Not quite barbaric, but certainly not civilised
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.
SWORDS AND SOAR-CERY
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.
“WANT TO BUILD AN ELABORATE CLIFFSIDE FORTRESS? GO FOR IT.”
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.
FORMAT PS4 ETA OUT NOW PUB FUNCOM DEV FUNCOM