Conan Exiles Review – PC
+ Beautiful character and environment designs
+ Brutal authentic gameplay
+ Ability to forge your own destiny
- Nudity may unsettle some players
- Unforgiving world
- Can be intensive on PC hardware
Original Early Access Review: March 14, 2017
When you hear the name Conan, more specifically of the barbarian nature, many will think to the films starring good ol’ Arnie. But the truly loyal fans will know that this sword wielding, bronze skinned warrior got his start some 50 years earlier in story form by creator Robert E. Howard. Now what started as stories published in Weird Tales has since grown into films, shows, comics and inevitably games of various makes including the 2008 MMO, Age of Conan, by game developer Funcom that I tried out years ago. Well the folks at Funcom are back on a Conan kick with an all new adventure set in Conan’s harsh world that I’ve had the pleasure to check out its current form with an Early Access version of Conan: Exiles for PC.
Sentenced and crucified for various crimes and left to die in The Exiles Lands, players will be freed from one fate by the famed barbarian himself to set out to seek one that may just prove worse than the one you escaped from. You see Conan: Exiles is an open world survival game that would rather just devour you and leave the remains than give you a fair shake at every turn. If the hostile inhabitants don’t get you well the harsh environment definitely will. I’ll admit that in my time within The Exiled Lands so far I’ve met more than my fair share of dirt naps but you know what. It’s all just an experience to know what to do differently in the future in what is easily one of the most authentically brutal looks into Conan’s world that I’ve experienced so far.
Once you’re set free from one hell you set forth into another with nothing, and I do mean absolutely nothing depending on your game and server settings. Funcom doesn’t play coy with the maturity level of the title’s content right from the very beginning so forewarned there be nakedness abound. For the more sensitive players you can tailor the nudity level all the way so all pertinent parts are covered but you still start the game with nothing to protect yourself from the land’s harsh environment and fauna in either case.
I’ll be the first to admit my track record for survival games would get me voted off the island at the quickest possible opportunity. That said after an adjustment period, I quickly got a pattern going in order to stay alive as long as possible. Longevity of life can be based upon several factors but possible the most important at this point would be if you decide to play this solo and/or co-op or if you want to dive into the grueling PvP experience. Both can be rewarding experiences though in my experiences so far the PvP option is by far the toughest due to the adversarial interaction of other real players. This is a game of survival of the fittest after all though don’t be surprised if you run afoul of purposely mischievous players that may impact your overall enjoyment.
While I did try out both sides of Exile’s gameplay options I found myself playing more in a solo or co-op capacity so I could learn the game at my own pace. Time isn’t something that you have a lot to spare as many things can attribute to your defeat. Chief among them is the maintaining of basic needs such as water (which is hard to come by sometimes), food and ultimately shelter from the world.
Much like other titles in this genre you’ll start out by gathering things like stones, stick and plant fibers to use to craft basic tools like a pick for mining for more stones, or an axe for chopping trees for wood. Both can also serve as basic weapons as well but they degrade with each use so you always have to keep an eye on that. Stones are chief for building shelter once you earn the ability to do so but that comes with earning experience by doing scavenging, crafting, fighting and even over time just by surviving.
Crafting things like clothing, bedrolls and later more important things all require the necessary skills that you must unlock by earning experience through basic tasks. Earning enough XP with raise your character level and allow you to spend skill points into basic stats such as endurance as well as the ability to craft higher level items crucial to your survival. A bedroll once you earn the ability to craft it is pinnacle for sort of saving your progress but they can’t be placed just anywhere. You need to have pretty flat ground to do so and they are a one use item so always having on you and binding your character to them is super important otherwise its back to the desert somewhere for you. Water followed by means to defend yourself are probably the next two important things to focus on. Luckily if you do end up dying and if you can find your corpse you can reclaim your lost possessions assuming you’re not playing on a PvP server because that stuff will likely be gone pillaged by other players.
One of things that I like about Conan: Exiles at the moment is that it offers plenty of customization that goes way beyond character creation. While Exiles does feature a fairly decent character creation system that you can spend a bit of time in but compared to some MMOs or RPGs it is not as deep as some. There are enough options to set yourself apart from other players in the online side of things both from a physical and roleplaying perspective. You get to choose everything about your character except for a class as sentenced criminals have enough to worry about besides what they used to do. There are plenty of human only races to choose from and so far four available gods to worship including the likes of Crom and Yog to name a couple.
The rest of the customization that I was impressed with was the server setting that you can control. You choose how many people inhabit your server, whether or not to allow PvP and even choose the times when PvP is allowed if you want to. Conan: Exiles also allows you the option to allow or restrict the size of clans as well as the ability to use voice chat which is pretty important in a game that allows cooperative play where communication is definitely needed. The biggest thing that I like about Exiles so far though is that you can customize everything from the day night cycle to the multipliers in XP earned, harvesting, combat and survival to mention a few areas. It’s nice to see that while you still have to follow a set a rules that you can set the limitations to those rules to customize your own experience within Conan: Exiles.
I’m definitely looking forward to seeing the new features that Funcom adds as time goes on especially in the areas like sacrificing and the use of magic. Much like surviving the harsh environments of the Exiled Lands only time with reveal what’s in store for players as Funcom continues to add more and more features to the game. I know that I’m looking forward to it, so if you love Conan and are looking to try out a new survival game then you have to check out Conan: Exiles available for Early Access on PC today.
