Conan Exiles, Part Two

For some weird reason I’m still playing Conan Exiles. Probably some misguided need to get my money’s worth out of it. Also it’s a fairly relaxing game world to be inside right now. I can safely ignore everything in the real world while I’m breaking rocks. (And that is a big chunk of what you do–everything requires tons of stone.)

However, I will continue to list everything that’s wrong with the game, hopefully to shame Funcom into feeling bad about releasing their game too early. Let this be a lesson to you game developers: I will say bad things about you if you release too early!

(I suppose it’s possible that some of these issues could be a result of playing it on my own LAN. I run my server on a secondary PC which probably isn’t up to the quality standards of an “official” server. Although it’s only a few years old so it shouldn’t be that bad. Besides the Exiles server only uses up about 5% of the CPU when it’s running so it’s not exactly taxing the PC.)

Not That Dangerous

Initially I thought it was a dangerous world, but after you gain a few levels and figure out that everything spawns in exactly the same place every time, you can easily find places where you are in no danger whatsoever. Unless you run out of food and water. Water is easy to get, but you do have to kill things to get food. However you can live forever by killing the dinky little imps which are easy enough that you can punch them to death.

I setup a camp on a beach by the south river next to an imp spawn point, and I don’t foresee a time when I’ll ever need to move. I may want to move at some point, but I don’t need to.

Even the sandstorms don’t seem to do anything except make a nifty graphical effect on the screen.

Since the world isn’t that dangerous, you can get to some neat vantage points.

Combat Still Atrocious

There are really serious issues with the combat. Perhaps it’s just that the Unreal engine is terrible at melee-style combat. ARK had plenty of combat issues too as I recall.

  • In melee, you never know if you’re close enough to hit something. The range on the stone sword is almost non-existent, so you have to get right up next to the mob to hit it. And due to server lag or client-side prediction or whatever, you never know if the mob is actually where it looks like it is on the screen. It’s a crap shoot. And of course during the time you’re figuring out if you’re close enough, the enemy mob or mobs are hitting and damaging you.
  • Lag spikes during combat sometimes, so as soon as you swing, the screen freezes, or seems to freeze. I guess it’s a really intense process to calculate whether you hit anything. Maybe that’s just a problem with my server. After it “un-freezes” you’re left completely disoriented about where you’re pointing.
  • If you double-click your mouse button, you’ll swing twice in a row. It’s weird. It stores up the mouse button clicks in a bizarre way. Most of the time you’ll swing one or two extra times after you think you’ve stopped swinging. (The pick will often swing one extra time, which doesn’t yield any rock, but still makes a “whack” sound and damages your pick.)
  • Animation lock is another random factor in combat. If you’re holding up a shield and the enemy breaks it (which always happens after an enemy hits your shield two or three times), you’ll get stunned for a few seconds. During that time you can’t attack and just have to sit there watching yourself get hit over and over again. Sometimes switching weapons will cause an animation lock too. I haven’t quite figured the exact nature of that yet.
  • Speaking of shields, they are useless. It takes too long to bring them up to block an attack. By the time you see that Hyena lunging at you and click the right button, the Hyena has hit you and moved on to its next attack before the shield even comes up into blocking position. Also, they break after two or three hits, as I said. I gave up on shields.
  • The bow has plenty of issues too. There’s no range finder or anything so beyond a certain distance it’s trial-and-error to get the firing angle right, which is annoying because you have to break up a whole lot of rocks to make arrows. Since you can’t hit anything at range, most of the time you’re going to be near melee range firing your bow, and of course every time a mob hits you, it stuns you a bit and knocks your aim off. Kiting is your friend with the bow. Also you can’t tell if you’re actually hitting a mob with your arrows or not, except by listening for a particular “thunk” sound, which isn’t very distinctive, and doesn’t always play anyway. Sometimes arrows won’t fire for some inexplicable reason, even though they’re in your inventory and equipped properly. I have to shuffle the arrows around in the inventory for a while and eventually the bow will start working again.

What To Do?

There really isn’t much to do in the game right now except level up and build things. And take screenshots.

Since you’re not in much danger, it begs the question of why you need to level up and build things, though. This is supposed to be a survival game, not a building game like Landmark. In ARK, you level up and build more advanced stuff so it’s easier to survive–you need to build a base because random wandering carnivorous dinosaurs will eat you if you don’t. There’s no danger like that in Exiles. The mobs don’t wander far from their spawn points and even if you do happen to get attacked inside your base (which can only happen if, for example, you drag a monster back home with you), as far as I can tell, the monsters don’t hurt your structures.

Thralls

The main reason I’ve kept playing is that I wanted to see the “thrall” system I kept hearing about. It takes a while before you can get a thrall, though. You have to be able to build a Furnace, a Tannery, and a Wheel of Pain.

The basic idea is that you find another exile (ie. humans), which are typically found around big campfires, smash them over the head repeatedly with a Truncheon until you knock them out, then drag them back to your Wheel of Pain with a rope. Put food into the Wheel of Pain and eventually the thralls will be “broken” (it takes a few game days for it to happen) and then you can “place” the thralls around your base just like any other furniture item.

Thralls guarding the beach.

So far I’ve only seen the melee fighting thralls. (There are also archers and crafters I believe.) They will fight any monsters who wander close by, very similar to ARK’s tamed dinosaurs, except these guys actually go back to their starting positions (something I fervently wished ARK’s dinosaurs would do). My thralls so far are only capable of killing imps, though, meaning they are very weak.

It’s an interesting idea, however, as with most things in Exiles, it looks like it’s at the “minimum viable product” stage of development. Thrall (and also enemy) AI is pretty terrible. There’s no way to equip the thralls with gear, or level them up. At least not that I can see. Maybe that comes later.

You could build up your own thrall city by plopping down thralls everywhere, but I don’t really see the point. I suppose you could take over an area that is teeming with monsters by putting thralls in the area to kill them. I’m guessing there are more powerful thralls available which could handle fighting bigger monsters.

Anyway the latest patch (05.02.2017) broke my ability to play the game (black screen on connection), so I guess I’m finished for a while.

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