Preview: Conan Exiles (2017)

The possibilities are endless in this barbaric open-world survival game.

For most of us, the name ‘Conan’ will conjure images of Arnold Schwarzenegger, built like an absolute tank in leathery hot pants in the feature film Conan the Barbarian (1982) and its sequel two years later. In this respect, Funcom’s game adaptation will not disappoint. Moreover, from the films you’ll gather that Conan is a hack and slash kind of guy, surviving in a brutal and harsh world where almost everything is trying to kill him. This game will certainly not disappoint in this respect, as virtually everything is trying to kill you.

Both these elements can be seen in Conan: Exiles, emphasised in the games cinematic trailer, which is certainly worth watching and nicely sets up the in-game world as barbaric, violent and sparse (also in terms of clothing). And whilst the early-access game has some issues to work out, the highly customisable nature of play, the prospect of large online servers and full mod support for PC means the potential for varied and original gameplay will be endless.

You start your game nailed to a cross for committing a crime (as if your chances of survival weren’t already slim). This is where you create your character. Conan: Exiles offers a variety of choices for character appearance and backstory, giving a sense of purpose and guidance towards your preferred play-style. In character creation you have choices of a male or female character, 11 different races that each have lore behind them, choice of religion (including an agnostic choice if you’re not fussed) which if followed provides particular benefits, and customisable appearance. Over the coming months plenty more options will be available to players also in updates. The character customisation even gives you nudity options of none, partial and full, with size sliders for both sexes. Once you have spent a good fifteen-twenty minutes growing and shrinking your character’s wang or boobs – it’s time to begin.

You are saved by a wandering stranger and cut down from the cross, ready to start your adventure, being advised to follow a road with nothing but a flask of water. From the off you start doing what will inevitably end up taking up most of your game time – farming resources and dying. If you’re the sensitive kind who finds in-game death traumatic, needless to say this is not the game for you. You may well be battered to death by a rhino and there will be nothing you can do about it. That goes for vegetarians and vegans too. To avoid death you might end up having to clobber a rabbit or two over the head for food, at least until you can kill the bigger animals instead of them killing you.

Resources are dotted around the map, from sticks and stones you can pick up a variety of metals which need several whacks with a pickaxe. However, unlike with some games (*COUGH* No Man’s Sky *COUGH*) where farming is endless and without any significant goals, Conan: Exiles’ farming system is simple and very rewarding. A variety of abilities are available to unlock as you level-up and guide you towards what resources you are looking for in order to help you survive. It is clear what you need and how to get it. Inevitably as one player, this can be challenging as you cannot specialise in one area and gathering resources, then crafting so many items does take a lot of time. But if there is one thing gamers have – it’s a lot of time.

This is where Conan: Exiles offers players a variety of choices of how to play the game. Although single player is fun, an exciting prospect is the online capability. With friends, you will be able to each specialise in specific areas to aid you in your journey and help speed up advancement. This is turn then allows you to construct more and you really can construct massive structures and defences if you put in the time and effort. This includes the famous wheel of pain which you are able to place captured NPCs.

A variety of PvE and PvP server types cater to player needs, whether you want to attempt to survive in the most hard-core conditions possible or simply explore the ancient lands you will find yourself in, it is up to you. Each server is customisable down to fine details, from how long the days and nights are, to re-spawn rates of resources. In short, we are faced with a game with so many variables that you can surely never feel like you’ve exhausted the options. Whether conquering the world with friends or alone, you can cater to player wants and needs.

Graphically speaking the game is already visually stunning. There are still issues that need ironing out which is to be expected (was very surprised to find I had seemingly grown gills and could breathe underwater), but overall the visuals are very appealing and show promise.

Mechanically the game in terms of melee/AI combat does need more work, but Funcom are looking to have one of the best combat systems in the genre. This wouldn’t be so essential if you were playing The Sims, but as everything in Exiles is trying to kill you it is a reoccurring and central aspect of the game. But, considering how much fun fighting already is (after you get the hang of it and actually have decent weapons), they could very well deliver in this respect also.

The potential for Conan: Exiles is certainly obvious from this early-access release. It is easy to get lost and immersed in this ancient world for a long period of time. There is a long list of updates in the coming months from Funcom which will include fixes and added features including sorcery, mounts and even siege weapons for players to use, along with AI optimisation, all of which can only make it better. Overall, if the full game sticks to the elements which seem to be a success in the early access release, it will provide infinite entertaining gameplay. Move aside Ark, Conan’s coming to play!

Conan: Exiles is out now on PC with early access and it is to be released on Xbox One in the Spring of 2017, with a PS4 release date yet to be decided.

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