At first glance, Conan Exiles is an exciting concept. It has hours upon hours content, featuring resource gathering, building, and survival in a vast, open world. Yet Conan feels empty, like a beautiful work of art with no heart or soul. What are you building for? What is your ultimate goal? These questions came to mind multiple times as I played Conan Exiles.
Don’t get me wrong – there are a ton of things to do in Conan. At its core, Conan is a survival game that starts you with nothing and makes you work for everything you have. The opening cinematic sees Conan the Barbarian cut you down from a crucifix and lets you free to create your own adventure. You are literally wearing a loincloth as you begin the game. From there, you start small by picking up loose rocks and branches. And that’s where the grind truly begins.
You can easily build a simple shelter with basic cloth armor and weak weapons right at the start. But this is the world of Conan, and the dangerous monsters and environments will eat you alive if you use weak gear. Conan allows for a lot of powerful upgrades, as long as you have the patience to grind for it. Powerful gear will take multiple steps to create and a variety of tools to do so. It’s tempting to set as soon as you reach resources and water. But the map is absolutely massive, and you want to set up your settlement in a central location that is easy to access.
Your settlement can be as cool as you want it to be. If you can withstand the grind, then you can establish a massive castle. Conan Exiles has a Thrall slavery system that is pretty much necessary if you want to prevent your home from being ransacked. Thralls can be captured and put to work in your settlement. The Thralls are not mindless NPCs. You can enslave Thralls with special abilities that can help and protect your home. Of course, you don’t need a huge home to hold your gear and treasures. One piece of advice – have a spare bedroll with you at all times. You may get lost exploring the vast and brutal world. The bedroll acts as a save point when you eventually find danger and death.
Conan Exiles features brutal melee and ranged combat. The combat plays a bit on the slow side. Your melee attacks are slow and simple. You have a heavy attack that leaves you vulnerable, especially if you miss. Ranged weaponry is not as powerful, but helps when sneaking through dungeons or if you want to weaken an opponent. I think the combat works fine. There’s nothing special about it and you’ll most likely spend your time circling and slashing. And since this is a Conan game, expect about 10 gallons of blood to spill on the floor when you vanquish an enemy.
Players can choose to play single player or multiplayer. If I can be honest with you, multiplayer is the only viable option. The grind is easier to handle when you work with friends. And it’s more fun to take down huge dragons when you do it with friends. You shouldn’t have trouble finding players online because of a large number of servers at your disposal. You are free to rent your own and make the world as cruel or easy as you want. Finding a server that fits your needs is easy, thanks to a short description next to each server.
Despite being in the Preview program, Conan Exiles is not very polished. The game looks pretty, but expect to see some clipping and other glitches while you play. I never came across anything game breaking, and these types of bugs can be expected when playing in a massive, open world.
So the question remains – why does this game feel so empty? It shouldn’t feel this way, especially when you have hours upon hours to spend fighting enemies and making yourself more powerful. The world is full of different environments to explore and dungeons to find. You have lush jungles and frosty mountains to explore and conquer. In a way, the lack of story takes away from the experience.
You would thank that a game based in the world of Conan would feature more story or lore. But there is hardly anything tieing Conan to this game besides the name itself. I am not a Conan historian (I’ve only seen the movies). But a quick search told me that there are at least 12 Conan novels, along with comics and graphic novels. It’s a shame that Exiles barely scratched the surface of the Conan lore. I wonder if Exiles had a more comprehensive plan in place that didn’t work out. Perhaps a World of Warcraft type experience with Conan lore and mythology? Instead, we practically have a game that feels like Minecraft on steroids.
Conan Exiles will be as fun as the effort that you put into it. If you can grind with your friends for hours on end, then you will no doubt enjoy creating a massive settlement and strong gear. But there is nothing of substance that will draw you into this world. The world of Conan Exiles is beautiful and brutal. Yet the lack of story makes Exiles feel as lifeless as the monsters you slay.
Conan Exiles is available now on PC for $39.99. It is also available on Playstation 4 and Xbox One for $49.99.
Note: GameOctane Editor Ryan Welch received a digital code from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing this game. Any code or product intended for reviews is distributed to the team to review and stream for our audience.
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Build massive settlements and create awesome gear
It has the name Conan, but is it a true Conan game?
Lack of Conan lore and mythology
Typical bugs for a massive open world