Snap Judgment – Conan Exiles

I wasn’t going to buy Conan Exiles right away, because I could tell from the streams and the early gameplay videos that it wasn’t ready yet, but I bought it anyway because I just didn’t feel like playing FFXIV. $30 isn’t too much to waste on a game, right? Eventually they’ll fix it up into a finished game, surely?

To nobody’s surprise, I should have waited for a sale. Let’s start with the bad stuff.

The short version is: Yes, they released it too early. It has all the hallmarks of a game that has had zero quality assurance. Do they even show these games to people outside the development team anymore? Even once? I’m thinking no, they don’t. I suppose there’s no point, since we all buy the games anyway.

You can expect the full assortment of glitches that come with a lack of polish. Random hitches in the frame rate. Random lag. Random models appearing and disappearing. Random getting stuck on paving stones on the ground. Random clipping, seeing through your own arms while swimming, etc.

So what exactly is Conan Exiles? What do you do in this game? Well, imagine ARK. And … that’s it. You’ve got the whole thing. Not to be too sarcastic, but it’s an exact copy of ARK’s gameplay, except instead of dinosaurs, there are Conan-themed monsters and other exiles roaming the landscape. You pick up sticks and rocks and plant fiber, just like ARK, you make them into axes and picks, just like ARK, you make camp fires to cook meat, just like ARK.

Let’s talk about the combat. It’s awful. Yep. That about sums it up. You know how some games really feel like you’re fighting with big heavy weapons? Conan Exiles is on the exact opposite end of that spectrum. This game feels like you’re pushing a mouse button and watching an animation play on the screen. If you’re lucky, if you’ve managed to position yourself close enough to the other model, and guessed which direction you need to point to make contact, maybe you’ll hit something. Probably not, though. I think they spray blood all over the screen to hide the fact that you have very little control during combat.

The enemy AI? Wow. Just wow. And I don’t mean that in a good way. One guy actually sat down in the middle of a fight. He was like, “Whew, fighting this player is too tiring, I’ll just sit down now.” That was pretty cool. Sometimes they stop in the middle of a fight and raise their arms in a war cry without moving their mouth. Pro tip: If you’re in trouble, just swim into some water. No enemies can swim, and nobody ever follows you through water. Okay, well, one crocodile did.

Now for the most egregious problem: Your speed when strafing left and right is considerably slower than moving forward. That means the moment you touch a strafe key while moving or running, it feels like you stop dead. It’s a huge problem.

Bitterness over the death of my dream of playing a AAA-quality survival game aside, Conan Exiles has some merits.

It’s pretty, and it’s fast. At least they managed to tune it so that it runs at an acceptable frame rate out of the box. Unlike some other games *cough* ARK *cough*.

I like the setting of it. I’m a fan of the Conan universe and low fantasy and so forth. (According to the early access notes they will be adding sorcery eventually.) It’s got a nice ambiance, with the ancient ruins dotting the landscape and whatnot. It’s kind of relaxing.

The crafting system looks pretty good, if not particularly inventive. It’s about on par with ARK, in the early game at least.

There seems to be some kind of story element, but as yet I don’t know how deep it runs. There’s at least one wandering NPC that you can talk to.

I like that the world is dangerous. A key component in any survival game is a dangerous world, and they’ve nailed that. (You’d be surprised how many survival games you can just walk around in forever without any chance of dying.) If you walk too far in the wrong direction, you could run into a wide variety of nasties.

The music is pretty good.

It has some nice sorting options in the inventory.

It was fairly easy to setup a private server on my LAN. The server runs, well, just like ARK. It’s the same game engine, after all.

Overall though, I would recommend playing ARK until Conan Exiles goes through about six more months of iterations. I mean, unless you like to complain about bugs. :)

6 thoughts on “Snap Judgment – Conan Exiles”

  1. On the other hand, I saw the word “singleplayer” and moved it up from my category of “multiplayer survival sandbox” aka FFA Lord of the Flies PvP to “Hmm, might actually try it one day.”

    But, like ARK, I’m not paying $40 for buggy early access. Someday it’ll drop to $5-10, sooner rather than later if it stays buggy for too long.

    I gotta say though, that I look at all these survival sandboxes and wonder, what, besides prettier graphics do they have to offer gameplay-wise, that modded Minecraft can’t do better?

    Modded MC has crafting, WASD movement that actually works smoothly (even crawling and swimming and mounts with the right mods), challenging mobs and locales, allows for much more flexible player adapting of the world because it’s all stackable blocks (rather than get the exact position to place this hut down or else no go) and generally more content and variety within that content.

    Imo, what no one is touching yet is story, lore and narrative.

    If Conan Exiles can actually put out regular handcrafted lore and quests to be procedurally sprinkled around the world in updates, they might have something no other sandbox is managing so far, and Funcom has a decent enough, if buggy, track record in Age of Conan and The Secret World. But I guess we’ll see how it goes.

  2. Thanks for your review. I enjoy ARK, despite all its issues, and wondered how this compared (since I see a lot of comparisons). It doesn’t look like the taming/breeding/riding elements are in Conan like they are in ARK — those are the main interest points for me aside from building and exploring. Since I can tame all the dinos I like in ARK, I’ll probably stick to that game.

    1. As far as I know there isn’t any kind of taming/riding in Exiles, so that’s definitely a big difference between the two. (Unless you count “thralls” as a weird kind of “taming other humans.”)

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