So it’s been just over a year and full release is finally upon us. It’s been a ride, filled with laughs and frustrations. Conan Exiles has come a long way since its drop into early access and Funcom are paving the way forward with enthusiasm and confidence.
Over 50 updates and patches were rolled out during its early access life. Cementing the promise made that this will deliver the experience that was pitched. These updates included a massive Skyrim-style area to the map along with the new volcano and swamp biomes that have arrived with the full launch (carrying a mean temperature system for you to manage).
The combat system has been rebuilt with each weapon feeling distinct and armour having varying effects on it. Being able to climb any surface is wonderful. The Purge (defend your base from a horde of enemies) and Siege engines with trebuchets and throwable explosives orbs. The Dregs dungeon toting puzzles and danger and that all so sweet loot. You can summon a defensive dome to protect your home from avatars (manifestations of the in-game religions). The map now has world bosses roaming free.
You can farm, add perks with a redefined attribute system. A varied weather system (heavy rain, freezing snow, sandstorms, oh my!) which affects a heavy amount of choices. A map room (fast travel), a couple new religions, war paint/dyes and armour mods. You can manage your thralls weapons and armour, they have expanded the cooking and added brewing. Abandoned buildings now decay over time before being deleted, loads of new building options, more character creation options and emotes. It’s a big list, but seeing it grow from day one has been a journey.
Right, well then. You’ve been sentenced to death in the Exiled Lands but conveniently this muscle bound geezer with fetish for loincloths cuts you down off of your cross (crucifixion see, nasty). After that it’s all open to you. There is dark history in them there sandy hills, survival will mean you have to do more than find some water, grub and shelter, you’ll have to explore, fight and… steal, to stay alive.
You start out with nothing but a direction and a magic bracelet on your wrist. The bracelet will kill you if removed or if you try to leave the Exiled Lands. First thing you want to do is craft some tools, weapons and armour – hatchet, pick, sword, etc. All out of stone, branches and twining, but this is just the start. Progressing through the world and elements will grant access to new craftables and the materials to craft better gear. To keep you cracking on with things, reducing any of those “I don’t know what to do moments” is the Journey. At any time there will be three objectives on your top left of the screen varying from craft a sword to killing another exile to dunking a biscuit into your tea (maybe not that last one, pity though), everything you can do in game is part of the Journey – a clever way of dropping in the longest tutorial I have ever seen without it feeling like one. Cleverest.
Building your own shelter is easy too, gather stone and wood to craft foundations to walls to thatch roofs …this is only the beginning as you find stronger and more defendable materials. After that’s sorted, it’s time to go knockout and then drag by means of the ‘Thralltaker’, binding the feet of the unconscious and dragging them back to base to put into your wheel of pain. Just like the first Conan movie where he’s pushing a massive wheel around in circles, same happens here. It’s to break their will so you can have them work for you, defend your place against attack or you can have them follow you as you travel.
Religion is a big thing in Conan Exiles. Through sacrifice or offerings – depending on your chosen deity – you can summon a colossal avatar of your god for a short time, to take out your enemies and their homes or you can summon a new defensive dome to protect against the very same.
So you have the Oasis/main river down south with canyons, dunes and structures left by old civilisations, then up north is the frozen tundra with the volcano above it and the highlands (Skyrim zone) below it, and finally over in the east you have the tropical swamps/river lands… the point is that there are many different biomes to explore and settle in. Plenty of choice.
At launch there were 225 official servers hosted by G-portal, but since then the number has more than doubled and all using BattlEye protection to prevent players from using cheating software to gain an advantage, the only downfall here is that they are capped for 40 players per server. Servers are set into three types: PvP – the standard anything goes affair, every player is a potential combatant, PvE – Players cannot harm each other, but the land will still fight against you. Also good to mention here is stealing, the average exile is a scrounger, they will take what isn’t bolted down so consider yourself warned, and finally you have PvE Conflict – These are the best of both worlds. See, player vs player combat is only allowed during peak times (5pm – 11pm local server time). Private servers are also in no short supply but as the name suggests they are hosted independently by another server portal usually hired by players, some of these are not password locked and they welcome new joiners.
There are a swath of options to modify their servers to affect anything from time restricted PvP to how long the day lasts and how fast you gather materials or level up.
Lastly, the Purge. I’m not talking about those movies where everyone breaks the law without consequence I’m talking about a meter that slowly fills up, the more you do alone or as a clan the faster it fills up, the Purge also continues to fill up while you are offline which is why thralls are so important. When it’s full you better be ready, because a horde of NPC enemies will be on its way to take down your hard worked for home.
The Purge is an all new mechanic, just added so it needs a little tweaking right now but the idea is great. Depending on which biome you call home, sets which enemies arrive in the purge. Where we are based we get waves of scorpions headed by a massive black scorpion which took 3 of us 10 minutes to take down, we cheered, we drank, we danced… until one guy spoiled it by taking off his clothes and singing a song by Cher. We currently are debating about exiling that particular exile from our clan of exiles, thrusting him out into the exiled lands with the other exiles. Exile.
So that’s the game. Now onto the good points, bad points and opinions. It’s bloody beautiful, stunning even. If you’ve watched a video or stream of this I promise you it does no justice. There are so many little touches that bring the game to life, two of us were playing around with sand for ten minutes, watching it blow from any disturbance like feet or rocks sunk in, I’m not lying it was ten minutes. The music is great, much of it brought forward from Funcom’s Age of Conan MMORPG released a few years back but there’s not enough of it. The title screens get it and then that’s it… just battle music from there out. However, the ambience of the desert at night is perfect and the sounds of battle, roars of aggression and clangs of swordplay are great.
The gameplay is for the most part spot on, but there are a few niggles. Snapping building pieces can sometimes have a life of its own ending up with you snapping it somewhere else entirely or it disappearing altogether (this is rare but it’s happened to me four times). Then the targeting system, locking on to an enemy is remarkably iffy. You have to be close, within 5 meters to lock on and chances are, if your with a friendly you will lock on to him/her five times before locking on to the right target.
Also when the desired target is bigger than you, which to be fair is most of the time – rhinos, elephants, gorillas, dragons, snow giants – you lock on to the grounded centre of the target where having the camera zoom out and pan up a little would make more sense. On that note, when fighting a rhino for example, the collision of the beast needs work. All too often I cannot see where I am or what’s happening, due to the rhino being literally on top of me. Swallowing me in fact.
The last issue I have is about theft, we had our base cleaned out twice by thieves on a PvE server which made us feel disappointed in humanity, ok a bit far but we did feel crappy, but the worst of it was they had stolen about 25-30 of our thralls, our defence against the purge. My point is that I don’t think you should be allowed to steal a thrall that’s already broken in, more of an opinion that one.
Survival craft games are in abundance these days but few get it right, this is one of those good ones. Yes it has a few bugs but it’s only 3 days after release and I’m certain Funcom are on it. Looking to the future, I’m hoping mounted combat and a crime/punishment system. Conan Exiles is a complete package, deep with mystery and sights to see, enemies to conquer and thralls to break in. We hope to see you in the sands soon.
OVERALL: 8.5/10 – GREAT
Reviewed by Michael Jones.
(Disclaimer: CONQUEST received a review copy of Conan Exiles, however this does not in any way affect the scoring of a game or our thoughts on the game itself. We believe in total honesty and being transparent with you.)