'Barbarism is the natural state of mankind,' the borderer said, still staring somberly at the Cimmerian. 'Civilization is unnatural. It is a whim of circumstance. And barbarism must always ultimately triumph.'

-Robert E. Howard
Beyond The Black River

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Conan Exiles. Survive, Build, Dominate. The Review.

Sometime last year Funcom released Conan Exiles into a wide beta release on Steam known as "Early Access". Drop your coin and start playing the game as is, close to a year before the official release date. See it update. See it change. Follow the development. Watch it form.

As it happened at it's original early access release many people said it was unplayable. They were mad. Some people couldn't play it due to issues with their PC, but were unable to return it, presumably it worked initially and then something changed and they were past the hours played threshold. I don't know. I didn't pick it up back then.

I *DID* pick it up at Christmas and although it certainly had some issues I enjoyed playing it. I liked the ability to create my own house and harvest the land. To grow strong. To hunt. To craft. I personally have about 160 hours into two games, one with a character at around level 50 and one around level 26. I am still exploring and finding new stuff, and at release the world will grow even larger, I have solidly got my moneys worth out of this game.

Let's rewind, just in case you are unfamiliar with this game. This is Funcom's latest offering to the Conan Franchise. It is an open world survival game that can be played solo or on servers of various sizes ranging from about 10 to 40. You start with nothing and you must, as they say,
Survive. Build. Dominate.

Played 100% as intended you start crucified naked in the desert. Everything you have known has been taken from you; family, money, pride. Once you define your character you are cut down and set free into the Exiled Lands. You start, quite literally, with nothing.

As you progress through the game you gather resources, make clothing, armor, houses, weapons, fortresses and any number of things to help decorate. If you are so inclined you can even go out and find other settlements, and take their men and women to be broken on your wheels of pain so they become your thralls. These thralls will work for you defending and crafting, sometimes their skill at crafting far surpasses yours.


So Conan Exiles. Let's take a quick look at what it is, and what it isn't.

  • Is this Robert E. Howard's Conan? In a short response. No it is not purely REH's Conan. It takes flavor from the stories by REH as well as the pastiches, comics and movies that came after. They all add to the overall flavor of the game.
  • Will we get to explore earth during the Hyborian Age? In a word, no. You like the other Exiles are trapped in a land where humanity once waged war against some forgotten race. Presumably it exists somewhere on earth, but is now cut off any only used to dump prisoners.
  • Do I get to play Conan? No. You get to play a random Exile from a country of your choice who worships a deity of your choice.
  • Does it feel like a Conan game? For me, it does. I won't pretend it's a perfect game, or a perfect representation of what I think Conan is or represents. For me the survival aspect is enjoyable and the flavor from Howard and others that defines the Hyborian Age adds a lot for me. I just enjoy seeing things like "Stygian Banner" or "Dafari Drums" on my screen.
  • Civilization vs Barbarism? This is something I struggle with a little. It feels like we are trying to build a civilization vs remaining strong and barbaric. In reality civilization isn't defined by the technology we build it is defined by society and the laws we create. This game in many ways feels like it showcases this. You removed from your civilization and dropped back to barbarism.
  • Survival? Besides the hostile creatures and other exiles out to end your life, the environment itself is harsh. There are a few main elements that need to conquered to ensure survival: food, water, shelter and temperature.
    • Water: You must secure water and food or you will die. Wander into places that are very hot, or wear clothing that is too warm? Your thirst will increase, and when you run out of water. You will die.
    • Food: As you progress through the world you will grow hungry. If you do not eat, or eat the wrong things, you will die. Find animals, hunt them and cook them to maintain a healthy hunger level. Food will also allow you to regenerate your vitality.
    • Temperature: Being too hot or too cold will negatively affect you as well. Wearing heavy clothing in the sun, or just being out in the desert too long will result in you needing more water, and if you run out, you die. Likewise being in the north without wearing clothing will result in frostbite and death.
    • Shelter: Shelter can also help regulate temperature, but it also serves to protect you from the sandstorm that ravages the lands. Getting caught in this will cut a man or woman to ribbons....and you will die.

Although the game has no quests of the variety: Find NPC, Talk to NPC, Retrieve 20 wolf pelts, it does have a journey system which functions both as a tutorial and then later as a guide and a direction system. Doing what is suggests will take you into dungeons and out across the vast expanses of the Exiled lands. For me, at least, this is a superior system. I was never a fan of the general quest concept in MMORPGs. This world is an open sandbox, you can go anywhere, anytime for any reason; provided you are strong enough.

My initial impressions of this when I picked it up in Early Access were good, I enjoyed it. The last major update improved the game immensly. I was watching a stream just yesterday by a new player who had never played in early access and after a few days playing his impressions of the game were glowing. If you are looking for a beautifully immersive game with a story that will lead you along and be amazing, I suspect the new God of War might be up your alley. If you are seeking an immersive game that allows you to go and do what you want, build your fortress, take slaves and try and survive in a brutal world, crafting your own story, then 100% check out Conan Exiles.

On Steam I have played for 169 hours. I am still going strong and with the new areas opening...............

4 out 5 Skulls of My Enemies!
*Just a word of warning: This game is violent. This game features killing humans in gruesome ways. This game features nudity. This game features slavery.

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