Conan Exiles is an open-world third-person and first-person action, adventure survival RPG available from retail stores and for download from the PlayStation Store for the PS4. Conan Exiles is not based upon a particular original story written by Robert E. Howard in the 1930s, but is certainly set within the same world that he created that was depicted in Conan the Barbarian and Conan the Destroyer starring Arnold Schwarzenegger in 1982 and 1984 respectively. Conan videogames have dated as far back as 1984 when side-scrolling action platformer Conan: Hall of Volta released on Apple II, Atari 800 and Commodore 64; followed by side-scrolling action platformer Conan: The Mysteries of Time on Commodore 64 and NES, alongside a mixture of top-down and side-scrolling action in Conan: The Cimmerian on Amiga and DOS in 1991. Two separate third-person action adventure games titled Conan released in 2004 on PS2, GameCube, Xbox and PC and 2007 on PS3 and Xbox 360 respectively. The diversity of genres explored within Conan videogames continued with an MMORPG titled Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures on PC in 2008 that was also developed by Conan Exiles developer, Funcom. A short story named Conan: Tower of the Elephant was adapted as an iOS game to tie-in with the release of the Conan the Barbarian film in 2011. Can Funcom successfully produce the greatest videogame adaptation of the lore and mythology of Conan in the form of Conan Exiles?

An immediate point of contention for Conan Exiles is that Conan is not a playable character; instead the player creates their own character. However, Conan is met immediately after creating your character as Conan saves your character’s life when he or she is brutally left to die for crimes he or she may not have even committed. Your created character then has to find their way from rags and under strength due to a lack of water and food to gradually building a powerful kingdom.

Before gameplay begins; the player progresses through multiple steps of character customisation in which you can choose to play as a male or female, alongside 14 races each with their own characteristics; 6 religions that range from offering no specialisation or avatar to providing advantages and an avatar to call upon during certain circumstances in gameplay; 4 voices; 5 faces, 10 skintones, over a dozen hairstyles, 18 hair colours, 10 eyebrow shapes, 15 eyebrow colours, 9 facial hairstyles, 18 facial hair colours, 9 eye shadow styles and 14 eye shadow shades; a wide selection of sliders ranging from 0 to 20 points to shape the size of the jaw and chin, the width and height of cheeks, width, scale and height of the nose, thickness of mouth, angle and scale of ears, scale, angle and spacing of the eyes and 16 eye colours; and body features such as height, physique and muscle size on 0 to 20 points sliders.

Enemy design includes members of other tribes that do not want your character near their people or shelter, skeletons equipped with swords and wild animals such as carnivores and crocodiles, while there are numerous enemy bosses including giant fire-breathing dragons, Barrow King, a giant snake that spits venom and much more besides.

Environments are authentically set in the times of Conan the Barbarian as there are vast open areas on land, underwater and underground in dungeons. The best part of the environment design is how the player can manipulate it to their preferences by building your character’s throne where you want and to the basic or elegancy in design.

Attributes allow the player to utilise points to improve important survival skills particularly during combat including strength, agility, vitality, accuracy, grit, encumbrance and survival. For instance, improving your character’s agility reduces the drain on stamina when sprinting, halves falling damage, removes any reduction in stamina when jumping, increases your armour’s efficiency when dodging and provides a second leap when jumping. However, to attain significantly enhanced attributes will take quite a lot of time and effort as a single point will only progress your character’s attributes marginally within the designated category, despite there being five sets of major milestones per attribute category.

Feats utilises points that are separate from attribute points referred to as knowledge points. A certain quantity of knowledge points are exchanged in order to learn recipes at a cost of anywhere from 1 to 50 knowledge points, although your character must have reached a particular level that is anywhere between 1 to 60 depending on the scale of importance that the skills learned within the recipe has on your character’s survival as well as the amount of skills simultaneously learned. Knowledge points essentially teach your character how to construct individual building components; decorate the interior of a building; supplies for survival such as a leather skin for storing water; numerous weapons such as swords, clubs, axes, a bow and multiple types of arrows; increasing strengths of armour, warpaint and tools for reducing the weight of armour; five steps of masonry from apprentice through to aquilonian; varying types of torches; a furniture maker; stone tools; cooking; storage chests; and much more besides.

Everything learned from knowledge points plays into your inventory in which your items are listed on the left and the skills learned are displayed on the right, although an item cannot be crafted if the resources required to do so have not been gathered. For instance, a campfire is required to keep your character warm at night or in naturally cold environments and is useful for cooking food, although 5 branches and 12 stones are needed; therefore items must be collected from the surrounding environments, but carrying an excessive quantity of items can cause your character to lose their stamina much faster.

