Conan Exiles is the new survival game from Funcom. Now, for those who have been living in a forest crafting sticks into beds over the past half decade, survival games are big business. Survival games shot to prominence following the explosion of Minecraft from late 2010 onwards. Since then, survival games have evolved and today there are various experiences to survive through – be it the past or the future, the depths of space to the bottom of the ocean, there’s a survival game for you. Survival games have also come a long way and offer complex and often difficult situations to survive through.
I very much enjoy the survival genre. Over the past few years, I’ve had a lot of fun with Project Z, The Forest, and Empyrion: Galactic Survival. When I heard that Funcom, a developer I have a lot of love for, was making Conan Exiles, I was excited. Funcom hasn’t had the greatest of times over the past few years, Dreamfall: The Longest Journey was a long awaited sequel to their fantastic point and click game The Longest Journey and was well received critically, but sold only a few hundred thousand copies during its initial run. Licences MMORPG Age of Conan was later released following the success of Funcom’s 2001 game Anarchy Online, and in 2010, Funcom released a trailer for a game that looked to revolutionise the stagnating MMORPG genre, The Secret World.
Sadly, The Secret World never made the impact they were hoping, and whilst still a very good MMORPG, The Secret World faded quietly into the background. The Secret World went free-to-play in 2012 and has a cult following, and Funcom has released a number of spin-offs over the years, including 2015’s ‘The Park’. Funcom seems to be doing just fine, but they don’t look to have had a major game since the critically acclaimed The Longest Journey in 1999. That is, until Conan Exiles.
I’m getting a bit ahead of myself, because only time will tell if it becomes a major hit, but judging on the fact it has sold over 300,000 copies since its Early Access launch, then I think it’s safe to assume this will be Funcom’s biggest game in a long time.
So let’s get the biggest peni– I mean, elephant in the room out of the way. Two words, folks: DONG PHYSICS. I’m not loving the word dong, so I hereby now change the name of this mechanic to Phallus Physics. As for this particular part of the game? It’s a bit of a gimmick, albeit one that’s garnered this game a fair whack of attention, so fair play to Funcom for coming up with a silly and fun addition to what is quite a serious survival game. The penis itself is fairly accurate, it moves a bit oddly at times, sometimes looking like it’s made of jelly and a bit weightless, it sometimes wavers slightly in the wind. It moves well, though, it’s not like a unpredictable jelly tube. It has design ‘joints’, if you will. It allows your exile’s penis to swing up and down accurately. Someone has spent many-a-day on this phallus, and it shows.
As for the game, it’s early access as you most probably know, but with some nice bits. Early into play, you see a horrific flying creature and the body of a soldier and after reading his diary, it reveals that he ordered his troops to search in amongst the ruins for sticks and rocks to build weapons and torches. It’s a nice way to guide you into the start of the game, whereas many survival games either tell you nothing, or go way too deep into their tutorial. Conan Exiles doesn’t want to do anything to bring you out of the game experience, and this style of tutorial works well. Many survival games seem to focus on either singleplayer or multiplayer, but often not both. Okay, while Empyrion and The Forest both have multiplayer and coop respectively, they do still feel like they’re about surviving on your own, whereas games like Rust and Savage Lands are all about online play. Conan’s main menu has two options for play: solo, co-op and multiplayer. It’s nice to see a developer trying to make both modes as playable as the other.
Conan Exiles’ in-game menus will draw you out of the game somewhat. There’s crafting menus and levelling up menus, it does combine the inventory and crafting menu, but I do find it distracts from the core game a little. The crafting is a bit basic: in your inventory you have the items you can craft, click on it and it’ll tell you what you need to craft said item. At the bottom of the menu, it gives you the option to ‘craft’; click that and you’re done. Nothing more to it, however the levelling up menu opens up more choices of things you want to create, so the game gives you purpose to push on. During my stay in Conan Exiles I crafted a bed, but had a lot of trouble placing it as no terrain seemed to be suitable and in turn I died of thirst. A bad Tuesday.
Personally, I found the combat to be a little unbalanced and difficult. The first few times I came into contact with anything hostile, I thoroughly had my arse handed to me, but oddly it seemed that it was easier going in and fighting with my fists rather than fighting with a pickaxe. Now, I understand that a pick isn’t to be used in combat, but I feel if I smashed a guy in the face with a pickaxe rather than my own fists it would have done more damage. Of course this game is Early Access and has already had several patches since its release, so expect things like combat to be given more depth at a later date. At least I hope so, because at the moment it’s pretty standard for a survival game – it’s a case of just hitting the person in front of you till they fall down.
As I mentioned, this game has had several updates following its release to Early Access, which are mostly to make the game more stable. I’ve had a few crashes myself, and even on occasion had to hard reset my laptop. There’s some nice graphical options -the game looks lovely with settings maxed out- but I was rather pleased to see they hadn’t forgotten people with lower end laptops. Conan Exiles has a dedicated ‘low end laptop mode’ which you can switch to if you have a lower end laptop. I think it’s wonderful that Funcom have included this and made the decision to make this game accessible to as many gamers as possible.
Low end laptop mode does more than just lower all the settings, it loads in certain assets as you get closer to them, and while it creates some nasty pop in, it does allow the game to play smoother. At least in theory. In reality, it didn’t work as well as hoped: I have a mid-range gaming laptop (few years old now) but it runs modern games quite well, as long as I adjust the settings. So I stuck it into low end laptop mode to get the best performance possible, however I found it ran better when simply placed on low. Not sure why this issue is, perhaps it’s something to do with the Exiles optimisation, but expect this to get patched at some point during development.
All in all, Conan Exiles is a solid, but early first foray into the world of survival for Funcom. Exiles isn’t the most fun game to play at the moment and there’s plenty of other survival games further down the development line that I could recommend. Also, £26.99 feels a little high for a game this early in development, I have my own opinions on Early Access pricing which I won’t go into with any major detail here, but I do feel games with less content should have lower prices and gradually increase with development, a la Minecraft.
However, Conan Exiles could easily grow into a great survival title, so if you want to watch a game grow into something more then Conan Exiles could be the game for you. If not then hold off for six months and see where this game goes, but if you’re into your survival then keep this on your radar.