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Conan Exiles Early-Access Review

The last decade has been an interesting period of time for survival and crafting games. Many big titles like Don’t Starve or Minecraft were – and still are – the perfect proof of the interest in such games. Some of them took place in a post-apocalyptic world with a zombie epidemic while others solely focused on survival in nature. But in any case, they all were a success for both the developers and the players.

The idea of survival was attractive most probably because it touched our basic instincts. Instead of an action based gameplay, most of them provided a couple of mechanics which forced players to micromanage their resources to be able to survive. And of course, single player survival games were followed by multiplayer and even online survival titles such as Ark. But for now, let’s go back to our subject.

Developed by Fancom, Conan Exiles has become more and more interesting especially after the new expansion update, The Frozen North. This update added a big amount of craftable items and a huge map with frost giants, mammoths and new places to discover. The game now also has weather condition which is crucial for your survival.

To be honest, I am a huge supporter of survival titles. I have played so many titles that I can’t even remember the count. From the basic zombie survival games to horror survival titles, this idea of micro-management and resource gathering, base building or even survival action – even though I am not a huge action fan – has always been my ‘point of interest’. And of course, the fun doubles when you get to play with your friends. And Conan Exiles stands at that point. It offers an unforgiving word with many crafting possibilities and it lets you enjoy it with your friends. There will be a ‘but’ on this statement. However, let’s enjoy the good parts first.

A fresh start…As always.

Among all the other titles available right now, Conan Exiles stands on the ‘survival against the nature’ part, at least most of the time. You have two server options: PvE (Player vs Environment) and PvP (Player vs Player). On PvE, you focus on crafting, exploring and surviving against NPCs and weather conditions. On PvP, you can fight with other players and try to protect yourself from their wrath which I couldn’t experience yet because there were not enough people on any server. Though I wouldn’t be able to do anything at all that’s for sure. Moreover, most of the people who play this game say that PvE is much better than PvP at this stage. So keep that in mind.

You start with creating your character, as you can imagine. You have many possibilities. Starting with your gender you end up with adjusting your boob size, even if you are a male (Gender equality!). And after a short cutscene, you start the game. You find yourself in the middle of nowhere with nothing on you. I mean, literally nothing if you turned the nudity option on (No pun intended).

First, let’s take a look at the ‘story’ or as I would like to call, ‘the basic lore’. The game takes place in the ‘brutal world of Conan the Barbarian’. The starting area is a huge desert where you can’t find anything but a water skin. All naked, you start running around without any distinctive indication. Apart from a couple of journal entries on specific locations, the lore and the story remains hidden. Or it doesn’t even exist, I don’t know. The only thing I could find was these journal entries which didn’t explain anything at all.

After a short time, you find yourself kind of lost as it is not easy to find your way unless you use the map. After dying of thirst (this will happen 90% of the time, believe me) you check your map to see that you have tons of work to do. The area is huge. Not as big as many MMORPG games maybe but still, it’s pretty big.

From the very beginning, you start gathering resources like a maniac and start leveling up as you progress in the game. When you level up, you get to distribute points on your main stats which effects your damage, your ability to carry more items, your ranged damage, your accuracy etc. Just the classic, basic stuff. The other thing that you can get from leveling up is the crafting recipes and this is where the game gets interesting.

Nonstop gathering. Let’s begin.

When you look at the crafting recipes list, you suddenly understand that there is a lot to do if you want to build a huge castle or even gear up yourself with good stuff. You start from the basics with swords made from stone, a basic bow and flint head arrows and a sandstone house. You gather resources like a mad man. If you are a survival-crafting game fan, you know the struggle and you like it. And to be honest, in this game it doesn’t feel that problematic at all. Yes, you will have to gather thousands of stone pieces. Yes, you will have to chop down hundreds of trees. But, this is the normal procedure on the way to your first base and gear.

