Conan Exiles is a staggeringly deep adventure game, but you may get too frustrated to bother making it to the end. The FNGR GNS Review;
Conan Exiles sure is somethin’. For a game that’s been in Early Access for what feels like an absolute eternity, it’s strange to jump into the game at the 1.0 stage and feel curiously pessimistic regarding what was actually achieved. Exiles is enormous, overwhelming and brutal, ticking a multitude of boxes for players who enjoy the genre. There’s no doubt the audience that the game built during its time in Early Access and Xbox Game Preview are sticking around for the harsh brutality of it all. The game doesn’t so much hold your hand as throw you off the highest cliff you can imagine with a towel for a parachute.
Funcom weren’t messing around when they said the story would earn the reputation. Throughout my time playing Exiles I never felt like I was getting better, I was merely surviving and powering through as best I could. Avoiding confrontation whilst I searched for loot and learning the basic mechanics was a chore that took at least several hours. The game never really kicks off, it just opens up the more you learn about the world around you and how on earth you’re meant to survive when absolutely everything and everyone you meet wants to eat you.
You begin the game atop a cross, your hands nailed in and left there amongst others who have suffered the same fate. You’re dying in the horrendous heat/starvation/sandstorms until *the* Conan turns up to cut you down and save you from your grisly end. There’s little support offered, merely ‘go out and survive’, which is about as helpful as the game ever is. A bold choice, and one I appreciated as the game picks up straight from this moment and that’s it. You’re butt-ass naked (no really, the dong physics are to be commended. Especially when you can literally choose how big you want your dick to be) and once you’re done jumping around and laughing like a loon at penises/breasticles, it’s up to you to find clothes, shelter and food and not get murdered in the face.
There’s no easy way to play Conan Exiles. Even on the easiest difficulty the harsh terrain the the life that surrounds you are going to punish you no matter what, so you’re going to have to get used to dying a fair bit before you get your head around it all. You *have* to craft, you simply have no other choice and you must learn how to do it first before anything else. Going on the hunt for the quite frankly astonishing number of materials that you can use to build houses, make clothes and weapons will be what takes up a huge amount of your time once you kick things off. Get yourself a bedroll first, that can be used as a save point. It’s challenging as all hell without these little decisions to make sure you’re going to see it through. If you die, you can go back to your old corpse and harvest it for meat and bones. Handy, though dying just to get material isn’t particularly recommended, there’s plenty of everything you need about you’re just going to have to spend an awful lot of time ensuring you have the required amount.
Your enjoyment of Exiles will live or die on how you feel about hunting and crafting your way through the entirety of the experience. For me, I felt like I could look past the overwhelming amount of just how much the game is asking of you without telling you how to do any of it. The frustration comes in the combat, which I felt throughout would be better suited on a keyboard and not a controller. The button mapping is bizarre and with the majority of the combat thrown onto the shoulder buttons, it felt very unnatural and awkward. It’s made more so by the sheer number of things that want to turn you into food. There are times when you’ll be jumped by damn near anything whilst you’re simply looking for materials. Crafting a weapon of some kind is essential at first as you’re going to need it to even attempt to survive the near constant bombardment of enemies. The whole ‘crafting save points’ mechanic is a pain in the ass but even more so when you just want to shut the game down but you can’t because you’re missing a piece of the bedroll you need, so you just head into a village to look for it and end up getting killed just because you want to save the game. Give me a break.
It forces you to go backwards, retreading your steps to remind you where you found the original parts and this is just a monumentally frustrating waste of time in a game where you have no other option but to keep moving. There’s a fair amount of Exiles that kept me coming back but each time this happened I felt like throwing my controller through a window.
Still, there are moments in Conan Exiles that remind you that’s all worth it. Just.
The game looks bloody lovely. On my PS4 Pro the lighting soared, the characters are alive and the presentation overall is just glorious. There are moments at first where it all looks rather empty, though the later environments make up for this and bring this harsh unforgiving world to life. A particular highlight is the sandstorms, which are cracking visual treat that makes you feel like you’re in a cave-man prequel to Fury Road. It’s half the reason I wanted to keep going on in the game, I wanted to see what was next and how they could impress me more with their environments. In this regard, Exiles consistently delivers.
The later moments in Exiles is what keeps you engaged. When you’re finally building empires you can create some truly monumental structures that counter-balances how big you wanted your dong to be at the beginning of the game. The highlight of the entire game was showing off my offering to a God, it almost felt like playing with LEGO as a kid and showing off what you made to your parents. After the agonising opening, it felt like it had all paid off. Finally. It’s like the game is split directly down the middle when it comes to just how you’re going to experience it.
And that’s just it. Conan Exiles isn’t going to make it easy for you to enjoy. There’s a terrific story here to be told but you’re going to have to want it. If you’re willing to stick it out you’re rewarded somewhat remarkably. It felt like a genuine accomplishment when I reached the Gods and was able to tower over the world that had kicked the ever living shit out of me for nearly ten hours. It felt like I was victorious and the game wasn’t even close to being completed yet. There are mechanics that are going to infuriate you, the game takes forever and a day to get going but there’s a gem hidden deep inside this mountain and the game pretty much makes it up to you. It tells you ‘you want to see the best of this game? You’re going to have to work for it’, and it’s not joking.
You’re probably aware by now I didn’t enjoy Exiles in the first several hours and you’d think if you can’t get to grips with a game in its early stages then it’s probably not going to be for you and you’d be forgiven for thinking that. In the back of my mind though I had a gut feeling that eventually this was all going to be worth it, and well for the sake of the review I had to power through. I’m glad I did, once you have yourself a bit of power it becomes an entirely different game and you can begin to enjoy the fruits of your labour.
You have to be wary of this, the way the game is paced is absolutely not going to suit everyone. The game takes its sweet time to open up but once it does, it doesn’t let you go.
Should stress there is also a multiplayer component which is based around PvP. For the life of me I tried to get a game for this review but alas, I couldn’t in time for the review to go live. I’m going to keep trying and will update this review with multiplayer impressions as soon as I can.
Conan Exiles is available on Xbox One, PS4 (reviewed on PS4 Pro) and PC.
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a review code from the publishers. For our full review policy, please go here.