Conan Exiles: First Impressions- Casuals Need Not Apply

Posted August 28, 2017 by Thomas James Juretus in Video Games

Developer: Funcom

Publisher: Funcom

Release date: August 16, 2017 (Xbox preview)

Available on: PC, PS4 (date to be determined), Xbox One (in game preview currently)

When I first saw the trailer for Conan Exiles, and not being overly familiar with the type of game it was, it struck me as very Skyrim– esque. And that appealed to me. A Skyrim style game set in the world of Robert E. Howard’s most famous barbarian? That would be great, and had me eager to try it out as the game preview is now currently available on The Xbox One. I soon found out, much to my chagrin and regret, that the game had more in common with Ark: Survival Evolved, a game I also tried out through Xbox’s game preview, and one I didn’t have a good experience with. It should be noted, my experience was cut off just as I started getting the hang of things, and other players certainly do enjoy Ark, which is now set to come out on retail disc. Seeing those similarities in Conan Exiles didn’t bode well for me. I went forward anyway, since I knew I’d have more time with the title than I did with Ark, and hoped that I could grasp the gameplay quicker and maybe even enjoy myself.

Well, I was wrong on that count. You see, Conan Exiles is not really an RPG, though it has RPG elements. It’s a survival game, and in its current form, a very unfriendly one at that. You need to find food to eat, water to drink, and collect materials to make supplies and tools. Using X will pick up most loose objects, and once you make some tools, which are equipped by using the left shoulder button that brings up a radial wheel. The start button pulls up your menus, where you can choose food to eat, raise your attributes, learn recipes, and craft items. The menu is divided into three sections, which you jump through by using the left trigger. Crafting items puts them in a queue, and once the bar fills you will be outfitted (if making clothing) or the tools will be assigned to a space on your radial wheel. It’s as clumsy to use as it sounds. Even worse, the world is live while you’re in the menu, so you can come under attack or even be killed while trying to do something there. Best bet: Find someplace safe where no enemies are around.

And you will encounter plenty of enemies early on, from strange ape-like creatures to other humans. All of them want to kill you, and will often succeed. Dying sets you back to an arbitrary respawn point. At one point I was being respawned twenty feet in the air, and then was dropped to my death, and I had to endure another up to 5 minute wait to respawn again. Fortunately, the last patch seemed to fix this. But more fixes need to be done. The game tells you to build a bed to serve as a respawn point. Unfortunately for me, it would only allow me to collect two of the three items needed. The last was grass or leaves, neither of which the game allowed me to collect. My best bet to save any progress was to play so far, then exit the game. When I reloaded I could continue from where I last was. Die before that, and you lose all items you’ve collected and crafted. At least you keep your level, experience points, attributes, and recipes you’ve learned.

The problem is that this game will kill you in so many ways. You could collapse because your stamina ran out and wouldn’t replenish, even though you were staying still to allow it to recuperate. You could die of thirst because you respawned too far from water. Enemies of course could also kill you. You could overheat, or die of hunger. Even after making a campfire, the process of cooking food eluded me, because the game tells you nothing, makes simple tasks difficult, and has you trying to figure it all out on your own. Needless to say, this was very frustrating to me, and certainly not my idea of a good time. I don’t mind challenging games, but I do mind them if they’re made with the deck stacked against the player. On the plus side, the game’s graphics are fairly decent, though I encountered both pop ins and clipping. The music makes you feel as if you’re in the world of Conan, echoing the themes from the movies. You can play online, a single player campaign, or co-op. The game wouldn’t allow me to play online or even try co-op, since it wouldn’t recognize either my Xbox Live account or my internet connection (both of which I had). As it is, the game is in preview stage, so no customer support is available at this time.

Maybe I’m too much of a casual for this game. Or maybe I just like my games to be more clear as to what to do and be fair. I didn’t find that to be the case with Conan Exiles. To be fair, this game will have its share of fans, and they may even think I’m being too harsh in my judgement of it. However, these are my impressions, and for myself, my first impressions aren’t good. It’s a bad fit for me, who found this to be tedious and overly frustrating instead of challenging and fun. For those who enjoyed Ark: Survival Evolved, I could recommend that they try this out as well. The idea of playing in Conan’s world is an enticing one, after all. For those looking for something closer to an Elder Scrolls game, this may not be for you. Keep in mind as well that this is not the final build of the game, so things could change. I haven’t touched Ark since my experience with its game preview, and those I’ve talked to who play that game have told me it improved. But for now, proceed with caution, and know what you’re in for. That which does not kill you may make you stronger, but the trick with this game is not dying to begin with, and there are plenty of ways to die. Enter at your own risk.

About the Author

Thomas James Juretus