The crafting system in general is simple enough and pretty fun. Along with classic thingies like weapons, armor and housing items, Conan Exiles also offers a couple of different items. You can construct a ‘Wheel of Pain’ for example on which you assign a thrall and use them as your slaves or your jester. I am not kidding. You can knock out NPCs, drag them with your Fiber Rope to your base, put them on the wheel to break their will and assign them wherever you please at your base. They can protect your base, work on crafting stations, or simply entertain you.

Other than that, you also have Shrines that you build to worship to your god. So, the crafting system is somewhat unique, but not so much to be fair. Most of the time you do the classic stuff that you do in a survival game. Collect the basic materials, hunt for food, get water etc. But the beautiful part of this game comes when you start building a huge castle. I have seen many structures which made me feel amazed. So you can have one of those if you want.

The starting area covers a small part of the materials. You can get stone, food, basic hides and wood. When you level up and start crafting more complex things like Iron Swords or advanced armor, you will have to go north to look for those materials. And this is when this game becomes fun and a torture machine at the same time.

Fight for your life! Or for a piece of iron!

Like I said, the rare materials are not that easy to find. They are not too hard to find either but the main problem about getting them is associated primarily with the combat system. Let me explain the main combat mechanics before I start whining. The idea behind the combat mechanics are pretty simple and fun, I accept that. You can hit, block with a shield, dodge or use bow and arrows. Most of the time, you won’t have any problems while fighting with NPCs. I haven’t seen any players in any server so I don’t know how it works for PvP. But, the NPCs are too easy to kill especially if you have bow and arrows with you.

At this point, I would like to put a huge, fat, disgusting ‘BUT’ since I think the melee fight is unnecessarily boring. On the other hand, ranged combat it ridiculously easy against NPCs. The AI is incredibly broken in this game. Sorry folks, but I have to point this out. If you stay behind a rock, not moving at all, and find a good angle to hit an enemy, you can kill them easily, without taking any damage (not talking about the huge giants of course…). They don’t know how to act other than running towards you like a mindless beast. Dodging doesn’t even work properly. Your stamina bar drains so quickly that after a couple dodges, you just have to stand there and endure the hits, which shouldn’t be a problem because almost every single NPC has a weakness thanks to this AI and bug issue.

Yes, the combat system needs work. But there is something else, a bigger problem than this. A problem which explains every single bad part about this game and the fact that it is not complete. And this fact effects every single aspect of the game. Let’s take a look at these parts.

Get’em off of me!!

There is one major problem about this game and this problem also ruins a huge part of your experience. Bugs… And, I am not talking about small bugs. Huge, game breaking bugs… They are everywhere. Let me tell you a little story: one day, a crafting icon disappeared from my crafting list because when I wanted to put it on a quick slot, the game recognized it as an item and put it in my inventory where I lost it after I died. And I lost the crafting icon for good. I mean really, it never reappeared again. I did some research, and a couple of people recommended drinking a Yellow Potion to fix the problem. And I was like: “Seriously?”

So, a bug fixes another bug. That was strange. But at that point, in order to make that potion, I had to go north to get the ingredients and level up to be able to get the crafting recipe. I died more than 9 times during the process. 6 of them at least was because of the regular crashes that I experienced in 2-3 hours. And each time, I didn’t have the time to go back to loot my own corpse because it was too far away with many monsters and NPCs around. And, most importantly, I didn’t have the time to collect my belongings just because of the ridiculous loading times (5-10 minutes. Not even kidding). Believe me I tried everything…until I died for the last time because of another crash. I did my research and found out that these were experienced by many other people.

Another problem is about the lag. I tried choosing the least laggy servers in order to enjoy the game. But even if my ping was around 20-30, I had huge lag spikes constantly. I did my best to find the problem but I think it was about the main servers or something. Or I was unlucky like hell. But on the Internet, there were others who ha the same problem as I did.

As the biggest problem about this game, bugs really ruin your fun. Yes, this is an early-access game and we should expect many bugs. This is not the problem that I am talking about. The problem is that the game has so many problems on so many aspects that it needs a good amount of work to be finished.

