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Conan Exiles (PC) artwork

Conan Exiles (PC) review

"Another successful Early Access story. A laggy ARK-like survival game, offers a lot of fun."

Quick disclaimer; Iíve only played single player with some interest in coop. Iíve yet to attempt open servers. As a result, I probably havenít run into the more annoying stock of communities like purges and raids. Iíve played alone, modded, and at my own speed; that may color how I see this game. Iím okay with this.

Letís talk about Skyrim for a moment. Yes, itís relevant. Do you all remember the first five to ten hours you played it? You were still weak, dealing with iron and steel swords and slashing your way through new caverns and dungeons while scrounging every bit of material you could for your smithing skill. Everything was new and different, and every new playthrough with a different race or weapon type.

Then something happens. Several hours in, your smithing and sneak is 75+, youíre level 40 on Expert Difficulty one-shotting every bandit in every dungeon because you took a couple of very specific perks that make the entire game a cakewalk. Or you used alchemy to hilariously boost your stats in the several hundreds or thousands and now your armor rating is at a complete maximum and youíre doing sixty times melee damage on sneak attacks.

At a certain point, Skyrim gameplay becomes less about mechanics and just about exploration.

However, Exiles basically takes those first few hours and expands them across the entire experience. I get a bit of a Skyrim meets ARK and a lesser used comparison is that Iím honestly getting an Assassinís Creed: Origins vibe, if nothing else certainly the aesthetics. Large sandy dunes and mountains with spotty greenery and oases, and Iím pretty sure I have an identical screenshot of climbing up a red mountain. My exile and Bayek would probably get along.

For whatever reason, I find Exiles to be a bit more accessible than ARK ever was. I think itís perhaps the single player admin menu which if ARK has I have never found. Through it youíre able to manipulate things to an insane degree, like ten times the amount of experience and resource gain, as well as modifying how much damage you do and enemies take. I went through a largely unaffected run (though I did bump my experience up to 2X) the first time around and that sucked me in for several hours. In future games, I made it a little easier on myself with quality of life workshop mods including upping armor durability and reducing boss health pools. That last one might sound like a cheat, but when they have up to 30,000 health and Iím alone in the world, lowering it down to 10,000 or something makes the experience a LOT more bearable. Iím not saying ARK does not have these features (it does have workshop support) but it just wasnít nearly as compelling as Exiles, which does in fact have a story contrary to what some reviews claim.

You start the game creating your character and get a randomized set of ďcrimesĒ which can include anything from punching a camel to lewd acts with corpses. It ranged wildly and thereís quite a list that can be quite comical, though the game itself is largely void of humor. Conan himself shows up to remove you from the cross and the game dumps you in a desert road, entirely naked and scrounging for fibers, rocks, and branches; all the things youíll need to quickly craft a set of clothes and basic tools.

The story doesnít really hold your hand, nor does it tell you what to do. There are runestones dotted around the land that give you snippets and clues. The idea is that you have a magical slave bracelet thatís holding you in what is literally called ďThe Exiled LandsĒ, which is the whole area of the map youíre in. Go too far, and youíll find a green shield that will automatically kill you. Whatís involved in this is finding a large variety of bosses and McGuffins that will eventually remove the curse of the bracelet and allow your exile to leave.

Thatís the basis of your presence in this strange world. What happens after that point is really up to you. Since you can hardly take on an undead dragon right out of the gate, you pretty much engage in the usual ARK/Minecraft flare. Build a house, hunt animals for hide, and generally spend a lot of time working your way up.

Eventually I found that I had the most fun when I had a decent set of medium armor and a good stock of weapons that I could repair on the fly and that allowed me to make various expeditions outside the comfort zone of what people call the ďnewbie riverĒ, the southern-most landscape that offer you the most resources within a reasonable travel time. I eventually made it to the Hinterlands where I was able to harvest heavier leathers for better armors, which in turn allowed me to travel farther and take on more intimidating enemies.

