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Oh look, yet another survival and base-building game

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    Conan Exiles

    Rating: 1.0 – Terrible

    Oh look, yet another survival and base-building game

    So many gaming genres and trends have blown up and become over-saturated during gaming’s history. First everyone wanted to be a 1st-person shooter like Halo, then a couple really good zombie games decreed that all games need them. The success of games like Skyrim made some companies decide all games should be open world, and now the latest craze has been the survival genre. Once an interesting idea of struggling to survive against the elements and overcoming everything in your path while keeping yourself maintained, the concept in 2018 and 2019 is a cash-grab that many seek to exploit but few really make something good out of. Which brings us to Conan Exiles. This would’ve been just another game about surviving and building a base, but it’s plagued with issues all around.

    We do not play as Conan in this game. Instead, as the title subtly implies, we play as an exile left for dead. The playable character is a blank slate, with no one even sure what their crime was (I’m getting Bethesda vibes here.) This leads to what is probably the coolest thing about the game: The character creation. You can customize just about everything about your character; height, muscularity, race, religion, hair, eyesâ€?it’s a very detail creation suite where some choices even have subtle effects on gameplay. Once you finalize your character, you go through a quick scene where Conan rescues you from your fateâ€?and then promptly leaves you stranded in the middle of nowhere, with nothing, and no clues. They really just wanted to do the bare minimum intro to get you to the whole aspect of surviving and building.

    From there, you are literally left in the middle nowhere and you have toâ€?figure it out. As the game tells you, you have to survive, thrive, build, etc. Now, I get that survival-based games like this are all about learning and discovering and facing challenge everywhere, but this game is unintuitive as all heck. Starting off in the middle of the desert, you just run around and start scavenging. You scavenge, scavenge some other things, roam around endlessly, and then scavenge some more. The game constantly tells you vague objectives like dress yourself, feed yourself, use a bedroll, etc. Any tutorial in the slightest would’ve been nice. Quite a few games have a tendency to hold your hand too much, but this game does the exact opposite. This is an issue amplified by some… less than ideal controls and menus.

    After you collect several resources and eventually learn how to browse the inventory, you’ll find where you can craft things from resources. You start by crafting clothes and basic tools, which will be used toâ€?you guessed itâ€?harvest more resources. After a while you’ll be wondering if there is anything to do besides scavenging and harvesting and keeping yourself fed/quenched/rested. Is there any life out here? Aren’t you supposed to be able to conquer places later on? Eventually you’ll make contact with other tribal humans, and you might be better off avoiding them because of how pathetic you start off against even the most basic of enemies. You’re especially in for a bad time without a weapon. You have to create weapons yourself, like most things in this game, but will have to unlock the ability through what is quite simply a very clunky mess of a menu system. There are so many tabs and areas you have to keep track of that it’s unreal. They aren’t streamlined in the slightest; even rummaging through loot menus and taking stuff requires several different buttons. Thing pressing X is enough to take an item? Nope, you have to press a trigger button. Rather than utilizing one button for accessing menus and taking stuff or crafting, they give so many similar things their own command. What is the point? Figuring out how to navigate menus is like its own obstacle.

    Once you figure how to navigate the menu and unlock the ability to craft weapons, you can take part in a really mundane combat system against enemies. It’s a matter of strike, dodge, strike, dodge, rinse and repeat. It gets tedious quickly because enemies don’t really stun often and you’ll often spend most of your time dodging to avoid their attacks. The whole system feels stiff, monotonous, and not all engaging. Movements and attack animation look quite rigid, not organic or smooth at all. This is not helped at all by some horrendous hit detection. You can get right into an enemy’s face, but your swings can still manage to hit half the time (Even when your weapon is shown going through them).

    In general, the whole game seems terribly optimized. Not only do animations look really jagged, but the whole game plays quite roughly. Framerate has a tendency to drop all of the time even when you are in the middle of a desolate area, and the game also likes to freeze momentarily out of nowhere. It’s as if it needs a second to load something, even though you’re standing in a barren location that you’ve been in for a while. These performance issues do not seem be tied at all to the amount of real estate on the screen; the game just looks like it’s struggling to run, like that beat up old junker you’re always worried will finally just crap out on you. It’s quite the annoyance to observe every fifteen seconds, and it can be a downright detriment to the game. You can be in the middle of a fight, getting ready to attack, when suddenly the game just lags. Either your attack command doesn’t register or you suddenly attack in a completely different direction. Even the menus have lag to them, taking some time to move to a new tab whenever you try to navigate them. I am not sure if this due to server loading or just bad programming, but either way it’s quite problematic and frankly inexcusable.

    After some time of just running around, collecting resources and killing weak creatures or humans, you might figure that it’s time to establish a home base so you can make some food and store goodies you find out in the world. Well, building and interacting objects is as much of a mess as everything else. You can build a campfire to cook food, but you have to manually drag separate ingredients through a menu in order to make something. Proper crafting mechanics let player make something as long as they have the proper requirements without needlessly demanding everything be manually shoved somewhere. The menu and crafting system seriously feel tiring and dated. Between all of these issues, it becomes way too much of a chore to persevere until you get access to more of the content. As time progresses you can go from simply building a house to building an entire city. You can get people to your settlement, force people to become allies, take some creatures and turn them into loyal pets, etc. Unfortunately, everything is such a poorly constructed, technical travesty that it never truly becomes fun.

    Nothing about this game is properly designed or optimized. It could’ve been just another decent survival-themed game set within the universe of Conan, but there’s so many issues that it’s just not enjoyable. Between some significant technical and performance issues, a tedious and mundane combat system, clunky crafting mechanics, and a plethora of poor design choices, this game is just a mess. There is nothing intuitive and nothing is implemented all that well. Not even the visuals are really all that passable here. Shadows can just be sort of plastered in mid-air against cliffs, character models look janky, and there’s not much detail to anything. That’s not the biggest deal, but it’s just another flaw to add to the pile. The one good thing is the character creation, which gives you a lot of options over your playable character in terms of both visuals and personal backstory. A highly customizable characters doesn’t mean much when the rest of the game is just so poor by comparison, however. There are better building base-building games, better survival games, and better action games. On top of that, it’s one of those titles that loves to throw it’s DLC in your face every single time you start the game up. No thanks, I already spent too much money on this. It’s just another game trying to get in on the one of the gaming crazes of its time, and doing a miserable job.

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