Conan Exiles (Early Access) Review – A Love Letter to the Works of Robert E. Howard

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Conan Exiles
Funcom

A few friends and I recently began our first Conan Exiles adventure together. Just as with most survival games out there, we began with nothing save for our inordinately large genitals (males) and boobages (females) which can hilariously be chosen during the game’s full-fledged character creation system.

What I really liked about Conan Exiles right off the bat was how much more customized the character creation system is—than say the games it’s most commonly compared to: Rust and Ark: Survival Evolved. Whereas in those games, you play a sort of generic digital avatar (especially in Rust), here you can not only change your avatar’s appearance, but also their religion, race, and so on.

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But back to our merry adventure…luckily, we’d managed to locate one another relatively quickly—and that was very much needed. The local AI denizens, including the tribal, weapon-wielding humans, and cantankerous critters, both large and small, can be quite hostile. Not only that, but they all seem to have a wide area of detection and will rush your character right away upon “seeing” them.

Together, we spent the first few hours of our game time fending off hostile creatures, as well as a few human raiders (human-controlled). Since we’d opted for a more traditional survival experience (since that’s what we were all accustomed to) we chose to play in a “Pure Survival” server, which meant that not only did we have to contend with AI foes, but also other human players.

A few of the other humans we met were friendly, but for the most part our human encounters ended in gratuitous bloodshed, highlighting Conan Exiles’ devilishly excellent combat and gore visuals. A few hours further in and we’d erected a decent fort to protect ourselves within. Its sturdy stone walls were immune to lesser weapons such as bows and axes, as our enemies soon discovered. It was a blast to witness other players rush up to our stone walls and begin to try to chip away at them as one does in games such as Rust, only to suddenly realize that no damage was taking place. From there, these unfortunate souls would usually end up being treated like a piñatas for our arrows.

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We also discovered that we could build alters to our chosen gods, and receive special favors from them in return for the right offerings or sacrifices. We’d certainly never seen this sort of gameplay system in place within other survival games, and such differences became more evident the more time we played Conan Exiles. In fact, we consider it to be more of a blend between pure survival games and classic RPGs.

Eventually, we outlasted everyone in our immediate area—save one. Or rather one band of several stubborn players who had likewise set up around the same convenient watering hole and fertile hunting grounds that we had. Needless to say, conflict soon grew imminent.

While out foraging one day (Conan Exiles features adjustable day/night cycle controls) our group ran into theirs, across a beautiful field of shimmering emerald grass. However, as our respective bands engaged one another, first with ranged weapons, then in brutal hand-to-hand combat, those green fields became splattered in crimson.

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Conan Exiles’ combat system is probably the most well-developed of any survival game on the market right now. For example, as the enemy skirmishers began shooting arrows at us, I side-stepped most of them using the game’s clever side-dash controls. My friends, all whom carried shields, were able to absorb the brunt of the arrows on the faces of their shields. As we closed in further, we discovered that the melee system was likewise both intuitive and fun. It consisted of taking a whack at an enemy when timing allowed for it, or, defending against or evading an incoming attack with an equally well-timed shield parry or side-step.

Although we sustained heavy casualties, we eventually prevailed over our malevolently malcontent neighbors. From there, we proceeded to break into their home base with hastily constructed siege weapons, illustrating how well thought out Conan Exiles’ base raiding system was, especially for an Alpha build.

I talked to several of my friends recently about our experiences thus far with Conan Exiles, and we unanimously agree that it’s among the best survival/crafting/building games that we’ve ever played, or at least has the potential to be. And we have played lots of them—everything from Rust and Ark, to up-and-comers such as Miscreated and 7 Days to Die. It’s just that Conan Exiles has that unquantifiable “it” factor that those other titles lack. Not to say that those are bad games at all, but for the most part, Conan Exiles takes the best parts of those games, adds its own unique gameplay mechanics and features, and synthesizes them for an incredibly fun gaming package.

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Just keep in mind that Conan Exiles is still a work in progress. Such things as more advanced combat mechanics, a sorcery and magic system (yes – spells!), and city building features, won’t be added in any time soon, but are reportedly being developed. The game is great as is, however, and has a lot of content for being in Early Access.

What specifically impressed me though, was how well Conan Exiles’ developer, Funcom, articulated the Hyborian atmosphere that was originally created by author Robert E. Howard. As a life-long fan of Conan comic books and novels, this was as close to playing within one. They’ve really captured the do-or-die savagery and brutal nature of the Conan universe like no others have before.

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Conan Exiles features excellent crafting and building systems, a fun and engaging combat system, stellar graphics (try showing this game off to your friends on your souped-up gaming laptop), and that undefinable “it” factor that separates great games from merely good ones. I, for one, can’t wait to see what Funcom has in store for us with regards to the future of Conan Exiles.

SCORE: 86%

Conan Exiles offers some excellent visuals that suit its blood-soaked fantasy theme. However, you have to have a very fast gaming PC or gaming laptop in order to play it at a decent framerate. So, you may just want to invest in a decent gaming rig:

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