Conan Exiles’ full release delivered on everything it promised. There’s an expansive world and an in-depth survival and crafting system that will keep you entertained for hours on end. There’s undoubtedly a bit of a grind to your character progression, but that can merely be adjusted to fit your needs and play style. The only drawback is a combat system that lacks impact, which is genuinely missed in a title placed in the Conan setting.
First And Foremost About Survival
Funcom has been frantically adding content to Conan Exiles since their highly anticipated Early Access release in January 2017, all the way up until the full release drop on May 8th, 2018. Over the past few years, we’ve seen an incredible influx of survival titles enter Early Access on Steam, each of them trying to add their spin on the genre. Funcom took a fantastic setting for a survival title and charged ahead, adding entirely new areas to an already expansive map, revamping their progression systems, and many other improvements.
Conan Exiles is a game that is first and foremost about survival. As such, there is a bit of a learning curve, but anyone familiar with the genre won’t have much difficulty finding their way around the gameplay and user interface. The most important question you’ll have to answer is how to begin your adventure. Regarding this, Funcom has made it easy for players to get into a server that suits them individually.
A Customizable Experience
If you’re a player who wants get into the action, you can join one of the official Funcom hosted servers, or one of the unofficial player-owned servers that are not password-protected. When looking through these servers, you’ll see a few different options. There are the familiar choices of Player vs. Player (PvP) and Player vs. Environment (PvE). However, you’ll notice another option: PvE - Conflict (PvE-C), which is an attempt to allow some PvP action while limiting griefers who can ruin a game for other players. The difference in PvE and PvE-C revolves around the destruction of player bases and property. In PvE, players are unable to break down your structures. In the PvE-C server, a player’s property is destructible, and PvP combat is allowed for five real-time hours each day.
Of course, you have the option of hosting your own server, playing single-player, or doing locally-hosted Co-op, so you can truly set up your gameplay experience to be exactly how you want it to be. Each of the server's options, PvE, and PvP, are available, as well as many more. For example, you can allow PvP all the time, but not allow building destruction. You can change day and night cycle times, loot spawn, and enemy spawn times. You can also increase player damage, or experience, or craft rates. The choice is up to you, and it’s smooth and intuitive to set up and get the server going.
You can also tweak the settings while playing by navigating to Server settings in the Start menu and selecting “Make Me Admin.” It’s easy for other players to join you by utilizing Steam’s built-in “join friend” mechanic. Funcom has done a great job of really ironing out every aspect of customizing your games. They’ve even given you the golden keys to the castle by supporting mods, and you can find a large selection of them on the Steam Workshop.
The Initial Slog
Once you’ve started, you have the initial slog that you’ll see in many survival entries. You’ll take time to pick up sticks, rocks, and plant fibers while sneaking away from enemies until you’ve crafted some gear. Conan Exiles institutes a journal mechanic which offers a guide as you play, rather than forcing you through a tutorial system. These journals are set up almost like quest lines in chapters. You will be given all the objectives in Chapter 1, and upon completing them all, you will be shown the goals in Chapter 2. If you happen to achieve an objective in a later Chapter, then you will be given credit for that objective, but a question mark will obscure the others until you’ve unlocked them.
Early on, most of the objectives in the Journal point to your crafting progression. In Early Access, the user interface when unlocking recipes and crafting was pretty cumbersome. All of the recipes, while listed in unlockable order, were on one long thumbnail grid. However, the recipes have now been moved to the FEATS tab of your inventory, and have been broken down into categories like Construction, Decorations, Weapons, and Religion. They have also been grouped.
An example of this grouping would be that the Survival category has sections such as stone tools, primitive cook, and thrall taker, which then include individual recipes. Many of the craftable recipes have level and recipe prerequisites, such as needing light armor before metal armor. There’s a grind to get into higher-tier gear which will be necessary to handle some of the dungeons that await you.
New Features For The Full Release
Throughout the development cycle, a few extra features were added, such as ghostly images that tell stories and which can lead you to discover hidden rooms. As you travel through the map, you’ll find some impressive architecture, and some of these locations will allow you to move deeper into their structures by solving puzzles. These puzzles are pretty simplistic and may include luring a local NPC into the room and spilling their blood in a given area, or finding a key. These will eventually lead to a dungeon boss which is possible to defeat solo, but which is much more manageable when fighting with a partner. Along with the dungeons, there are also tons of other areas to explore, including capitol settlements for people, groups, caves, vistas, and ancient ruins.
While all of this does a great job of helping to immerse you in Robert E. Howard's brutal Conan setting, one crucial piece of gameplay would be equally brutal combat. Unfortunately, this is where the title loses points. Don’t get me wrong — there’s plenty of gore, like hacking off limbs and decapitating your foes, but there’s no real feedback that you’ve hit something. When you’re mining stone, there’s a visible jolt on the screen, something that indicates the force of the blow. Combat doesn’t carry the same weight.
Some attacks will charge and take a significant lead up, which can then guide you through the enemy and into a fellow party member with a lethal blow — and all the while you may not be clear that you’ve even hit anything, other than the visual cues of a detached limb and a large pool of blood surrounding your party member, of course. However, the inclusion of being able to enslave NPC thralls and summon avatars of your chosen deity by employing sacrificial hearts, consecrated human flesh, or an NPC's harvested life essence really adds another layer of depth to this survival title.
The Verdict: Great
Conan Exiles is a survival title that hits the mark for anyone interested in the genre, immersing you in Robert E. Howard’s brutal Conan setting and offering server customization to suit any player. Conan Exiles is a sure win for anyone with the time to build their character, or at least a bit of time and some tweaking of the game settings.