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Review: Conan Exiles (Xbox One)By Nikola Suprak At 05.08.2018 22:19

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When Conan Exiles starts up, it looks like is already failing at that whole survival thing. They start the game crucified alongside some rough looking countryside, completely naked and waiting to die. It's not a great start. Fortunately, the legendary Conan comes along and saves you, probably because he wants you to go somewhere and put some pants on. From here, they are thrown out into the hostile world and left to fend for themselves. The story here is fairly barebones, but the lore is a lot more interesting. There is a surprisingly low amount of NPCs considering the size, but plenty of back-story is hidden in journals and other similar objects that can help flesh things out. A more cohesive story would have been appreciated, but that doesn't mean the world itself isn't interesting.

The world is indeed well designed, and not just in terms of lore and history. This is a well crafted and interesting layout, and it is huge, and some of the most fun is just exploring to see what's beyond the next clearing or in that weird indent in the mountain. Something the game does very well is capturing that adventuring spirit, and this is a world you want to dig around in a bit. There are always resources to find, which can lead to better equipment, and even when things get a bit rough around the edges, it is still enticing enough that it is hard to quit it entirely. If everything about this was as good as its world design, this would be an excellent survival title.

Something else Conan Exiles gets right is the crafting. It can be mildly annoying to have to grind so much to get what's needed, particularly in the early parts where hunger and thirst are a constant threat. Items don't always come easily, and they typically require a fair deal of mundane combat to get all the required items. Once it is time to actually do some crafting, though, is when the game really comes alive. The sheer number of things that can be made here is genuinely impressive, from equipment and armour, to decorative pieces and an entire fortress. Gathering resources at first is meant primarily for survival, but after a certain point that becomes trivial and it's possible to start getting truly creative with it. The game isn't annoying about forcing players down a single path, either, or making the system too simplistic. Players will get out what they put into it, and between the crafting and the exploration it feels like there is a really solid core here.

It is also possible to choose to play on co-operative servers, PvP servers, or just attempt the whole thing solo if feeling particularly misanthropic. The co-operative and PvP servers add some interesting new elements to them. Rival factions can come and destroy your town when not around, which is kind of annoying considering that basically means starting up from scratch. There is a variant of the PvP server where fighting is allowed, but destruction of buildings isn't. This is a more relaxing competitive experience, but it also takes a bit of the intensity out of it knowing these structures are all safe. Of course, the co-operative servers remove even the threat of hostility from other players, allowing everyone to work together against the NPCs and bosses.

These features don't quite bring it to Diablo status in terms of being a complex MMORPG, but they do make the experience a lot more fun. Solo play can be kind of plodding at times, but co-operative and competitive play add something extra that really helps breathe some life into the gameplay. All of this seems like it is setting up for something great, but unfortunately the game ends up faltering due to some poorly thought out underlying mechanics.

The combat might be the worst part of the gameplay, which is a shame because it pops up all the time. Melee weapons feel clunky and unresponsive, and it is hard to tell when a successful combo is pulled off and when the hero is just sort of swinging fecklessly at the air. Dodging barely seems to work, and it feels like all these fights are taking place in a vat of molasses that isn't even there. To top it all off, the camera seems to be trying its hardest to kill the playable character. Against large enemies it will swing around wildly, or get stuck looking from the wrong side, completely obscuring what's going on. With the clunky camera and sticky combat, it just leaves fighting anyone not entertaining in the slightest. It gets to the point where people are going to want to just try and ignore most combat entirely, and it simply isn't worth finding people to fight because it gets in the way of the actual entertainment.

Also, perhaps worst of all, this doesn't feel like something that is finished yet. It's like a product that was still in beta that broke out and is now wrecking havoc on innocent Xbox One consoles everywhere. It was in early release for over a year and has been out officially for a little while after that, and there are still a disappointing number of glitches that pop up far too frequently. Part of the issue with the combat is that it is way too buggy, and the rest of the experience suffers from these same sorts of bugs, as well. It feels more like an amateur project than a completed retail release at times, and it should have spent at least a couple more months in development prior to hitting the streets. Things seem to have been getting slowly better since release, but this many bugs after so long is inexcusable.

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Final Score
[i]Conan Exiles[/i] seems to always be flirting with a good idea, before dropping that and doubling down on being terrible. There is a lot of promise when the game starts out, and between the intense mood and solid survival mechanics, it seems like there might actually be a good time in store. However, in the sixty or seventy hours that follow, disappointment slowly builds until the whole adventure ends with a pitiful thud. The combat is dreadfully boring, and there are so many bad ideas that work against its core survival mechanic that it is a wonder the game stays interesting as long as it does. Destined to be exiled to the bargain bin, [i]Conan Exiles[/i] is worth little more than a passing glance, and only for the hardcore survival genre enthusiasts.



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