world that look as though they belong firmly in the previous gen. There are also other sections of the world which look incredible and would be right at home in games like Monster Hunter. There’s definitely a very uneven feel to the landscapes. However the character models (facial hair aside) are generally quite good (or at least consistent).
The character animations in places are absolutely shocking for a PS4 title in 2018. Sorry Funcom but I think you dropped the ball here. Crawling without your legs moving, Spiders that float, Swimming in thin air and climbing a cliff face that finished 3 foot lower down. None of these should be apparent in a current gen game.
I could’ve forgiven all of this if it wasn’t for what felt like game breaking frame rate drops and freezing (even when playing offline). There were times mid combat where the game froze and when it came back I was dead.
Note: I played this on an original PS4. Our Livestream was on a PS4 Pro & I can confirm that the issues were still apparent but perhaps not quite so bad.
I have mixed feelings on the audio in Conan Exiles during my play through. While I did enjoy the music that filled the background. The in-game sound effects left a lot to be desired.
The sounds used for Mining and Cutting have no variants. They’re simply a single sound repeated over and over. Not to mention that the longer I spent within the game there appeared to be more and more latency issues. Especially between the action and the sound (check out our live stream video for some good examples of this).
The character voice acting also isn’t great. Although, there is so little actual conversation by NPC’s it wasn’t a problem and could easily be overlooked.
As with any MMO game, the longevity will depend on the people playing the game with you. There is no storyline as such and the aim is survival. With the right people beside you, you can explore and expand your stronghold constantly.
I think the issues within the game will stop a lot of people from playing it longer term. Unfortunately I firmly believe it will be one of those titles that ends up collecting dust on the shelf once the next major release comes along.
There are a number of trophies to collect, but I haven’t found myself looking at them at all to try and obtain many so I wouldn’t say it’s one for trophy hunters to seek out.
Conan Exiles while full of problems from a technical point of view is still a rather enjoyable survival game and easy to lose track of time while playing. In my opinion while the genital modification is unique and has attracted attention to the game. The time maybe would’ve been better spent elsewhere to remove some of the bugs.
Hopefully Funcom will have a string of patches and fixes before too long. If they do then it will be a much more enjoyable game.
Based on the game as it is at the time of writing this review, I feel that Conan Exiles deserves the Thumb Culture Silver Award.
Disclaimer: We were given a Physical Copy of Conan Exiles for us to do this Review
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