What is Conan Exiles:
Conan Exiles is an open-world survival game, which is very similar to Ark: Survival Evolved with the exception of dinosaurs. The game see’s you stranded in the desolate desert with no clothes, no weapons and frankly, no hope.
At the start of the game you are freed by Conan himself and set loose into the wastelands to survive and eventually become the master of your very own thrall army. The map consists of a variety of biomes including the desert, a jungle, volcano and the harsh north lands (it’s very cold up there).
As with most online survival games, Conan Exiles has a large active community, with their forums bursting with helpful information: https://forums.funcom.com/c/conan-exiles
The great thing about Conan is that its adult theme (and occasionally grindy gameplay) means it has a much less toxic community in comparison to other games of its genre. Games like Rust which has the most toxic community I have ever encountered seem to be populated by some pretty unruly and often vile children / young adults.
When you’re cut from your cross, you’re left in the world without much direction. Instead of the usual tutorial format that I’ve come across in most survival games, Conan Exiles provides a journal to get you started. It teaches you how to drink water, craft tools and weapons, and pushes you in the right direction to finding some kind of civilization.
Conan Exiles forces crafting as an essential part of survival. You’ll need to figure out how make tools and weapons in order to survive the early game. This is easy enough as there’s plenty of resources available like stone, wood, plant fiber, etc. As you level up, crafting becomes somewhat more complex, but I’m not sure I necessarily agree with how complex some of it can be.
Crafting can become a little tedious – in order to create a set of armour, you’ll need to use multiple crafting stations. You’ll be required to source hide and turn it into leather, find ironstone and turn it into iron bars, and finally combine the materials in the armourers bench to complete the set. Whilst it’s nice to see a game forcing you to think a little bit more about what you’re doing, it does become tiresome.
For me, the most exciting aspect of Conan Exiles isn’t the gameplay itself, it’s the exploration factor. Roaming vast lands in search of, well, nothing in particular, but coming across giants, pirate ships, and beautiful landscapes makes it all worthwhile.
Moving away from crafting, Conan Exiles makes building structures and fortresses very enjoyable. I personally enjoy letting my creative side loose in games like this, and Conan Exiles allows me to do this. Whether you want to create a functional shack as a base for your exploration or build a castle, it’s entirely possible.
Depending on the server you choose, structures can be indestructible. They can also be inaccessible to other players – this is useful if you’re wanting to keep your hard work safe! Buildings not only keep you safe (and can look pretty incredible), they protect you against the elements which can be very harsh.
Thralls are one of the main aspects of the game; these are your defenses and your play things. You’ll visit various encampments to capture your prey; beat them to a pulp and drag them back to your base in order to break them on the Wheel of Pain (sounds nice doesn’t it). My issue with capturing thralls is that there seems to be so many bugs and glitches through doing so. Often a thrall will fall through the world or completely disappear for no apparent reason. Capturing thralls can take a lot of time, especially if they’re higher level thralls (named thralls), so when things go wrong in the game itself, it can be very frustrating.
Thralls come in all different shapes and sizes (so to speak). Some are archers and fighters, some blacksmiths and tanners, and some that like to dance (oh, and priests). All thralls have a use in some way or another; you can change their equipment and command them to follow and unfollow you.
Whilst exploring the Exiled Land, you’re going to run into a variety of creatures and people who simply want to kill you. The problem is, the combat in Conan Exiles is probably the worst part about it. There’s not much you can do in combat apart from a few basic moves and combos. The weapons do offer differing play-styles, but for me it’s just not enough. The camera and dodge facilities are poor and often lead to a miserable death.
When you hit an enemy, there’s a distinct lack of satisfaction. It’s hard to know whether you’ve actually struck them, whether someone else has, or whether you’ve hit an ally. I’ve spent a lot of time focusing my combat on not hurting my friends, where I should be focusing on killing the target. Very frustrating on all accounts.
Conan Exiles: Verdict
For me, Conan Exiles can be extremely laborious. The combat and thrall system is mind-blowingly frustrating at times, but for some reason it keeps drawing me back. I’ve played Conan Exiles since it was Alpha and I’ve enjoyed the development of the game. The grind is real, and the crafting is both annoying and great at the same time.
I feel so conflicted about this game, but still after hundreds of hours of gameplay, I seem to always return to it. I love exploring the world and creating beautifully pointless structures for me and my clan mates, the knocking them down and starting again.
Conan also has a great online community, with tons on mods adding extra content to make for an ever better gaming experience.
Take a look at the Conan Exiles Riddle of Steel expansion.