I’ve been an unabashed fan of Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian ever since I was a wee lad. The fictional, quasi-prehistoric setting of the Hyborian Age has been attributed as the first sword and sorcery universe in our history. Indeed, many of the more contemporary fantasy authors acknowledge Howard’s works (including his earlier Kull of Atlantis books) as having a vital influence on their own writings. As a child in a used book store down the street from where I lived, Howard’s Conan books facilitated hours and hours of fantastical escapism.
With that in mind it should come as no surprise that back in 2007, I was excited to hear that Funcom was working on a game set in the Hyborian universe called Age of Conan. When it was released in 2008 to a lot of fanfare and hype, just about everybody I knew at the time was playing it. As it turns out, eventually it began to fizzle out as time went on.
Although AOC was graphically the way ahead of its time when it was initially released, gamers needed top end PCs to play it on higher graphics settings. AOC’s general lack of content didn’t help either. These factors, among other little niggling issues resulted in bad rep for the game which led to a mass exodus of players. AOC never fully recovered from this and as a result Funcom apparently decided to invest less and less time and resources into the game.
Lo and behold almost a decade later, and Funcom, seemingly having learned their lesson from their first Conan game, was back at it again. This time with Conan Exiles, which they released in January of 2017 (Early Access). Unfortunately, Conan Exiles had a much rougher debut than AOC. This was mainly due to many bugs and glitches, and a general lack of announced features such as city building, in-depth combat systems, magic, and other expected elements. I personally played the game during that time and came away with the impression that it was more of a Pre-Alpha build than anything else.
Many developers these days seem to feel that its fine to release games with the moniker of Early Access, when they’re essentially selling us unacceptably primitive builds of their titles. Many of them do it to utilize the gaming community as game testers in order to figure out their product’s various bugs and other issues. However, others release games which they have no intention of ever fixing and only want to make a quick buck.
Reviews, both from the gaming press as well as those posted by gamers on Steam, seemed very skeptical as to whether or not Funcom would finish Conan Exiles. As I was. Why? Well, for one example the game was initially described as having a magic system. When it debuted there wasn’t one. Nada. Zilch. Nothing.
Now I can see a developer adding in new weapons or weather systems into a game at a later point in its development cycle, but adding in a whole new magic system is a tremendous amount of coding and scripting work. At least if it’s to be implemented right. I’m not saying that Funcom can’t do it, but something like that is a daunting task.
I haven’t dipped into Conan Exiles since back in August when Funcom released the massive Frozen North update. It was a decent update, with a whole new cold biome to adventure in, lots of new base building elements, new outfits and dyes, and new dangerous critters like wolves, bears, frost giants, and mammoths. However, at least in overall terms, the game was still riddled by numerous bugs and lag issues. I only lasted five or six hours before uninstalling Conan Exiles yet again and going back to my “wait and see” attitude.
Well, just recently, Funcom released another large update. This time, they seemed to be more focused on fixing its bugs and connectivity issues while also offering new content on a more conservative scale. I was glad to see this, as many developers like to offer lots of new bells and whistles while neglecting to concentrate on fixing their games’ major problems first.
Conan Exile’s new content is great, and includes such things as new weather system which includes rain, snow, fog, and even occasional thunderstorms. There are also a whole new slew of armor, weapon, and tool modifications, allowing you to further customize them as you please. And although there are other nice additions such as new weapons and thrall capturing devices, I’m personally thrilled that they finally added ladders and hatches to Conan Exiles. I always thought that the game had a great building system but without ladders and hatches it still felt short of building systems such as those in Rust.
New animation systems have also been implemented. Conan Exiles has always been a looker, graphics-wise, but some of the animations were a little stiff. This update really does a great job of addressing that. In fact, I’d say that it’s probably the best looking first (and third) person fantasy game on the market right now.
Conan Exiles looks to be coming along nicely—so much so that my more skeptical view of it is turning into one of excitement and anticipation. If Funcom can fix the game’s remaining bugs and optimization issues, as well as add in the remaining missing (and promised) features, we could have one of the best sword and sorcery games out there when it releases in Spring 2018.
Conan Exiles features outstanding graphics that make its fantasy gameplay truly shine. However, you want to have a pretty beefy 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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