As youíd expect, you have to manage some resources including hunger, thirst, heat and weight. Thirst can be fairly easy to manage if youíre hanging around the southern portions of the map. Hunger isnít too bad, and weight Iíve modded out entirely, which Iíll justify shortly. Beyond that thereís a full listing of RPG elements with various perks and stats you can acquire as you level up. In an unmodded game you can only max out a couple so in multiplayer or co-op games you may want to split roles between survivors, gatherers, and combatants.

The most fun Iíve had in this game is just the unrestrained exploring, which for me has only been with the help of some workshop mods. I got an insane encumbrance mod early in my career because once I acquired a legit ďdecentĒ set of armor, my weight was at 70% regardless of how much stuff I tried to store away. Even in my most purist playthroughs, that mod will always remain. I am less irritated with weight in the likes of Skyrim because I typically have fast travel and stores to sell my crap to, but here I do not have that convenience. Fast travel in Exiles is possible but more of a mid- to end-game perk once you explore enough of the map. Thereís a bunch of obelisks you can purify and then travel to through a map room, of which I havenít done a lot of research and Iím not sure where to find that. As it stands, everything you need you have to get on foot. No horses, no mounts, just hauling all the ass.

The lack of fast travel is indeed a late-game annoyance. Alongside that are a variety of bugs that youíll come across for a post Early-Access game. Iíve found that engaging in combat within certain variables will have me and the NPC Iím fighting justÖ sorta flail at each other for a bit. Neither of us take damage, and I noticed that it is because we had some buildings and terrain above us. I lured them out and now we both took damage again.

Speaking of, the combat leaves a lot to be desired. It gives me Origins vibes again with some blocking, dodging and health bars. However thereís absolutely no lock-on and hit detection is very wonky when I try to do some light attacks right next to a crocodile only for them to miss entirely. I had to back up and try again and it would work. This happens about twenty percent of the time, depending on my attack. Conversely, a heavy spear attack always hits my enemy.

Some enemies also have knockback effects. Iíd be fighting basic bird type enemies and theyíd reel in, walk towards me and Iíd be knocked over. Apparently theyíre ďchargingĒ but they donít go faster than walk speed and thus are difficult to detect. Maybe thatís my fault but itís just a bit annoying.

I also find base building to be vaguely irritating and I find myself doing the olí Fallout 4 thing of turning on god mode (in this game, admin mode), getting unlimited resources and at least starting with the basic shape of the building that I want. Iíve only resorted to that once in my ~5 playthroughs and my next semi-purist play will try to be a little more conservative and patient.

Patience is really the key here if you want to get the most out of the game. Iíve tried rushing towards the revered ďStar MetalĒ for the endgame gear but found myself perfectly content with some normally crafted heavy stuff, or light armor if I want to dodge enemies more often. Exiles is kind of a slow burn at first but once you find an established area with decent walking distance to most forms of resource, youíre probably in good shape. My experience shined when I was in expedition mode, treating every corner as a new experience. Maybe in a few hundred hours nothing in this game will be new to me, but for now all I can do is stare wide-eyed at the world before me.


Zydrate's avatar
Community review by Zydrate (July 20, 2018)

Zydrate is most active on Steam and Tumblr.

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Zydrate posted July 21, 2018:

So the formatting looks broken right now. I'm not sure if that's something I did in the HTML, but all I was using was IMG SRC and Center so I can't imagine either of those two making this mess.

I can't edit it because the image is overlaid on top of options and the text is like, over the site's background. It's unreadable.
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EmP posted July 21, 2018:

I've managed to fix it. Using dark arts.

Center tags were wrong. You used /center on both sides of the screenshot. You need center - screenshot - /center.
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Zydrate posted July 22, 2018:

I know why that happened. I tried to make a code template so I didn't have to constantly type img src and center. Apparently I forgot to remove the first /. I am a derp.


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