By Tommy Robbins. This is LOADFILE, where the notion of complete nudity amidst a sandstorm doesn’t shake us, not one bit. This week, Tommy reviews ‘Conan Exiles’ in Early Access on Steam.
Steam’s Early Access program has become synonymous with open world survival in recent years. A horde of sandbox playgrounds have eagerly stormed its gates with their own takes on crafting, survival, and community interaction. Now, whether they turn out to be playful romps or downright infuriating crusades, well… it’s become harder to parse the seas of the genre, let’s put it that way.
Conan Exiles (Funcom) fits right in with the standards expected from Early Access survival: infuriatingly broken gameplay, toxic yet charming communities, and… full frontal nudity (???) (!!!). Despite its present rough-edged nature, Conan Exiles holds some very real promise. This extraordinarily imperfect title still manages to pack a punch in its infancy, holding promise where many others do not.
WHAT WILL YOU DO, EXILE
Conan Exiles is a game about… well, the name kind of says it all. First and foremost, you will not be playing as Conan. You will, however, play as an exile in the world of Conan. Now that that’s squared away, you get to create your own character: Eye and skin color, height and physique, breast or penis size… yep. It’s all there.
Once you’re done playing with the “Endowment” slider, you’ll find your character crucified and left to rot in the sandswept desert for randomly generated and often hilarious crimes (bestiality with sacred animals comes to mind). A brief cameo from Conan himself leads to your freedom, although he offers little in the way of direction and certainly doesn’t offer you a place at his side… which fine, whatever then! Now that you’re set free and left with no real direction to head towards, the survival-ass-survival game starts.
SANDSTORMS, SCORPIONS, AND PHALLUSES
The next few hours will consist of lots of grunts and moans as you gather grass, rocks, and wood, then smash those items together into tools to gather more grass, rocks, and wood. The goal, of course, is settling down and maintaining something resembling a base. In-world enemies, such as hyenas, massive spiders, and some sort of demon-rock-dog impose a diminishing threat while you continue to scout, gather, and ultimately attempt to level up. It’s a grind very specific to survival and one that quickly determines how much patience you’ll have with the game.
Many will die a few times, lose their materials (and in turn, their chill), curse into chat about how bad the game is, and leave to chase a refund, never to witness the majesty of a mighty sandstorm. While my love for the genre carried me through the more prickly moments of the game, those people are not wrong. Funcom has its work cut out for it and should they screw up the necessary balance that must come next, their game’s success will most certainly suffer.
Fortunately for those who stick around (those with a strange abusive relationship with Early Access Survival like myself), Conan Exiles has a lot to offer. Promise comes through a steady stream of updates. The groundwork already in place is solid, and though some features are not fully realized as of yet, you can see the glory to come.
Base crafting in Conan Exiles is straightforward but manages to be aesthetically pleasing, which I wasn’t expecting this early in the running. It doesn’t take much time to put something together that you can feel good about: the bases are craftable in 3 tiers, each tier more durable than the last, which was something my little group found extraordinarily useful once we established ourselves. And that’s became handy as heck. See, the community in Conan Exiles… Well, they’re ruthless.
Perhaps, one of my favorite (and simultaneously most loathed) aspect of my time with Conan Exiles has been the community. For most, this is where a game can become undone. Within the first 3 days of establishing a base larger than a shack, my small group was raided 10 times. While this could have easily broken us, we accepted the challenge and took to constructing not only stronger bases, but structures that perplexed my foes and kept them unaware of our belongings. Put simply, I built a house that managed to hide everything in plain site. Time and time again Dew-fueled brigands continued to raid us, yet our stash remained untouched. Outsmarting your foes will be exponentially more rewarding with every diverted raid.
Conan Exiles is fuel by players with their own individualistic tendencies but each server manages to be its own world, hosting clashes and alliances, and generally encouraging drama at every turn. Watching chat scroll by as two major factions went to war, eventually leading to one side dropping from the server and causing an eruption in chat as players realized they were free of one of the more oppressive tyrannical factions — that was a definite highlight in my experience. I look forward to seeing more.
A few things worthy of note: After at least 20 hours in Conan Exiles, I happened upon an area of the map previously unseen. What I found was a sprawling city of unwelcoming locals. These high level human adversaries were not messing around and put a swift end to my character. On the other hand, while exploring I would occasionally stumble across crumbling temple archways leading into dark and dank interiors. I chanced walking into one of these… but only one. What was found were swarms of poisonous snakes and a massive serpent writhing in the shadows. I hightailed it and haven’t gone back since, but I did happen to notice that each temple seems to have its own god and, in turn, its own enemy type. Needless to say, there are reasons to explore but few players will be ready for these areas in the early days of play. Venture forth aware.
ONLY TIME WILL TELL
Conan Exiles is an exceptionally engaging yet completely broken mess of a game, which is only fair to say about (and actually quite promising for) an Early Access title after its first week in the wild. The map is gorgeous, the mechanics are amusing and effective, and the community ranges from toxic to completely hospitable — offering a diverse range of experiences when playing.
Over the course of my week in the game I have witnessed patches sometimes as frequent as every couple of hours, which gives some assurance that Funcom intends to continue expanding and fixing their game at a reasonable pace. Not for the faint of heart but most definitely for those with Early Access levels of patience, Conan Exiles is a cool enough game. Watching its development unfold will surely be a treat. Fingers crossed.
Developed by Funcom.
Published by Funcom.
Designed by Lawrence Poe.
Platform(s): Steam Early Access.
5 out of 10