Nice visuals for an unfinished game.

Well, I tried pointing out the basic problems of the game. At least the biggest ones. For an early access game, maybe this can be acceptable. But even for an early-access game in my opinion, this is kind of too much. Fortunately, they update the game regularly and they probably work hard on these problems. But, it needs time to be fully enjoyable. Other than that, Conan Exiles offers a visually beautiful environment. However, do not fooled by the trailers or official videos. The game itself doesn’t look as good as it does in those videos. On ultra settings, I was able to see the difference. I am not trying to say that it looks terrible or something. It’s just not the same game that I saw on the videos. But overall, the environment looks really beautiful and alive. However, I cannot say the same for characters and monsters.

Lighting is pretty good, that’s for sure. But the monsters, their animations and NPC movement look pretty clunky. When you see gazelles roaming around and look at their idle movement, you will understand what I am trying to say. They are not smooth, on the contrary, they ‘suddenly’ turn around. The climbing animation, which gives a huge freedom to be honest and is a good idea, is too buggy. You can find yourself ‘climbing’ horizontally when you expect to finish your climbing session. It is not well implemented unfortunately.

Sound effects are pretty simple. They don’t disturb you until they get bugged. When your stamina indicator goes empty, you start breathing heavily. And most of the time it bugs and makes you keep breathing even if your bar is full. And it can become really annoying. Other than that, music is really good. I really think that it goes well with the atmosphere. However, they need polishing like other aspects of the game.

A couple of last statements.

I played the game for almost 17 hours. And the problems that I could see was about overlapping or automatically muted sounds, glitches on graphics and movements of NPCs, monsters AND your character, bugs in crafting, bugs in the water (hyenas taking a bath just under a lake with an unlimited scuba diving equipment I guess?), bugs in combat mechanics, bugs in the AI…I am so sorry, I am trying to be objective as possible. These are the bugs that ‘I have seen in 17 hours’. And, I have only seen a small part of the map and I haven’t even tried other mechanics in the game. But the only objective opinion that I can give about Conan Exiles – especially about these bugs – is that if you don’t want to pay for an unfinished game which requires tons of adjustments, wait for it to be completed.

I can really understand that they need funds to be able to complete a huge project like this. I really do. And I really respect that. But as a player, I need more to be able to get satisfaction out of my purchase. Conan Exiles offers an entertaining experience, that’s for sure. Especially if you play with your friends in PvE servers, you’ll get tons of fun from crafting, building and eventually, maybe from dungeon crawling which I couldn’t experience yet. But other than that, the game has many game breaking bugs. You can not expect only crafting from a game which promises a lot than this. If you are a survival crafting game fan and don’t mind supporting Fancom on this project even if it is not complete, go ahead and buy it. I am sure the game will become better and better in the future.

The main idea behind Conan Exiles is just so good. A co-op and competitive open world survival and crafting game with many unique features. I’d recommend keeping an eye on this title. That’s what I’m going to do before I commit hours on it. Like I said, it has many unfinished parts. But overall, it is fun and can become the next addiction in the future.


Conan Exiles is a survival MMO with PvP or PvE choices, huge amount of crafting possibilities and tons of bugs. After the launch of The Frozen North expansion update, the game got bigger and bigger. The crafting system, letting players to build huge houses, villages and even castles, makes this game unique especially with its Unreal Engine 4 supported visuals. However, as an early-access game, Conan Exiles has so many game breaking or fun killing bugs that need to be addressed as soon as possible. Even though you can have fun playing with your friends, PvP and other unfinished aspects of this game forces me to recommend waiting for it to be fully completed and released. At this stage, unless you don’t mind playing a buggy game, Conan Exiles is far away from fulfilling what it promises.

Conan Exiles was reviewed using a Steam key provided by the publisher.

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Written by Umut Uyurkulak

Full-time FRP/RPG freak, part-time wannabe musician and a dedicated member of "Nameless MMORPG Addicts Association"

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