As people should know a review done by a reviewer has some caveats. You have to look at past games they’ve liked or played, if you agree with their appraisal scale, if you’ve found common ground with them in their previous writing, and much more. The reason I’m telling you this is due to the fact I’ve never played a survival game seriously until now. In fact, it’s one of the few genres I have very little experience in and had to discover a lot by myself. So with that said understand that this is coming from a point of view with little to no knowledge of survival titles. If you’re an avid fan of this type of game then this review may not speak to you in a comprehensive manner and that’s alright. Instead you can look at the noob squirm explaining Conan Exiles to the public.
Funcom’s baby came out of nowhere for me and I actually only bought it due to a friend suggesting I get it. Then I could join his tribe (clan) and there would be many happy times abound. What I ended up discovering was a Minecraft-like Dark Souls with a survival gaming twist. Truth being told I disliked Conan Exiles for the first two days. The plot was pretty much presented like From Software’s creation and a huge chunk of gameplay entailed building anything you want, wherever you want in the huge map. Looking back I can say it’s because I didn’t understand what was going on quite yet. After the second day I treated Conan Exiles like an MMORPG and suddenly I began to play an incredibly memorable video game. But with problems. Lots and lots of problems.
This title begins with the player creating their character that’s about to be let loose upon the world of Conan the Barbarian. The editor isn’t terribly comprehensive, but it is enough to make your character distinguished and somewhat unique. Only downside was the size of male private parts being censored in the good ol’ USofA. Once past this you’re strapped to a cross in the middle of the desert and left to die for crimes you apparently committed. Luckily, Conan himself arrives to cut you down and gives you a second chance at life. From here you go about doing pretty much anything you want. If you cared about a story you’d have to follow some basic missions called journey steps. Most will be completed in the daily life of a Conan Exiles wanderer except for a few hidden in the steps. Turns out you have a magical bracelet on your arm that kills you if it’s taken off or your character travels too far away from the in-game world. To free yourself you’ll have to acquire specific items from hard bosses scattered across the land and earn your way to the ending.
However, I recommend treating the game like I did, an MMORPG about leveling up your character, creating and crafting an exceptional base, and going out into the world to discover and fight. Let me tell you that Conan Exiles’ map is quite large. RPG levels of large. In this big land, that takes literally fifty minutes of running to cross, are distinct biomes such as: deserts, plateaus, savannahs, jungles, forests, mountains, snowy areas, and even traveling around molten hot magma (volcano, volcano is an area too). Sadly, those last two areas will be restricted until you can find weapons or clothes that can give you protection from frostbite, heat, and noxious gas. Otherwise your health bar will deplete to zero quite quickly. If such a restriction annoys you then you’re not going to like what I have to say next.
Conan Exiles is very studious when it comes to most aspects of the title. You can’t just travel where you want, craft what you want, fight whatever you want, or do anything without gathering resources and tools first. Even a place to sleep and save your place in the map, will at the very least require three different materials. Now granted the bedroll I mentioned is crafted easily enough as the resources for it aren’t sparse. However, the higher the item you want to craft, the more you’ll have to acquire, alongside the more steps you have to take, and of course have the appropriate level up ability in the feats menu. This basically acts as a place to spend your level-up points you get from daily things, exploring, or journey steps. Everything is covered from weapon and armor crafting, structure building, food making, and much, much more. It would take many paragraphs to even make a summary of what’s available for you to unlock. There’s also a skill tree that allows you to spend similar, yet different XP points that focuses solely on your character’s attributes. As such expect resource grinding and RPG expeditions if you truly want to be powerful and even relevant.
Gameplay at its core can be bland at times. For example, fighting humans, lions, tigers, hyenas, crocodiles, sabertooths, and every other small creature will only require one strategy to be successful. The only difference being what play style you, the player, choose. Every weapon has a distinct, and sole, combo that does varying degrees of damage. Depending on the weapon’s stats and what attributes you decided to pour XP in to naturally. Same with the damage you take and the armor you’re wearing. You’ll also have food items (that you had to gather and preferably cook yourself), potions, and other tools to utilize for battle and everything else. I’m not lying when I say Conan Exiles is involved. There’s a lot to do, see, build, and unlock which will distract you enough from the repetitive combat. Again treat it like an MMORPG and focus on just making the biggest badass you can and the title truly opens up.
Another cool, yet simple feature involves characters literally climbing up anything they want. This function will drain stamina so depending on how much you have, be careful what you decide to climb. But anything is fair game like mountains, structures, other player bases, trees, rocks, etc. It lends itself well to the exploration and fun you’ll have therein. It will be quite rare to find yourself trapped or unable to proceed where you want to go minus those weather conditions I mentioned above. Discovering what Conan Exiles has on offer was easily one of my favorite activities even when an area encompassing sandstorm appeared. These beautiful, random storms of death are just as they sound like and if you’re not prepared say goodbye to your character. Likewise with the beauty of every other aspect of nature. This title may not have the best graphics ever, but it’s impressively the best survival game I’ve ever seen.
I’m sure our lovely readers have basically deduced that I live a second life in this game. Let me say it is fun in a realistic sense, but there are some serious, unforgivable problems that have royally pissed me off. So essentially like real life if I’m being honest. Conan Exiles can and will be a technical nightmare. Unable to login to servers, glitching through objects, getting stuck in objects, NPCs under your control having a mind of their own, creatures in combat lagging something fierce, atrocious draw distance, boss battles being glitched, and even expected parts of the game just not working. Like you can’t repair certain items because what’s needed isn’t in the game or gods you can summon do no damage. A religion you belong to can create a summon token which calls a giant being who should wreak havoc on enemy player bases. When my tribe managed to create one, the god appeared but did nothing in the way of destruction. In this regard the game is a mess and even understanding the fun I promised, the many issues that present themselves are unacceptable. Just earlier today I couldn’t climb or interact with anything in my base so I couldn’t make it to my room to log off.
Similar issues arise with the controls and layout of the menus. Things aren’t as simple as placing things where you want with a click of a button. To repair armor you have to put it in your inventory after taking it off you. Upgrading equipment or weapons will require them to be put into your weapon wheel from your inventory, highlight the item you’re upgrading it with, and place it over what’s in your weapon wheel. There are plenty more examples, but they all have to do with PC elements remaining for the console version.
If you picked up on it, yes there are other players in any given server you’ve logged into, assuming its PvP and not PvE. They can attack you or help you at will and some of the best moments have come from this. Raiding other tribes and their bases was an adrenaline rush as you never know how each battle will go down. There were also interesting geo-political situations that arose between tribes, property, who owns what, and more. Again a nice little dose of reality until you get wiped and lose everything. As I mentioned this experience can be unforgiving and solo players may not want to contend with the dangers of Conan the Barbarian and other players. It is possible to go at it alone on PvP servers, just expect fun to take a backseat sometimes just so you can survive.
Conan Exiles PS4 Review
Overall - Fantastic - 8.0/10
Conan Exiles will go down as one of my favorite titles on the PlayStation 4. Alas, it will also be remembered as one of the most frustrating. The ability to make your own story and explore this lush land at your content is so much fun in itself, even if the combat may be lacking. What I’ve helped build and accomplished has given me a sense of accomplishment similar to doing something well in real life. It’s just that the game purposely or innocently hampers you too often for me to outright recommend it. This could have been the de facto number one survival game of all time were it not for those technical problems. Other than that, Conan Exiles is a triumph of video game design.
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Reviewed on base PS4.