After the massive success of Minecraft, survival games have been released in drips and drabs for years. Always launching in early access, almost always being horrifically optimised and rarely succeeding in actually launching before the players have moved on to the next “big” thing, it’s a fickle genre to be invested in. So with Funcom finally pushing out the 1.0 release if Conan Exiles, have they succeed in making a competent game? Or is Conan Exiles another corpse to throw on the ever growing survival game failures pile?
Based in the Conan The Barbarian universe, Conan Exiles attempts to crush its enemies and see them driven before it, but it sadly falls short of the mark.
Having not had any actual interaction with Conan Exiles before release, the only real footage I’d seen of it was seemingly to do with the most interesting part of the game. The character creator makes for some real fun just off the fact that you can make a character with a massive cock. Possibly leading to everyone now understanding how immature I actually am, I was massively entertained when I created a character with a schlong that just wouldn’t quit.
Everything instantly becomes hilarious. Need to jump? There’s a cock and balls on your screen. Need to climb a wall? Better drag your wang along it! Maybe I should’ve found something more interesting in Conan Exiles, but I’m genuinely sad to report that everything other than Big Cock City is drab, bland and obtuse.
Lets talk about the real issue with Conan Exiles, and I suppose the real issue with the Survival genre in general. Everything is obtuse as fuck and poorly explained. This actually my main gripe with the game, as without brute forcing literally everything I needed to do and bashing my head against it, I would’ve gotten nowhere with the game. I understand that a lot of the fun of the survival game genre is in finding hidden gems and little extra mechanics, but Conan Exiles does take the piss. My biggest frustration came from trying to cook a meal. Should be pretty simple, right? Using my natural talent for putting two and two together and magically coming out with four, I worked out the need for a campfire to cook my lovely meat.
Naturally you need some sort of fuel otherwise your meat’s just slung over nothing, so I popped a few sticks on, just to get the party started. And then… nothing happened? There was a play button on the screen, but I couldn’t navigate to it. Rather than let my character starve to death, which at this point I was willing to do, I pressed every button on the controller to see if anything worked. Lo and behold one of the triggers actually started the fire. Maybe this is a case of me being dense, but this rubbed me the wrong way as something as simple as cooking shouldn’t be this difficult to work out.
My second main gripe with Conan Exiles came after making some progress, gathering some materials, making a bed and calling it a day, I logged back on a few days later to find out I’d been killed by another player. Losing everything that I’d collected, albeit a tiny amount to what I’d later amass, while I wasn’t even playing the game was infuriating. No where does it state that when you leave the game, you can be killed and lose your items, as if it had, I would’ve found a place to hide when I quit out, not just settle down by the riverside while I wait for the sweet embrace of death by a random player.
Graphically Conan Exiles looks like a PS3 game, and while graphics don’t really count for much in this day and age, it certainly doesn’t do any favours for good ol’ Conan Exiles. The character models, or at least the player character, is fairly decently detailed as should be clear from the aforementioned “Big Cock City”, but the environment is drab. You start off in a very beige desert, with a few copied and pasted shrubs and rocks dotted around for you to scavenge from. The real joy comes from when you eventually hit some water. Panning across the water causes a pseudo afterimage of your character to appear as you pan. I couldn’t actually believe my eyes when I saw this, like honestly, did no one ever notice this in beta? As you can imagine, the rest of the game looks fairly bland and generic.
Where Conan Exiles really shits the bed, is in the performance area. Granted I was playing on a PS4 and not a Pro, but the sheer amount of slowdown was incredible. Navigating through early areas of the game would see my game grind down to a slideshow at some points. Granted the map is actually pretty fucking massive, and tedious to traverse, but you’d think that we could get a cheeky bit of “render what you see, not the whole map”, but maybe Conan Exiles is just that unstable. I actually thought that because I was playing online and I have a terrible ISP, fuck you TalkTalk, that maybe I was experiencing some lag, so I switched to offline single player which revealed another great issue that isn’t surfaced at all.
If you start a character in online mode, you better keep playing in online mode because you can’t switch a character over. While I understand it’s probably better for game balance, so you can’t safely grind out materials to then load into an online game and literally be Arnie, it’s amazingly annoying to have progress on a character that you can’t touch because you can’t load into a server. So naturally, after navigating the character creator again, I set about to discover if my internet was shitting the bed.
While the answer to that question is always yes, Conan Exiles handles just as bad offline, as it does online. In some ways it feels worse, because you can’t just go “Oh well, maybe the internets having a bad day” as you feel the game slow to a crawl while you chop down the millionth tree you’ve come across.
All in all, Conan Exilesis a relatively mediocre survival game. In some places it’s infuriatingly obtuse and it runs like garbage. Though it’s a shit sentiment to have, I feel it’d be pretty fun with friends, though everything is fun with friends. Maybe the game will continue to grow with more support from Funcom, as there does seem to be some interesting mechanics that I only heard about through trawling the internet. If you’re a fan of survival games, maybe Conan Exiles is for you. If you’re new to the genre, I’d steer clear, as you’ll only find tedium and annoyance.