There are 10 chapters worth of optional objectives referred to as the Exiles Journey with 10 objectives per chapter totalling to 100 objectives with the ability to progress through each chapter of the Exiles Journey in any order at all. Optional objectives include climbing the side of a rock formation for the first time, drinking water to stave off thirst, clothing yourself, crafting a tool, finding signs of intelligent life, spending knowledge points, finding shelter and much more besides.

Conan Exiles’ collector’s edition features a Conan figure that is 6 inches in height, three soundtrack CDs spanning Conan Exiles and Funcom’s Age of Conan MMORPG, a world map, an artbook, custom comic book in collaboration with Dark Horse Comics, half a dozen digital comic books including an entire story arc by Dark Horse Comics, an eBook titled Coming of Conan that collects over a dozen of Robert E. Howard’s Conan stories with illustrations by Mark Schultz into one 496 page volume, a 368 page digital RPG book focusing on Modiphius’ pen and paper RPG and an in-game item in the form of Conan’s Atlantean sword; it is available from retailers for around £80. There are multiple downloadable content packs including The Imperial East pack and Jewel of the West pack each containing 39 building pieces, 15 armour pieces, 9 weapons, 5 warpaints and 25 placeables themed on Khitan and the kingdom of Aquilonia respectively at a price of £7.99 per downloadable content pack.

Conan Exiles’ remote play performance is pretty good as it produces the quality of graphics, audio and general performance from the PS4 version. Remote play control optimisations include sprinting being re-mapped to tapping the bottom left of the touch screen, special attack moving to the top right of the touch screen, target locking during combat mapped to tapping the bottom right of the touch screen and shielding your character or performing an offhand counter being re-mapped to tapping the top left of the touch screen; therefore making for a very playable remote play experience, especially in offline single player.

There are two control schemes appropriately mapped to the DualShock 4 controller that are always responsive, despite the complexities of the combat and building gameplay. The default control scheme consisting of pressing R2 for your character to perform a special attack on an enemy or rotate a building; pressing R1 to attack an enemy or place a building; pressing L2 to prevent an enemy from hitting your character, performing an offhand counter or rotate a building; pressing L1 to view a shortcut menu; pressing square to interact; pressing O to dodge; pressing X to jump or climb; pressing triangle to crouch, dive, detach from climbing surface or cycle building mode; pressing up on the d-pad to toggle between first-person and third-person perspectives; pressing left on the d-pad to view your character’s journal; pressing right on the d-pad to view a map; pressing down on the d-pad to perform emotes; changing the direction of the left analogue stick to move your character; pressing L3 to sprint; changing the direction of the right analogue stick to pan the camera in third-person perspective or look around your surroundings in first-person; pressing R3 to auto-align building positioning or target locking during combat; pressing the share button takes you to the share feature menu; and pressing the options button to display a gameplay menu. Meanwhile, the alternate control scheme re-maps attack from R1 to square and interact moving to R2; crouching and diving being re-mapped from triangle to R1 and special attack moving to triangle. Tapping the touch pad to display your character’s inventory, although there is no light bar support that could have provided an alternative HUD to show your character’s current health and there is no vibration that could have reflected the impact of when your character is hit by an enemy.

Graphically, Conan Exiles has its impressive moments such as a realistic day-night cycle, while the character models and environments are mostly pretty good, alongside being entirely playable in both third-person and first-person perspectives. However, some of the character animations can be a little off at times such as climbing rock formations with a small gap between your character and the surface of the rocks and moments of getting caught in-between rocks. Conan Exiles is powered by Unreal Engine 4, but it rather oddly has an inconsistent frame-rate performance that is seemingly without reason as it tends to happen particularly outside of combat or heavily detailed areas. PS4 Pro support does not increase the resolution beyond 1080p, although it does offer higher settings for various graphical enhancements, despite Xbox One X delivering 1440p upscaled to 4K, while there are no plans to support HDR.

Conan Exiles’ presentation is solid with a great user interface across various menus such as the main menu, single player and co-op menus, online multiplayer menus, settings menus and gameplay menus with support for navigation via the left analogue stick, directional pad and face buttons, although it does not include support for navigation via the right analogue stick and touch pad. Menu backgrounds include are immediately quite visceral as they highlight the importance of survival in an extremely tough environment as skulls are spread throughout a desert.

