Conan Exiles is yet another example of the complications that can be had through launching a game on Steam’s ‘Early Access’ as well as the struggles of a survival game. Spending a little over a year in Early Access the game recently released.
The release has included a colourful amount of new features while still maintaining quite a few problems experienced since alpha. And to the developer’s credit they managed to stick quite true to their launch timeline. An achievement quite rare for these types of games.
Conan is your usual survival with base building affair. You’ll spend the majority of your waking moments harvesting supplies in order to build up your base and defences. You’ll harvest so much you’ll start to see it in your dreams and day to day life. Obviously, the amount one has to farm varies from server to server but it’ll be the main thing you do.
With harvesting being such a critical aspect of the game it was only fitting that the amount of materials which can be harvested would be abundant. Featuring hundreds of materials to excavate and with everything serving some sort of purpose, you’ll soon become the master of chest making.
The majority of my play time has been on a private PvE server. I did spend a considerable amount of time on a PvP one but people act like cancer. The two modes playout very differently, from the way people build bases all the way to how clans collect resources.
Among the new features, the two strongest additions to Conan Exiles are two new biomes and the addition of the Purge. The biomes include a swamp/ jungle-themed area and the volcano, at long last. Both areas are complete contrasts to one another, but both are equally hostile.
The swamp-jungle features a dense forest filled with treasures and beaches surrounding it. And with the enemy NPCs the biome gives a vibe of Planet of the Apes meets Pirates of the Caribbean. The area has a colourful amount of new creatures to pester you and is usually where you’ll first see rain in the game.
The volcano on the other hand is a dark, foreboding area where your most pervasive threat is desyncing into lava. The NPCs up here are naturally a lot tougher than anywhere else. Players will need the correct equipment to get anywhere near the sodding place. Inside you’ll be privy to better slaves and new resources; obsidian being the most dominant.
Through a clan’s contributions to resource gathering, base building etc. players will notice the purge meter slowly gets filled up. Once it reaches a certain limit there comes a chance that a few waves of NPCs will come and attack the base. At least it’s meant to, currently it’s very temperamental.
The enemies in one of these sieges differ in strength depending on where you clan has built their base. This adds another, very real, threat to player on both PvE and PvP servers. Naturally, the higher tiered areas have higher tier purges so the further north you go the more prepared you have to be.
In typical fashion, people on PvP servers should be prepared for an assault. This time, from both the Purge and enemy players simultaneously. Attacking a player’s base can be expensive and difficult so if you’re on a server with people that aren’t troglodytes then expect them to take advantage of this mechanic.
What I love about the Purge is how it further incentivises players to capture more slaves, gear them out and to modify their bases appropriately. This adds a larger purpose to PvE servers which are usually filed with bases that soon end up abandoned out of boredom.
When a purge hits, and it will, it can require an entire clan’s strength to hold them back. Especially in the higher level areas. There’s nothing more terrifying than seeing waves of mammoths being led by frost giants quickly destroy parts of your base while you cling on for dear life.
Other environmental hazards to plague players, alongside the Purge, are the weather effects, with the odd spell of a Mad Max style sandstorm. The latter ploughs through the map killing anyone without appropriate clothing or shelter. All of this adds to an environment nobody would truly want to live in, whilst simultaneously creating a challenging environment for anybody trying to accomplish the simplest task to begin with.
Killing Your Fellow Man
A lot of players in survival games want to troll other players. Other players prefer building with the threat of destruction. That being said, Conan made a noteworthy addition to the PvP side of Conan. This is the ability for servers to allow admins to allocate times when PvP is allowed. While I don’t know if this mechanic is in other survival games, the use of it is a welcome one.
Too often in these types of games would players invest a significant amount of time to base building and setting up defences, just to have it all destroyed by someone in another time zone. This way, players can log into a server more region specific to them and be told a time and day when everyone can attack each other’s bases.
The inclusion of PvP timings has helped grow stronger communities. It also allows servers to feel fully populated and more barbaric than they used to. Gone are the days of nihilism about playing with and against other communities. The lack of AFK griefing is definitely a positive step. Though endgame players can summon literal Gods which are base killers so enjoy seeing colossal creatures at these times.
Scattered throughout the game are some dungeons for the more adventurous folk. Unlike a lot of dungeon wielding games, Conan has theirs across each tiered zone. This allows players to partake in these mini quests from a very early level. Naturally they do get more difficult the further north you venture.
Each dungeon is unique with its presentation and ensuing puzzles. A lot of them feel inspired by films such as Indiana Jones, with hidden passages and cryptic mazes.
The idea and feel of the dungeons are beautifully atmospheric. In the current build of the game it can be hard to enjoy them. With the optimisation being the way it is and with some very annoying bugs the bosses don’t always work. And that can be quite a problem in a released game which features dungeons as a selling point!
This leads me onto my biggest gripe with the game, currently. Yes the optimization is considerably better than alpha, as you’d expect. But, frequently I find myself cursing over bugs preventing me from enjoying my time. From inventory glitches, to nude NPCs or the purge having to be manually triggered are all minor hindrances on their own. Together, along with many more bugs, they start creating a mess, a clogged drain in a continuously filling sink.
If players don’t have the luck to have invested their time on a private server, with regular admins, they may not have experienced a single purge yet. To have a significant number of people playing a released title where a new selling point is a feature they can’t experience this long after launch is shameful.
Conan Exiles has the makings of a fun and enjoyable game. If played with the right people and you have the mind-set of farming. If you’re able to put up with the bugs and occasional desync until it’s patched and prefer allotted times for PvP then I’d say give the game a try. You could do a hell of a lot worst in this genre.