Conan Exiles – Early Alpha Thoughts

It’s early alpha. Keep in mind it’s early alpha.

FunCom has recently released into Steam Early Access their new survival game, Conan: Exiles. I’ve been trying the beta off and on this weekend (it’s been a busy weekend with Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands (not as overly exciting as I had hoped, but shows promise and I’ll get it on a good sale and I don’t care if it doesn’t have PvP) as well as Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 (okay but buggy on my system), I was hoping to try Decksplash, but didn’t get into that alpha this weekend, and I have the kids this weekend, so a busy weekend.. Anyhow, back to Conan. I’ve dived into the alpha (in the interest of full disclosure, provided by a PR firm, not directly from the developers) a bit off and on this weekend, and so far I have mixed feelings on it. Now note, this is based off a very limited time with the Alpha so far, and later articles may delve deeper.

It’s early alpha, not even beta really, so the bugs and the like, I can deal with for the moment as I’m sure they’ll work out some of the lag issues (from watching streams and the like, it seems the more housing and the like on a server, the more it lags, even if you aren’t near the housing and aren’t rendering them on your client), clipping and other bugs. The server lag is a big problem, and one they are working hard to solve, especially for official servers which went down while they search for better hardware.

The game is very difficult. As in harder than ARK, and this is even on PvE mode, I can’t imagine the nightmare on PvP. It can be frustrating to have aggressive enemies that are too difficult to kill at the level players start at in the starting area. I don’t mind having enemies that will mess you up if you mess with them, but these are highly aggressive and will chase you down even when they see you from a distance that should have been safe. And dying seems to take a long time, as in you are down, dead, and you just have to keep watching the enemy attack you for another minute or so.

There are a lack of respawn areas, so the initial area gets filled up, and you’ll be lucky if you can even get a bed or one time use bedroll down. The game seems to reserve a very large area once a person claims an area, though this is good for base building, I’d argue that the size near the starting area should be smaller, than expand to larger sizes as you get further into the map from the spawn zone. I don’t know as if I’ve ever seen a survival game do this though, so this would be breaking new ground, but it would discourage having large bases near starting areas, and help serve to encourage people to push deeper into the map. I can see several zones, as you push deeper into the map, you get a bigger claim area. It would be like a risk reward system. You are in far more dangerous territory, so you get bigger zones to build on.

The crafting I imagine won’t change much, and it sort of takes a different path than most of the survival games, and perhaps it is why it feels off, but at the same time shows promise. I haven’t really been able to dive too deep into this yet to really comment on it too deeply. EDIT (+4 hours after original): Now, the fact that a simple torch requires a skill of its own, and not known by default, or learned with campfires (surely more difficult than a torch) is a bit odd, and some of the requirements are a bit extreme, especially early on, and durability isn’t as good as one should think they should be. I should also prefer that if I need 10 twine to craft my water bag, then to automake that twine when I choose to make a water bag, not find the twine, craft that, then craft the water bag. I know how to craft twine and got the resources, just add it to the que automatically.

EDIT (+4 hours after original): Also I didn’t talk about combat, which at the moment is a bit clunky… I’d hope this gets smoothed out. There are times where you would think your weapon should hit and it doesn’t and times where it hits when you would think you missed, same goes to hitting you. This is in fact probably the big show stopper for me and I forgot it in the original version of this article. The combat needs work to say the least.

EDIT (+4 hours after original): Thirst is also extreme. The first time I played I found a full water bag near my spawn point, not so since. So you have to gather the materials, then craft them in order to craft the bag (as noted above, if I know the requirements for it, then it should put that in the que for me)… then fill that bag and drink from the bag (no animation for this yet, which isn’t a big deal). Just getting into the water and swimming or anything like that will allow you to drink, no you have to fill the jug then drink from that, even though it is the same water. If I’m in the same water I’m filling the water bag/jug then my thirst should go away. I get, its the desert, and all that, so thirst should be high, but it seems to run out way to fast, and the fact that going to the water itself doesn’t refill that thirst is a bit of an irritant.

EDIT (+4 hours after original): The server browser also needs work. There is no way of telling what server you have characters on if you didn’t save it to your favorites, and Steam’s server listing doesn’t always show them properly either for some reason, and I hear that the favorites doesn’t always show them. Ideally favorites, and ones with one of you characters on them should refresh first, then the rest of the server list.

