Not quite bar­baric, but cer­tainly not civilised

PlayStation Official Magazine (UK) - - REVIEW - Alex­JaySpencer

You might ex­pect the bar­bar­ian life to be all stab­bing, pil­lag­ing, and gen­eral ter­ror­is­ing – the usual bar­baric stuff. But Co­nan Ex­iles shows it’s ac­tu­ally much more com­plex than that. You’ll spend at least as much time chop­ping wood, hunt­ing an­i­mals, and pick­ing through craft­ing menus as you will en­gaged in bat­tle. This isn’t an en­tirely bad thing. Ex­iles is a sur­vival game, and comes with that fa­mil­iar but sat­is­fy­ing loop: iden­tify the thing you want to build, spend a while gath­er­ing ma­te­ri­als, and then en­joy a brief mo­ment of ful­fil­ment be­fore mov­ing straight on to the next thing. Build­ing is a par­tic­u­lar high­light, al­low­ing you to slot pieces to­gether prac­ti­cally any­where in the world. Want to build an elab­o­rate cliffside fortress? Go for it. Want to drop a sin­gle ceil­ing block on four walls just so you’ve got some­where to stash your bed? You’ll still be proud of the results.


On top of this fa­mil­iar struc­ture (the sur­vival genre, not your sand­stone shack) Ex­iles piles fea­tures from a va­ri­ety of other games. Com­bat isn’t all that com­mon un­less you seek out fights, but it is pleas­ingly bru­tal when you do lock swords with an NPC or, if you’ve opted to play on a PvP server, an­other player.

A climb­ing-al­most-whereveryou-want sys­tem is a great way to explore Ex­iles’ huge fan­tasy set­ting. It also pro­vides one of the game’s best power-fan­tasy mo­ments – grab­bing onto a sur­face as you fall, slow­ing your de­scent with the sheer strength of your fin­ger­tips. Un­for­tu­nately, it doesn’t al­ways work, mean­ing you find your­self reach­ing the sum­mit of a huge struc­ture only for the edge de­tec­tion to fail and send you drop­ping to your death.

This lack of pol­ish is sadly con­sis­tent through­out. The fact that Ex­iles was ini­tially de­vel­oped for PC oc­ca­sion­ally shows through, es­pe­cially in the menus, which are fid­dly and make com­mon tasks like start­ing a fire and roast­ing meat an un­nec­es­sar­ily com­pli­cated un­der­tak­ing. You drop all your be­long­ings when you die, but col­lect them from your corpse and you’ll have to re­set all the short­cuts.

It’s a shame, be­cause the game does make ef­forts to be more ac­ces­si­ble. The ‘Jour­ney’ sys­tem hands you a string of MMO-style quests which also serve as a tu­to­rial. It takes you by the hand and guides you from the ba­sics of sur­vival (eat, drink, get clothes) to high-level craft­ing and boss bat­tles. But even this isn’t as trans­par­ent as it should be, leav­ing you scratch­ing your head over how to com­plete some tasks.

Ex­per­i­men­ta­tion and ex­plo­ration are the foun­da­tions of any sur­vival game. While Ex­iles’ world does re­ward th­ese, with awe-in­spir­ing struc­tures that loom over­head, or an oa­sis of calm in the midst of a desert, the game’s sys­tems too of­ten fail to fol­low suit.



Ex­iles tries to ex­pand beyond the tra­di­tional Co­nan power fan­tasy, but has a frus­trat­ing lack of pol­ish that af­fects any en­joy­ment. It’s a missed op­por­tu­nity. Alex Spencer

Die and the game will take every­thing, down to the lit­eral clothes off your back.



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