Conan Exiles Review

By Ethan Anderson,
Conan Exiles is an open world survival game that is much more focused on the journey rather than the destination. The huge map is just begging players to explore it as they create their own stories and find their own paths. The game was a part of Xbox Game Preview last year, and since then, it has undergone many changes through various updates. With that being said, there are still more than a few technical issues, some of which make for some rough gameplay moments. Surviving and thriving in the game’s harsh world does feel gratifying, but its flaws just cannot be ignored.

Conan

The game begins with Conan himself freeing a criminal who was crucified and left to die in a desert. This criminal is you, and you must start a new life as you learn to fend for yourself in the Exiled Lands. The more overt storyline ends there, but you can pick up journals and talk to non-violent NPCs in order to find out more about the world during your travels. Conan Exiles is open-ended, and the game “ends” when you’re finished with it. There is a lot of exploration to be done before that time comes though, if you’re so inclined. You start out near the bottom of the map, and the further north you travel, the tougher the enemies become. The map is quite large, but you can travel as much or as little as you want, depending on how you want to play. The game’s open nature provides a level of freedom that can be surprising and overwhelming at first, but exploring enough to learn the layout of your surroundings is a satisfying feeling.

ConanTry not to get lost

As you explore, hunt, and craft, you will gain experience points. Experience can also be earned by completing “journey” goals that can be tracked in the character menu. Levelling up rewards players with skill points that can be used to raise various stats. You are not given enough skill points to max out every stat, so you will need to choose wisely. Some of the most important stats seem to be strength, vitality, encumbrance, and survival. The former two will keep you alive during enemy encounters, and latter two will allow you to carry more items while alleviating the stress that comes with managing your thirst and hunger meters. Gaining levels also provides separate points that can be spent on Feats. Feats are basically recipes that you can unlock in order to make new, more useful items.

One of the most important things to do when starting out is to choose a location to begin building a home or initial base of operations. Being clueless and curious, I made the mistake of wandering in every which way from the get-go, which resulted in a few deaths and the frequent loss of all of my items. The Exiled Lands are as unforgiving as they are vast if you are caught unprepared. To prevent that from happening, a ton of crafting and resource gathering will need to be done.

1Prime real estate

Unfortunately, collecting resources may put off some players, as it can begin to feel like a serious grind to create even the most basic items. If you plan on making a large structure, you could be mining stone and iron for hours. This process is exacerbated by the finicky aiming that will have you miss objects that you’re trying to collect, harvest, or mine, even when it looks like you’re hitting them. The unfriendly UI only worsens this part of the gameplay experience because of the difficulties that arise when trying to manage inventory items. A large portion of my playtime was spent gathering materials to build a larger base, as well as craft better armour and weapons. This resource grind can be extremely tedious, but the end result of all that repetitive labour can be amazing thanks to the game’s building system, which welcomes creativity.

As you slowly build up your structures, defeat enemies, and create better equipment, a meter will fill at the bottom of the inventory screen. This is known as the Purge meter. Once the meter hits a certain limit, you may be targeted by the Purge. When a Purge occurs, various hostiles will storm your base of operations, and you must fight them off in order to end it. As with regular enemies, Purges will be more difficult the further north you are, but more difficult attacks will yield better loot. This is a creative way to keep players on their toes so that they do not become complacent once their bases grow in size.

ConanAll hail Cthulhu

Although you have the ability to play Conan Exiles solo, the aforementioned tedium is lessened immensely when playing on either a PvE or PvP server. If you are able to play with others, I would highly recommend doing so. The world feels almost empty in a way when playing alone. On a PvE server, the Exiled Lands feel like a large neighbourhood where everyone is trying to survive in their own unique ways. Seeing large structures built into mountainsides, or numerous houses built all along the riverside really brings the Exiled Lands to life. You cannot harm others or destroy their creations on PvE servers, but exploring with other players can be more enjoyable and safer than venturing out alone. On PvP servers, players can attack each other whenever they choose, and it can be difficult to make any progress, even if you are playing with friends. Some servers only allow PvP actions during certain hours of the day, so this lessens the possibility of coming back from your travels to a demolished home. Defending your home can be difficult even if you are there, especially since players have the ability to summon one of the giant Avatars that each represent a religion.

In order to have a better chance at surviving Purges and PvP attacks, you will need to make use of the game’s thrall system. Players are able to capture enemy NPCs, break them down mentally in a Wheel of Pain, and have them perform various tasks in and around bases depending on what type of NPC they happen to be. For example, you can place archers at high points, while physical attackers can be placed strategically around your home. Thralls are essential if you want your base to be defended while you are away.

While the freedom of exploration and the challenge of survival are certainly enjoyable, they can be overshadowed by gameplay and technical issues that cannot be ignored. First and foremost, the most glaring issue is the inconsistent frame rate. The frame rate dipped far too low at times, particularly when trying to load in structures built by other players. This would happen far too often, and it even occurred during combat as well. This could have easily resulted in death, especially since combat can be a frustrating experience, even at a steady frame rate. Combat is a simple affair and enemies are defeated by using a mix of light and heavy attacks. Unfortunately, the combat just feels unpolished, from the odd animations to the lack of impact that weapons have. Running away is probably the best course of action in situations where the frame rate drops during a fight. These frame rate dips can also cause the game to crash more often than what is acceptable, which really sours the experience.

ConanPurges are coming

These immersion-breaking issues are jarring to say the least, but the Exiled Lands are incredibly fun to explore. For this, developer Funcom should be commended. The Exiled Lands themselves are far and away the most interesting aspect of Conan Exiles. Every location is a joy to get lost in. This ranges from the swamps in the east, to the Unnamed City in the west, and even the starting area, just to name a few. There are many, many more areas to find, some of which contain hidden dungeons, remarkable ruins, and even dangerous world bosses.

Conan Exiles contains a total of 25 achievements that would take a very long time to unlock if it weren’t for the Admin Panel. You can unlock almost every single achievement in about an hour or so by playing solo and becoming the admin of the server. With this unlimited power at your fingertips, you are able to do things such as gain levels automatically, spawn enemies to kill, and even fly around. Suffice it to say that this is not a difficult completion by any means with the use of the Admin Panel.

Summary

Conan Exiles is a game that is rewarding to survive in, considering you start off with nothing at all. Going from an exiled criminal to the owner of a large riverfront property is a great feeling. Learning the ins and outs of how to thrive in the Exiled Lands is enjoyable, especially when doing so with other players. These positives tend to be forgotten though, and can be completely eclipsed by the game’s main pitfalls. The frame rate is unacceptable at times, which then affects the already subpar combat. These issues, combined with the numerous crashes, took me out of the experience more than a few times. Sadly, these negatives are nigh impossible to overlook.
6 / 10
Conan Exiles
Positives
  • Exiled Lands are a joy to explore
  • Building tools allow for creativity
  • Base defence adds a level of challenge and strategy
Negatives
  • Unstable frame rate
  • More than a few crashes
  • Lackluster combat
  • Unintuitive UI
Ethics
This reviewer spent 30 hours exploring the Exiled Lands and building his riverside property. 10 out of 25 achievements were unlocked while resisting the temptation of the Admin Panel. An Xbox One review code was provided for the purpose of this review.
Ethan Anderson
Written by Ethan Anderson
Newshound and part of the TrueGaming Network YouTube team. College student who loves making videos and writing about games. In my free time I'm either struggling/failing to get completions, or praying for a Jak 4.
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