Now a lot of that may sound overly negative, but as I said at the start, it is early alpha. This is an important thing to keep in mind before dropping $30 USD on the Early Access. This isn’t just a publicity beta, this is a full on very early alpha, let alone beta. The bugs are being worked on, and given this isn’t some fly by night developer and publisher making this, I’d hope it is a faster and better response to issues than some other games in Early Access, especially in the survival genre which tends to be ripe for abuse, especially early on in the game’s development release cycle. So I think it is safe to hope that most of the bigger bugs, the lag… god the lag… will be fixed. The difficulty curve, probably won’t be toned down, as this is something lots of the fans seem to enjoy.

The character creator is fairly robust for the genre. You pick from several races, which god you want to worship, and a decent range of faces and hair styles, body styles and the like to make something that represents you, or what you would want to play. It obviously isn’t as in depth as say Black Desert’s character creator, or other modern MMOs, but for a survival game, you get one that should more than satisfy most players. Now at this point, one should note the game has three levels of dress/nudity. At fully dressed, women will start the game with a modest amount of coverage over top and bottom; at partial, women’s tops will be exposed; at naked, both men and women will be fully nude, and men will have an endowment slider (slider may actually be there before, but I didn’t actually pay attention when I tested it, women’s breast slider were on all modes, so the men’s slider may have been and I just didn’t pay attention). The level you can set your character at depends on what the server rules are set for. Off hand I don’t recall the server listing showing what those rules are, but it may be a bit further to the right than the main window shows, or may be hover over text. Most servers seem to allow full nudity. This is just something to keep in mind for those that are offended by such things, or don’t want their children seeing such things and all that jazz. EDIT (+4 hours after original post) It would be nice if we could save a default or two of basic builds so we don’t have to repick each time what hair, what face, eyes etc, just have a set of saved builds, then pick that when going to a new server and save time in the character creator.

Speaking of servers, you get the option of PvE, PvP, and PvP Blitz (which accelerate a lot of things, and reset after 30 days, to help level the field constantly). This further divides into server communities, purists, hardcore, relaxed, experimental, roll playing and none (generic), and I rather much like this option. If I want to play on a relaxed PvE server, then that is easier to find, want hardcore PvP Blitz server, then that can be easy to find. This feature alone is a rather nice option.

If you are a fan of survival games, then this is a game that you should add to your wishlist at the very least and keep tight tabs on development. I’d say use caution, watch a few Twitch streams of the game, and then decide if you want to spend the $30 (unless that sort of money is nothing for you, then feel free). The game shows amazing potential to be one of the best survival games of the current crop. Fans of the Conan universe and fans of survival games may be in their heaven spot (or will be after the bigger bugs and lag are fixed). I’ve read only one of the books, and of course saw the movies with Arnold, but I’m not too familiar with the universe overall. Based on other’s accounts, it is fairly faithful to the universe.

If you are just meh on survival games, then wishlist it, keep a looser tab on it. As I noted above, it has the potential to be one of the best survival games on the market, but it isn’t there yet. It doesn’t break enough new ground to really pull itself apart to make you love survival games, but it has the potential to be one that is a bit more playable than the others. This will be especially true for those who are fans of the Conan universe.

Obviously if you don’t like survival games, then this isn’t going to be a title for you, even if you are a fan of the Conan universe. It is clearly going for a hardcore survival game. Perhaps check out Osiris: New Dawn and see if that survival game is more your speed, though obviously you are giving up the extensive character customization, Conan universe and the like.

As I noted, this initial review is based off a limited time from the first weekend that the game was out. I hope to return to the game later and get more time with it, and get deeper into the crafting tree, and explore to see more of the game past the starting areas myself (not just via streams on Twitch/YouTube).

Final word and the TLDR is basically keep in mind it is very early alpha and it feels like it. If you don’t mind that, don’t mind the bugs and lag that it has now, and love survival games, and have the money to spare, then this MAY be worth your time and money now, but for most fans of the genre, I’d say exercise caution, watch the streams and the like first, then dive in either now or hold off until the bigger lag problems are fixed (the bugs I think aren’t as big a problem and will be fixed in time). Everyone else, keep an eye on it, and see what comes of it, then go in later.

SIDE NOTE: I didn’t include any video as I need more RAM on my PC before I can really record or stream most newer titles and be fair to the title at all. If I try it and it works out okay, I’ll add it to this post at a later time, or may make a new post… who knows. We’ll see where it all goes.

Edit (+8 hours from original post): It looks like, after they fix the primary lag and rubberanding issues with the servers, they are moving to combat next and removing how clunky it is. See PC Gamer’s article Conan Exiles devs discuss server issues and future features, which may include PvP castration. Nice to see that I’m not alone in the thought that it was off.