Conan Exiles – PS4 Review
Conan Exiles has been in early access for a year, and as with most early access survival titles, it had a long haul before it went gold and rushed off to the general public. I happened to snag a PS4 copy and have played, dreamed, and sweat this game. Find out my thoughts about the single-player mode after the jump!
Indie developer FunCom had their work cutout for their latest game. As ambitious as its influence, Ark, Conan Exiles boasts a huge, seamless world to explore in single player, co-op, PvE, and PvP. For my playthrough–it being my first true survival game outside of Minecraft–I decided to get my feet wet with the single player version, and let me tell you, I was overwhelmed.
The game–as true survival is–does not hold your hand. After you create your avatar, you are thrust into a sweltering desert, half-naked (note, full nudity is an option on versions outside of the United States, if that be your fancy), starving, and dehydrated. There are no quest markers, no compass. Just you and desolation.
I open my map and note greenery in the northeast. “What plants don’t require water,” I think aloud, hoping my voice lends comfort to the bleakness that is the white sands of the desert. Blazing the path, I forage in the dune shrubs hoping to find aught of use and come away with plant fiber and a handful of insects; both prove useful for crafting rudimentary tools, and health regeneration, respectively.
After 10 real-life minutes, I make it to the river and fill up my waterskin, only to find myself eye-to-eye with a giant crocodile. I have no weapons. No armor. Flight is my only option, and I high-tail it up the rise and climb onto a small cliff. I scout an enemy encampment not too far off the ridge; it’s small, maybe only two people around a bonfire. I notice the cliff’s edge loosed a bit of stone, so I pick up a few and craft a stone ax neanderthals would envy. It’s basic, but it will suffice for now. Five minutes and a lot of blood loss later, both enemies are felled and I use my plant fiber to craft a respawn point. Respawn points are a finite (because if you place another, the other point is destroyed, without returning the materials to your person) place to spawn, in the event of death. If you don’t place one, you will spawn at the beginning of the desert. No one wants that.
My journey continues like this, a trial and error of learning the rhythm of combat, what weapons and utilities I can craft, and the best place to rest. Unfortunately, the game does not indicate exactly how you learn new recipes and I wandered for over two hours wondering how the hell I build the most integral part of survival: fire. Finally, I learn to tab over to the “Feats” menu, where in all sub-menu glory, I find every single crafting category. Now the fun truly begins. I have 47 points to socket into learning new craft, and 16 points to level up–that’s right, I made it to level 16 before even realizing I could craft literally anything I wanted, provided I had the resources. So I made to building. Slow and steady, a small hut borne from the dusty desert stone. And till now, it remains my solace from the dangers of Conan’s world.
The game does a perfect job with solitude. Especially during the single-player campaign–nothing but wilderness and your wits exist. Remnants of ancient civilizations dot the expanse, their narrative begging to be unearthed as I work to build a civilization of my own. I’m not powerful enough to uncover their secrets. Not yet.
Funcom Games has a long history, with names like Caspar: The Friendly Ghost (yes, THAT ghost), and Pocahontas way back on the Genesis, the team has experience. Conan Exiles is a great example of their echelon when it comes to production value. The giant map is varied and beautiful and I’d find myself forgetting what I was up to because I’d taken a stroll around a sprawling oasis, taking in the sights.That said, however, the frame rate dips well below 30 per second more often than it should and sound effect synchronization can be off by a few seconds, at times. In one brawl, I had fallen from a cliff and a good five seconds later, my avatar screamed, despite having already hit the ground.
While these negatives are jarring when they occur, it really doesn’t take away from being immersive; it is my understanding that the whole of the survival genre are plagued by the same issues. Nevertheless, I still feel the need to build bigger and better settlements. I still wish to gain the coolest, most badass armor and weaponry. They are a necessity, because the wilderness of Conan Exiles, even in single-player, never ceases to threaten your existence. Your arsenal of craftable weapons is a mighty tool to combat this.
I have a set of iron daggers and an iron pike I use quite frequently. Daggers offer a nice bleed mechanic, but I do find the hit detection with those to be horribly off. I’ll be locked onto an enemy, strike as many times as I’d like, and miss every time. I don’t know if it’s tied to stats like a typical RPG, but it’s unfortunate, because the daggers are pretty wicked. That is until I found the pike. The spear was my go-to in Nioh and will certainly by mine in Conan Exiles as well. Fast, fluid, and long-reaching, the pike keeps enemies at bay, dealing massive amount of damage at the same time.
To aid you on your journey to conquer the wilds, religions can be learned and utilized; each give special abilities and crafting options. I chose Yog, the Ice Giant, hoping I could eventually craft ice-infused weapons.
Despite a less obvious narrative, some technical issues including frame rate, environment clipping, and hit detection, and scant synchronization problems, Conan Exiles is a wonderfully vast, humbling survival experience. It’s varied environments are beautiful as they are dangerous and begged to be explored. The combat system–even through my experience with the daggers–is visceral and satisfying. Unfortunately its annoying stutters hinder it from being spectacular.