Conan Exiles is an open world survival crafting game that is currently in early access on Steam. The game can be played solo, or as locally hosted online co-op, or on a dedicated online server. I experienced all 3 modes, and the online servers are the best option. It’s far superior to both the solo/locally hosted co-op mode. If you intend to play solo, I would strongly advise against that, as it gets very lonely and boring.
Using the player hosted co-op is better than soloing, but it’s also got issues that need to be addressed. I found the co-op experience not as enjoyable as it could be; the biggest issue being that the people you are hosting are invisibly tethered to you, and you can’t split up at all. Other people are dragged along wherever the person hosting goes, so I look forward to that being fixed.
Playing online multiplayer is definitely the way to go. Due to all the different server options, the gaming experience will vary from server to another. You just need to find a server that fits what you want to do at a pace that you like. Most importantly, you’ll decide whether it’s PvP or PvE, and how fast people are able to progress. Personally, I prefer faster progression with PvP. As is the nature with any PvP game, expect to be zerged, killed, and lose practically everything you own in the blink of an eye.
A major focus of the game revolves around gathering resources and crafting. You’ll need to make everything from weapons, to armor, to torture devices and shrines, to housing and decorations. There isn’t a whole lot to say about the story since most of it isn’t implemented yet.
Fighting players is much more satisfying than fighting the AI. Most of the combat is melee, but there are ranged weapons as well. All tools, armor, and weapons have durability. When items become completely worn out, you can repair them with a few materials instead of having to completely recraft them. Dying respawns you back at wherever you have a bed set up, and on most servers, all of the items you had are left on your body.
- the crafting system has quite a bit to offer, and you can craft while doing other things
- players can build and customize their own buildings just about anywhere they want and make as many buildings as they want as long as it’s not too close to someone else’s, and everything can be raided and destroyed by other players
- all of the server settings can be changed, allowing players a lot more options to choose from to find the gaming experience best suited for them
- survival aspects (health, stamina, thirst, and hunger) are all easily manageable (by default) without being too much of a burden once you have access to a campfire to cook with
- PvP conflicts between players and clans are fun, and will likely encourage long term replay of the game
- gear and stat progression allows you to customize your character, but even if you have higher level and better armour, coordinated naked people can still take you out (PvP + full loot are options for server settings)
- the environments look great, and even though on occasion you’ll notice some objects floating above the ground, it’s not too plentiful or game-breaking at all
- the music and sound effects are fine, and the cut scenes and voiced dialog that there are in the game are done very well
- controls are fully customizable, and there is controller support
- anticheat software is available, but not forced on players; servers can opt in to using the anticheat software (called BattEye), but there are plenty of unofficial servers that don’t require players to have it installed
- some servers will have lag and rubberbanding – it gets worse as more people join the server; most of the time, there was little to no lag, but as the server I was playing on went over 30 players, it started lagging very badly (this is one of the top issues Funcom is working on for the next patch)
- the interface layout for the crafting menu/crafting recipes sections both need a major overhaul – currently it seems very disorganized, and streamlining the crafting menus to make them easier to read should be implemented (i.e. maybe making them into a tree of crafting skills)
- it’s too quick and too easy to raze everything someone has built to the ground
- (nitpick) AI is a bit dumb, and could use improvements (I’m sure that will be improved in the future)
- (nitpick) character and enemy models could use some improvements to both the design and the animation to make it more consistent with the rest of the world – it’s difficult to differentiate between AI enemies and players enemies, or tell friends from foes (clothing customization is planned in the future, but sooner would be better)
- (nitpick) some sound effects cut in and out (i.e. waterfalls)
Performance wise, I’m able to run with all settings maxed, but there are framedrops every now and then (Win10, 32GB RAM, i7-6700k, GTX 1070). It wasn’t too bad though, and I could easily tolerate it. On more popular online servers, there’s more likely to be server lag causing problems rather than performance drops.
I’ve played the game for over 20 hours so far, and I’ve had the most fun while playing on the online servers PvPing and building up bases with others. I can see PvP conflicts between players and clans being a reason to encourage long term replay of the game, and that’s definitely something I look forward to doing more of.
Conan Exiles is in early access, so if you’re looking for a perfect, polished, and complete game, just hold off until the game develops further. Servers may lag, and it is something that is top priority for fixes, but in the meantime, you can use the lag to your advantage in many situations. After my experiences with Age of Conan, I admit was skeptic about Conan Exiles. However, there is plenty of fun to be had with it. I think the game is off to a great start, and I don’t understand all the hate that it’s getting. I have played a lot more than I thought I would, and I intend to play even more as the game develops.