Early Access Review Update: September 14, 2017
Conan: Exiles is still in early access but it’s grown quite a bit since my last enduring bout of surviving the Exiled Lands. Among the biggest areas of growth is the newly added Frozen North Expansion which, while adding all new elements and enemies, also increases Exiles’ playground by 70%. If you thought dying of thirst and sun exposure was bad try being surrounded by frozen water everywhere and having to keep from turning into a Popsicle. Though as harsh as Conan: Exiles still is there are always ways to combat the elements and foes alike.
Two areas of standard surviving have been made real or better with newly added brewing and cooking systems. While replenishing one hunger point at a time with insects is one way to survive it’s nothing compared to fish. Players can even create drinks that not only replenish your thirst but help manage your body temperature when you really need it. Just be careful on what you plan to make for dinner as there are all new animals like mammoths and wolves that might just want you as a snack.
I have to say that I’m also really enjoying the new improvements to the entire game with this latest update. Combat has a better feel to it while still being visceral as ever and with all new resources at your disposal you’re able to make better weapons and armor to survive almost any situation. Oh, and let’s not forget Ymir, the Lord of Storm and War. This newly added avatar of destruction is yours to worship and is easily just as big as the mountainous peaks that he calls home.
Those mountains and the forests below also allow me to do something that I love to do in most open world settings…explore with greater freedom. Thanks to the added climbing element, If feel like I can finally interact with the Exiled Lands in ways I couldn’t before. With these new features and locations, Conan: Exiles is definitely shaping up to be the Conan experience that I’ve been waiting for.
FINAL Review Update: May 24, 2018
If I had anyone thing to say about Funcom it is that they deliver fantastic experiences that cover both existing franchises and ideas to create something that both authentic and wonderful all their own. One such adventure I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing during its development is Conan: Exiles for the PC. Over the past year I’ve seen this open-world survival game grow with new features and content until at last we have a finished product that feels completely new than the product I first previewed.
But before I get into the improvements and features, a little backtracking is needed especially for people reading this coverage for the first time. Conan: Exiles is set in the barbaric unforgiving world made famous by good old Arnie. Players are crucified in The Exiled Lands for crimes you may or may not have actually committed until you are freed by the famed barbarian himself. Though he may not have actually done you a favor as the fate you just escaped may not be any better than the one you now face. One thing that can be said about Conan: Exiles is that it very much still lives up to the world that it takes place in.
Funcom doesn’t play coy with the maturity level of the title’s content right from the very beginning so forewarned there be nakedness abound. For the more sensitive players you can tailor the nudity level all the way so all pertinent parts are covered but you still start the game with nothing to protect yourself from the land’s harsh environment and fauna in either case. I love the fact that you can choose from both genders as well as your race and religion. The latter affects which avatar of your chosen god that you can worship, summon and take control of to lay waste to your enemies.
With the time that I’ve invested in Conan: Exiles so far I’ve finally gotten a hang of things. Of course they’ve made a bunch of improvements that make things a little easier to set you on your path. Just don’t expect those features to make it easier to have your homes, cities or fortresses survive the newly added feature called The Purge. The Purge, no not that one, is an NPC army that enters the map an attack one of your bases at random. Depending on your difficulty setting this may or not affect your buildings no matter if you’re present in the game or not. The new thrall feature also allows you to capture NPCs and break their will on the Wheel of Pain to serve you even when you are away. Since you can play Conan: Exiles both on and offline this is a very good thing.
Unless I’m in the mood to survive against other real players in the persistent multiplayer via public servers, I spend a large part of my time going it solo. Of course I like the fact that the multiplayer aspect is rather cool and adds to the brutality of the gameplay on a grander scale. While I went it alone mostly, I found a few friends that I invited into my own private server to seek out some adventure in co-op which was fun. Conan: Exiles offer players the choice to widely customize their experience on almost every level. For those wanting more the gaming community has already created hundreds of mods so far that it supports.
This time around I really felt like I was making a lot more progress even in a game where you aren’t really told how to play. I also chose to play with a controller this time around instead of my usual keyboard and mouse setup which worked out great. After a bit of getting used to the more controller friendly interface and figuring out where my weapons, consumables, and tools kept disappearing to things went smoother. Part of the feeling of making progress came from the more story defined presentation starting with the beginning which has been extended. There is also the addition of chapters that act as both a tutorial of sorts and a roadmap of sorts to set you on your path to survival and dominance.
Visually, Conan: Exiles still looks great with some notable improvements to both the world and the animations. Climbing before felt a little off on some surfaces but I even love the fact that there is an animation when you jump off a surface and you can grab it on the way down to slow your descent. This is great because you can spend a lot of time exploring the vast lands of Conan: Exiles from your desert beginnings to the forest and mountains and beyond.
Conan: Exiles has come a long way and feels like a completely different product than when I first laid my eyes on it. I have to say that the experience has been a good one especially since I’m still not the greatest at open world survival games. Yup you can probably find several of my bleached white corpses out in the world somewhere picked clean by the elements and foes alike. If you haven’t checked out Conan: Exiles on the PC already and you love open-world survival games then there is no time like the present to make your mark on the world of Conan.