Conan Exiles is a survival/building game made by Funcom set in the universe of Conan the Barbarian. It’s brutal, graphic, clever, and it turns out, fun. I’ve put this article in the “Review” section of the website, but I want to stress that this game is in Early Access and is not ready to be officially reviewed. I’ll be sharing my first impressions on the current state of the game, which does not necessarily reflect what the finished product will be.
As is the case with many other survival games, you start out with nothing in Conan Exiles. And I do mean nothing – you’re literally naked, as many people have humorously pointed out on YouTube and elsewhere. Note: If you decide to search for this, be advised that it is definitely not safe for work. You do have the option of restricting it to partial nudity, but where is the fun in that? Jokes aside, I find that the nudity is actually appropriate to the setting and does help convey the brutality of the situation.
Sweating under a desert sun with no sign of life in any direction, your need for water is quickly increasing. Sand is kicked up into your eyes as you look around, desperately trying to make sense of things. Conan Exiles does a great job of immediately conjuring up the desire to survive, to fight, to tell this world that you’re not only going to live, you’re going to rise up and lay waste to those that oppose you. The world is actually quite immersive and believable. The dry rocky outcrops, scattered jungle flora and fauna, and the occasional river all really help set the scene. You’ll come across ancient ruins, ominous statues and small islands as you explore the landscape. But all of this will come later. For now, you have to run.
You’ll need to take care of the basics right away: food, water, shelter, and self-defense. You’ll gain your first several levels quickly by gathering materials and searching for a place to set up camp. Gathering materials is accomplished by using different tools to hit different objects – such as using a pickaxe on a stone, or an axe on a tree. As you gain levels, you’ll be given points to spend on different recipes that will allow you to build structures, camp fires, weapons, and several other things. You’ll also get attribute points that you can distribute to increase things like strength or stamina. Once you’ve found a source of water and unlocked the basic building recipes, you can build a shelter and a camp fire. This will allow you to cook meat (from rabbits or other animals that you’ve punched to death) and will give you a safe place to hide. That takes care of food, water, and shelter. As you get a few more points, you’ll want to unlock some weapon and armor recipes pretty quickly so that you can take care of yourself as you explore.
From here it becomes pretty similar to many other survival games. You explore, level up, unlock new recipes, build new things, kill some monsters, explore, level up, build new things. In its current state, and again I want to stress that this is an Early Access title, you aren’t going to find a lot of groundbreaking features quite yet. But, if you would enjoy exploring an interesting environment that feels like a believable place, unlocking various recipes, and exercising creativity to build a super cool house, then you’ll likely enjoy Conan Exiles already. Let’s take a more detailed look at the different elements of the game.
Right now, the combat is pretty simple and admittedly not very fluid. Funcom is aware of this, and part of what they have planned is to really step this up. There are recipes for various swords, hammers, clubs, bows and arrows, shields, armor, and a few other things. This gives you a few different options to fit your playstyle, for example using a big two-handed hammer, or wielding a much faster one-handed sword and shield. You’ll need these weapons to defend yourself against other humans, large animals like elephants and rhinos, giant spiders, and demonic beasts to name a few.
They’re going to be working on improving enemy AI, and making it so that hitting different parts of the body will do different amounts of damage. The combat is most similar to something like Skyrim. Lots of moving forward and backward and swinging your weapon with the hope that it will connect. As I mentioned a moment ago, it’s pretty basic right now, and a lot of times the weapons don’t connect even when they should, and there’s no real sense of power or satisfaction from hitting things. As these improvements happen, I imagine it will have an even greater effect on the PvP aspect of the game. While you don’t have to play on a PvP enabled server, you certainly can, and if you do you’ll be able to fight against other people and destroy all of their stuff. Brutal.
The building in Conan Exiles is quite good. While you don’t have the ability to modify the landscape as you would in something like Minecraft or Astroneer, you do have a good number of options for building structures that are attractive and interesting. In addition to your standard walls and doors, you have foundations that you can place, different types of roofs, stairs, support pillars, and a lot more. You even have wedge and triangular shaped pieces, which means that not every room or building has to be a square or a rectangle. Furniture is pretty limited at the moment, but there are chairs, tables, rugs, tapestries, flags, and a few decorative items. This is obviously another area that Funcom is going to be working diligently on – increasing the number of recipes that are available to you.
Some of the building is a bit buggy at the moment in regard to placing pieces. Occasionally you’ll run into a situation where the game just does not want to let you place that last piece of your roof. Usually you can work your way around this, or delete and re-build a few pieces to fix it. Alternatively, I’ve ended up making some much more interesting structures because I had to change the shape of them to get things to work.
One of the other interesting aspects about Conan Exiles is the ability to capture thralls. As of right now, and they’re going to be greatly expanding this, you can capture human NPC’s and set them up as guards for your home base, or even have them craft items for you. I find that this is not only useful, but adds an element of life to your base. As they continue to expand upon this system, it should really set Conan Exiles apart from other survival games.
There are constant updates happening to this game right now. Bug fixes, features, recipes, the list goes on. Funcom is burning the candle at both ends to make Conan Exiles better, and to do it fast. There are plans for siege weapons like trebuchets, a dyeing system for clothes and armor, and even city management options for when you capture thralls and force them to carry out tasks. There are also plans to add a sorcery system to the game, and fatalities.
Should You Get It Right Now?
Conan Exiles has a huge amount of potential, and while I’m often wary of Early Access games, I know that Funcom has the capacity to deliver very memorable experiences. Anarchy Online (recently made available on Steam, as a side note) was so interesting when it was released that I still talk about it with friends to this day. And while Age of Conan, for example, may have had some issues, there were moments of pure brilliance in that game. If you’re looking for a game that is nearly done, and you’d like to get an early jump on it – look elsewhere. There’s a long way to go with Conan Exiles, and the game is not done yet. However, it is surprisingly polished in many ways. If you’re OK with the combat in its current state, and you’re more interested in just exploring and building, you’ll likely enjoy the game as it is and I would definitely consider buying it.
Conan Exiles is not expected to be in Early Access for longer than 12 months, so we should see it released officially in early 2018.