Conan Exiles is an online survival game either played from the first-person or third-person perspective. While the title features numerous characters and mysteries to uncover, it still revolves around gathering resources, learning new schematics, and crafting better gear or shelter. Starting off with nothing more than a stone house, you'll eventually be able to build entire cities with dangerous siege weaponry. This progression — from a lowly exile to the most powerful being — is what makes Conan Exiles so rewarding to experience.
The most important, and somewhat controversial mechanic behind Conan Exiles is the "Thrall System". Thralls are effectively hostiles the player enslaves so that they become allies. In order to combat the countless otherworldly enemies which plague The Exiled Lands, this is necessary because you need a small army to take out certain strongholds. For example, The Unnamed City is filled with hordes of skeletons and other dragon-like creatures. There's even a massive "World Serpent" you have to fight among the ruins. Having thralls who can accompany you into battle is a necessity.
A large part of becoming stronger involves exploration. Finding new camps, cities, dungeons or ruins grants you a tremendous amount of experience points. This allows you to increase attributes like strength and vitality, as well as unlock new blueprints. However, many places are shrouded by a miasma called "Corruption". In other games, similar mists don't impact your health and stamina after you step out of them. In the case of Conan Exiles, there are permanent reductions to both which can only be restored by an "Entertainer".
It's unclear why Funcom decided to make "curing" Corruption this difficult because it hinders exploration. Finding a dancer at a camp is rare and even then you'll have to fight hordes of enemies just to covert that one character into a thrall. Usually they end up getting killed. Then, you have to watch the thrall for a while before the purple Corruption dissipates. This means that you won't be able to explore the important — and exciting — part of the open world until much later because it's filled with the toxic miasma.
Aside from exploration, day-to-day life focuses on hunting, chopping wood, collecting soft plants, and mining stone. These are the basic building blocks of a lot of items you see in the "Crafting" interface. Stone can be baked into bricks or crude weapons, wood can be shaped into various objects like tables or workbenches, and plant fiber can be woven into clothes. While better gear requires items like iron and resin, you can still get far with these basic materials.
When you go exploring, even if it's to an adjacent enemy camp, there's the chance of coming across chests. These can contain anything from wood to advanced weaponry. During our playthrough of the near-final build which totaled to over 27 hours, we were able to find everything from steel pickaxes to rare swords in them. Equipping these items allows you to easily cut through enemies and explore even further.
Conan Exiles is much more accessible than Ark: Survival Evolved. Getting into Ark: Survival Evolved can be a challenge because even procuring food presents a problem. This results in frequent deaths. For example, in the dinosaur-focused game, you can't eat any fruit you find on plants because it might poison or paralyze you. While Conan Exiles is simpler, it's also much more fun. You can find insects, turtles eggs, and cooked meat on enemies. If you want to grill, that's easy because making a campfire requires almost no resources and there are plenty of turtles roaming around which provide "Savory Meat". Unlike Ark: Survival Evolved, Conan Exiles has a low learning curve so even beginners to the survival genre can find their way around. This is by far the most important trait a game in the genre should possess.
Currently players can venture into different zones like a desert, ruined city, springs, mountains, and grassy hills. However, in a few weeks, a volcano and swamp biome will be added. These present new challenges because undiscovered ancient civilizations and cults reside there. There are plenty of new characters to meet which give you a history of why their great cities fell. Finding about history through enchanted tablets and the last survivors of a long-lost culture is a unique way to present the lore of the region. It adds to Conan Exiles' intrigue because few games effectively replicate it.
Features like the"Purge" — a global event that sends frost giants and other creatures to attack your base — and Fast Travel are also coming to the game. Fast Travel works in a unique way because you have to build a "Map Room" and "attune" your bracelet to various fast travel towers around the map. This allows you to instantly teleport there but it's only a one-way trip. Players must walk all the way back if they wish to return.
The ultimate goal, or ability, is to vanquish your enemies by calling upon the gods. By either conducting human sacrifices or other rituals, players can summon massive gods which can destroy entire cities in one go. This requires a lot of grinding and if you want to do this, you have to play online with other gamers. Teams — or "Clans" — need to constantly gather resources, farm crops, capture thralls, send out exploration parties, make sure they have enough food, among other tasks. From our experience, this is the only way to reach a level where calling avatars to destroy everything in your path is possible.
Ever since Conan Exiles launched on Xbox Game Preview all those months ago, the title has gone through numerous transformations. What was once a broken game is now stable in terms of performance and visuals. The title looks gorgeous on Xbox One X as it runs at 1440p on Microsoft's system. Other consoles like the PlayStation 4 Pro achieve 1080p or less. While the visuals might not be breathtaking like those found in Assassin's Creed Origins, they're still great and the lighting is the real star of the show here.
The frame rate is also mostly 30 FPS but there are a few stuttering issues here and there when a new part of the map loads. Given the massive leap Funcom has achieved with the recent patches, these small problems should be ironed out with further optimizations. When Conan Exiles launches on May 8, 2018, it should also bring even more technical polish to the game.
One of the major ways the developer improved the title has to the upgraded combat system. Beforehand, swinging your sword around was an awful and laggy experience. Luckily, the new model takes cues from titles like Dark Souls where you have a light attack, heavy attack, and block functionality. Targeting an enemy is easy and dodging their attacks works well. This makes combat much smoother but it's still not perfect. There are a few animation issues which need to be ironed out, but taking on foes is much easier as a result of this.
One of the most drastic changes has to be the new health system. To make the game slightly more difficult, the team removed health regeneration. This is more of an annoyance than a meaningful change because now you have to eat after every battle. After a meal, regenerating health is slow and it detracts from exploration because you constantly have to worry about food reserves. The only way to overcome this is to play on the "Civilized" difficulty setting so your hunger and thirst meter don't deplete so quickly.
Aside from polish when it comes to animations and performance, Conan Exiles needs more customization options to create a truly unique character. There are only a few different types of faces and even the sliders to adjust lips, nose or jaw don't do much. More flexibility would be greatly appreciated here.
Overall, Conan Exiles is a great game which seems like a much more substantial experience than when it first appeared in Xbox Game Preview. Xbox One owners should give this title another chance because almost everything about the game has changed. The combat, performance, and scope of the title have greatly expanded. There are also numerous stories to uncover. If Funcom can perfect the console frame rate before launch and eliminate the slight stuttering, then there's a chance that the title might be one of the most popular survival games on the system. However, even in its current state, Conan Exiles is addictive and a lot of fun. This is why you should check it out again.
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Asher Madan handles gaming news for Windows Central. Before joining Windows Central in 2017, Asher worked for a number of different gaming outlets. He has a background in medical science and is passionate about all forms of entertainment, cooking, and antiquing.