Conan Exiles has finally made it on to the Xbox One on its Game Preview programme. It released on the console’s version of early access on the 16th of August and has been very popular so far. As an early access title, as always, its important to note that the game is in an unfinished state and as such is stricken with some bugs, lag and the occasional crash. If, however, you can look past those for the time being, you will see a gem of a survival game that is very fun to play and incredibly addictive.
Conan Exiles, for those not yet familiar with it, is a sandbox survival sim set in the fantasy world of Robert E Howard’s Conan the Barbarian. Gameplay-wise it plays very similar to other entries in the genre; like Ark Survival Evolved and Rust, with a focus on gathering resources to build and survive. Survival is hinged upon the usual factors; hunger, thirst and temperature. To maintain a healthy barbarian you must keep an eye on these lest you end up a feast for the crows. What sets it apart from other games of the like, is its inclusion of a story and world building lore, bringing the mystery of Conan’s mythical world to life. Another big part is the game’s religion system which allows you to summon your chosen god and destroy your enemies; unless you choose Crom, who laughs at the weak who need deities to fight for them. And slaves…the ability to take slaves.
In Conan Exiles you can work together with your other exiled players in PvE, or if you prefer PvP you can crush your enemies, see them driven before you…but no hearing the lamentations of their women. In addition to the other player exiles, there are NPC exiles in the game too, most of which are hostile towards you, but if you so choose, you can enslave them to work and fight for you by breaking them on your own wheel of pain (the big wheel Arnie had to push for years in the 80’s Conan film). Exiles doesn’t feel too grindy, at least at the start of the game anyway, there are times as you get further on that some things you can build are quite resource heavy. For the most part, gathering resources and building your base, crafting the furniture and trophies is all quite relaxing and fun. There are also dungeons to explore, some of which are highlighted to you by ghostly apparitions walking towards them. These same apparitions can also lead you to places where you can learn more of the game’s lore. The fighting is a bit clunky just now but there will no doubt be updates in the future that tighten it up.
Performance-wise, Conan Exiles still has a way to go. As specified earlier, Conan is an early access game so bugs and crashes and the like are to be expected. So far I have encountered the usual lag online leading to teleporting enemies, crashes that boot me back to the Xbox dashboard and other wee issues, such as picking one thing from a plant and it just disappears, or trees I can chop forever that don’t fall over or give any wood. But by far the most annoying bug that I have encountered is tool/weapon delay, which is when I select a weapon or tool from the radial menu and it doesn’t appear in my hands for about 5 seconds or so. This isn’t too big an issue when just gathering resources as I can wait the few seconds to mine a rock or chop a tree. However, those 5 seconds can be the difference between life and death when a monster or animal charges you and your weapon wont appear in you hand. I have managed to find a way around this by equipping a dagger in my off-hand, which never seems to suffer that delay so it at least gives you something to defend yourself with while you wait on your sword appearing.
In addition to playing online, Conan Exiles also has a single player/couch co-op option for those that wish to play by themselves without worrying about other players getting up to no good. There is a vast difference in performance between the online and single player modes though, the single player seems to suffer quite a lot from severe frame rate drop, making the game borderline unplayable at points as it freezes for a second or two with every step. The upside to this, is these drops usually only seem to last for a couple of minutes, so if you’re patient or not too put out by this it isn’t a huge problem, for others though, that kind of lag can be a deal breaker.
The UI is a bit of a mess right now and quite cumbersome to navigate, with some areas just plain inaccessable, for example when looking at what recipe unlocks grant you, it shows you a list of things but there is no way to scroll down that list. I really feel like Funcom could take a leaf or two from Ark’s UI, that was also cumbersome when it first came out on early access but it is a lot better now, with button shortcuts for crafting by double pressing A, for example. Also, as mentioned above to select tools, weapons and items there is a radial menu, which feels counter-intuitive to me. Often, as I select something and let go of the right stick the cursor pings over to something on the opposite side of the wheel. I would much prefer a toolbar with button shortcuts, again, similar to what Ark has.
There is no voice or text chat in Conan Exiles so far – Funcom have stated that they plan on implementing voice chat soon, however, no plans for text chat on consoles though – leading to most people just running around by themselves, lacking in that sense of community. Speaking of the community, I tried to encourage a kind of open plan village by placing my cooking fire and forge outside my house but all that led to was some sneaky wee opportunistic git nicking all my iron right out of my forge while I was away…did I mention he was a git?
Overall I am really enjoying my time with Conan Exiles, it has a few bugs sure, but those aren’t too troubling for me. I find the game fun enough to look past its flaws and I am incredibly addicted to the game already. At the time of writing Funcom stated they have a hotfix patch that has been submitted to Microsoft for certification, that should sort out some of the bugs and stabilise the game a bit, but so far there is no confirmed ETA for this patch. The Xbox version also comes with The Frozen North expansion that also dropped for PC users, who have had access to the game for months, on the same day as the game released onto Game Preview on Xbox. As the name implies, it adds a decent sized chunk of map up north that is covered by snow and inhabited by mammoths, amongst other creatures.
Conan Exiles is available on Xbox Game Preview for £30.79 and Steam Early Access for £26.99