Voice-over artists portray their characters authentically including Matthew Waterson voicing Conan having previously voiced Virgil in Fallout 4 and Titus Drautos in Final Fantasy XV; Ben Diskin voices Gilzan the Treasure Hunter having voiced Young Xehanort in Kingdom Hearts III, HD 2.5 Remix and 3D: Dream Drop Distance; Robin Atkin Downes voices Mek-Kamoses and The Archivist having also voiced Luxord in Kingdom Hearts III, Nemesis Orcs, Humans and Herion in Middle-Earth: Shadow of War and Atoq Navarro, Tenzin, Talbot, Vincent Perez and Hector Alcazar in the Uncharted franchise; and further talented voice-over artists. Sound effects include walking, running, swimming, eating, engaging in combat, enemies attacking your character and groaning when in the distance, alongside ambience such as flying creatures growling, a calm breeze in the air and more besides. Music comprises of an orchestral score composed by Knut Avenstroup (Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures and Lords of the Fallen) and conducted by Oleg Kondratenko (Dark Places, The Loft and The Paperboy). There is no DualShock 4 speaker implementation that could have produced voice-overs, sound effects or music.

The trophy list includes 26 trophies with 12 bronze trophies, 6 silver trophies, 7 gold trophies and 1 platinum trophy. Easier trophies include the By This Axe I Rule bronze trophy for crafting a dedicated weapon; The Scarlet Citadel bronze trophy for creating your first building; the O Sleeper Awake bronze trophy for sleeping on a bed or bedroll; and The Road of Kings bronze trophy for completing the first chapter of the Journey. Harder trophies include the …A Champion bronze trophy for reaching level 60; and 3 silver trophies and 4 gold trophies for defeating giant enemy bosses. It is estimated that depending upon skill and a good trophy guide to provide some helpful tips that it would take between 20 to 40 hours to platinum the trophy list.

There are three difficulty levels including civilized (easy), decadent (normal) and barbaric (hard). Each of the three difficulty levels provide varying experiences based upon the player’s confidence in their skill within the survival genre. Easy difficulty offers a faster rate of earning XP, not needing to drink or eat as often, inflicting more damage to enemies with a reduction in damage dealt by enemies, faster conversion of thralls, items are not dropped upon your character’s death, buildings are not abandoned and the purge will not attack your base. Meanwhile, normal difficulty introduces dropping all of your items upon your character’s death, although the player can recover the items from their character’s body and the Purge will target your base periodically. Hard difficulty is substantially more difficult in comparison to even normal difficulty due to enemies inflicting more damage to your character and becoming much harder to kill, only gaining XP for performing actions instead of for surviving and survival is harder as resources are scarce. Custom difficulty allows the player to adapt the gameplay to their ideal preferences throughout numerous categories including general options, progression XP multipliers, day-night cycle, survival, combat, harvesting, crafting multipliers, building abandonment and the purge.

Upon starting Conan Exiles, there was rather noticeably a single player/co-op option that gives the impression of split-screen co-operative multiplayer, but it is unfortunately quite misleading as there is no form of local multiplayer at all in co-operative or competitive; therefore the option should be moved to the online multiplayer settings. Players are able to join or create their own clan, play in online co-operative multiplayer or competitively in PvP and PvE with the capability of up to 40 players playing on official servers or rent their own servers, although there tends to be wildly varying frame rate performance depending on platform and the quantity of players within a single server. However, unlike the PC version; there is no mod functionality on home consoles within Conan Exiles’ community.

Conan Exiles’ replayability stems from gathering items for your inventory to craft items and construct buildings, attribute and knowledge points to progressively improve your character’s abilities, 100 optional objectives provided in the Exiles Journey, first-person and third-person perspectives and fully playable in offline single player or online multiplayer featuring PvP, PvE, co-operative and clan functionality that will collectively keep players returning for quite some time. However, single player cannot be paused during any gameplay menu, while there is no local multiplayer and no mod support on consoles, despite mod support being enabled on PC.

 

 

 

Analysis

  • Title: Conan Exiles
  • Developer: Funcom
  • Publisher: Koch Media
  • System: PS4
  • Format: Retail/PSN Download
  • Cross-Buy: No
  • Cross-Play: No
  • Players: 1 (Offline)/1-40 (Online PvP/PvE/Clan Multiplayer)
  • Hard Drive Space Required: 57.76GB (Version 1.19)

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