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Conan Exiles Review

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The survival genre is nothing rare to come by these days. It was once the battle royale of gaming where every developer wanted to get into the market with their unique take on the "eat before you starve to death" mechanic. ARK still remains one of my all-time favourites but it has its moments where its directionless questlines and steep difficulty curve get in the way of enjoying the game's gorgeous setting. Conan Exiles manages to fix the missing mechanics of ARK by providing players with a simplified crafting system, less aggressive survival mechanics and a quest log of sorts that keeps you on a path to a goal.

Conan Exiles is not perfect in any way but it never felt as relentless and overcomplicated as other games of the genre. That to me was the best part about it. You are free to explore the world and try your hardest to build an empire and with a keen objective in sight, it helps direct you towards greatness. Taking the role of a criminal who is crucified and left to die in the desert, you get cut down and freed, given a second chance if you will. With your bare butt and your man parts swinging around you, you set off on a quest to survive. 

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Like all survival games, the first few hours are key to making it in the harsh climates. You need to find food, get some water and if you are a nudist ignore the request to find clothing. Dubbed as the Exiled Lands, Conan Exiles takes place in a vast open world divided into different ecosystems. You have the snowy hills, dry desert, volcanic mountains and some places in between like the swamps and oasis-like ruins. Each biome bares a unique look and feel to it and where you decide to start is up to you. The safest option for me was to build a little hut near a lake and starting off in single player it was a struggle. 

The game's opening hours make for an enjoyable experience as you are directed on a path with some aid of a few carefully crafted items you find along the way. It is almost as if the game elevates you out of the slave you once were and your journey begins thanks to the help you receive. Many survival games drop you in and leave you there but Conan gives you the kick to do more. 

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Crafting in Conan Exiles is very important to surviving the lands. It all works in a tier system whereas you need to reach a certain level before being able to craft something. I enjoyed how simple this system was at first without feeling overwhelmed by the sheer number of crafting items on offer. While it does get quite complex, it's all about how well the game eases you into it all. Stone bricks to stone walls to reinforced metal walls. The game makes sure you know what you can craft when you need it and instead of sifting through a long list of things you will never use, the game tailors the system to suit your progression. 

Later on in the game, it does get a bit tougher. You will need to have specific crafting stations in order to craft an item from each in order to make a final item from another crafting station. This rule applies specifically in armour crafting and the pipeline does hinder your focus. I would have preferred a streamlined system over having to craft a little bit here and a little bit there only to make it all in another place. Crafting also relies on materials, a lot of them, so most of the time I spent looking for these and the other half I spent trying to figure out what went where. 

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The same goes for shelter as it is just as important to make sure you survive the lands. While you have dangerous foes to protect yourself from with armour, shelters and building have their own set of threats and these come in the form of elements such as sandstorms and climate challenges. If you are going to build your house in the snow then best make sure it stays warms. Foreseeing the threats in the future is key to making a success of your housing. 

The most ideal way to get your bang from Conan Exiles is to join a co-op lobby or join a server with some friends and become part of a community. Single player works but it is a grind as you will need to try and stay as focused as possible on your goal while taking into account that everything you are doing is going to take three times the amount of time. 

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Servers range from PvP to PvE but you can also host your own and invite some friends to walk around the jungle naked with you. It goes without saying the PvP is as relentless as other games in the genre. Players will kill you, take your stuff and burn down your empire while snacking on a bag of chips and swearing at your mother. My time with the PvP server was as expected, harsh. It is a survival game so people survive which means you will either make it or break it. 

Most of my life spent in the game was spent gathering resources and at least the Exiled lands have plenty of it on offer. Some things are harder to find and some things like stone and wood you will look for until the end of days as it is vital for most if not anything you make throughout the game. Chopping down trees, slamming rocks to pick up stones and of course killing animals for hides. It all starts out simple but later on you will be searching high and low for iron and other rare crafting materials. 

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Like all survival games, Conan Exiles relies on patience. You will need the patience to tackle the heavy grind and you will need the patience to make sense of everything that is going on in the game and navigating all the menus while you are at it. If you make it through all that you will slowly start to build a decent empire and have a few dozen chests filled with materials. But the game does not end there. Conan Exiles features a handful of unique experiences that have made the game so different from the rest of them. World bosses, dungeons and raids make for an enjoyable experience and reward you with some great items to use on in your personal capacity. These dungeons are basically linear areas to explore with a boss at the end. They are challenging but adding a few people to the mix helps ease the pressure. 

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The game then also allows you to have a clan of people working towards a better and safer empire. Of course, PvP means there are other people doing the same thing on the other side of the hill and when war breaks out people will lose their lives and homes. This is especially thanks to the giant god-like creatures that you swear your life to during the character creation screen. Each religion has one and when you hit a certain part of the game you will be able to summon it and set it off against the enemy.  I was not able fully to test this out given the sheer scale of the game and everything I had to take in and learn, but I am sure it will deliver some of the best moments in the game as you watch everything you ever built crumble to dust. 

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Conan Exiles is unique and without a doubt something any survival fan will enjoy. It eases you into the challenge quite well but later on, I could not help but think that its clunky UI and complicated crafting systems could have been a little easier. I love survival games but they all try and make everything so hard. Conan Exiles is no exception to the rule. I did enjoy my time with it and I will jump into a PvP server soon to test out some siege gameplay. If you are looking for a decent survival game and tired of seeing dinosaurs then Conan Exiles is a great alternative. Just be ready for some clunky gameplay. 

This review was conducted based on a review code sent to us by Funcom

Available On: PC, Xbox One, PS4 | Reviewed On: PS4 Pro | Release Date: 8 May 2018 | RRP: R779

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