Character customization has come a long way in video games and the degree to which a character has freedom to make a character in their image can vary come game to game. Some allow players to swap some pre-made hairstyles and face shapes, others allow players to contour their cheek bones while adjusting height, musculature and degree of aging of a character’s skin. And then we have games that allow the player to adjust the level of shall we say endowment a character is blessed with, whether we are discussing endowments of a global nature or more of a noodley appendage variety (and not referring to the god of the Pastafarians). Whether playing as a male or female exile left to die on the cross, Conan Exiles makes sure to include customization of the naughty bits in the character creation process.
Now that we’ve got your attention, the character creation process does have a fair amount of depth to it. There are eleven races from the Conan universe the player can choose from, and there is quite a bit of freedom as far as customizing how athletic or squishy a character looks, along with various hair styles, make up and facial hair options. Religion oddly enough factors into the character creation portion, but this has more to do with a gameplay than just visual appearance. Five of the Hyborian gods are available to choose from at start up, and these are Set, Yog, Mitra, Ymir and Crom. Choosing the god to worship at the start of the game will unlock the altars for that god, and from the altar players can get special items based on their faith and special tools. Followers of Yog can get a stone club and those that follow Set get a special knife. These tools can be used to harvest special crafting materials from NPCs or other players you kill that can be crafted into special items at the altar. For example, Mitra’s followers can get ambrosia that regenerates health and Yoggites can get human meat that’s been blessed by the gods.
The god the player chooses will determine which Avatar they have access to later in the game, which is the physical manifestation of their deity whom they can summon to crush their enemies. These violent deities take on various forms but their physical forms shouldn’t come as a surprise to those verse in the mythology that exists in Conan’s world. Set is a gigantic snake, Yog is a gigantic squid looking beast that emits toxic sludge, Mitra is an impressive bronze statue and Ymir is a frost giant, because what else would something with such a Scandinavian name be? Crom is well, a bit different. If we have learned anything from Arnold Schwarzenegger it’s that when spit gets real we just have to say to hell with Crom. Crom does not need to be worshiped, because he is not deserving of it since he has no Avatar and does nothing for the player. Crom is a good choice for players who have strong atheist convictions, or simply don’t want to be bothered with the game’s equivalent of going to church.
Once we’ve designed our character and come down from the cross, we find we are in want of a lot of stuff. We literally have nothing, especially if the player has engaged the full nudity option on their server. As one can guess, standing naked in a vast desert is going to leave the character wanting for many things. The character begins overheating, needing water and shelter. Less immediate but equally important the character will need food, clothing and weapons. There is a waterskin nearby that is highly recommended the player grab, and some journals and other pieces of information scattered nearby among the rocks and crucified skeletons.
From these humble beginnings the created character can grow to much greater stature, though this transformation will not happen overnight. Constructing buildings and amassing a decent number of thralls is part of Conan Exiles but these take time to build up. The greatest buildings must start with a floor plan, but by learning recipes and gathering materials mighty fortresses can be built. These structures are meant to be part of the world they exist in, which means building them against mountains or in water is possible, though making sure the materials are possessed to ensure the building has enough support.
NPCs can be conquered and enslaved to serve the character as thralls. Just about any NPC can be converted to a thrall but they tend to remain what they were, so if you want dancers or archers those are the type of people you need to enslave. In order to make someone a thrall, they must be broke first, which isn’t too difficult if they spend regular amounts of time on the wheel of pain with a steady diet of gruel. The problem with thralls is once you have them you have to take care of them, so in a way they’re kind of like not very cute pets but the trade off is they have more functionality than a house cat. Rare thralls are coveted and may offer special benefits, like say a Cimmerian blacksmith might not be a bad thing to have at your disposable.
Conan Exiles can be played offline as a single player experience but it really is designed to be played online with other characters. There is a BattleEye app that can be installed with the game to keep cheaters and hackers from causing problems and depending on a person’s modesty level there is an option to select whether or not full nudity is shown on the servers, which can be useful if one wishes to play this game on a computer where their mom or wife has a chance to walk in while playing. Having to explain why you’re playing a game with a topless woman holding two swords and an HHH cup size has a tendency to be awkward. To accommodate different play styles with this type of game, different servers can tag themselves so players know what kind of experience they can expect. These tags include purist, role playing, experimental, hard core, and relaxed.
Conan Exiles is an extremely involved game, while there are differences in the two games beyond the world of Conan compared to Jurassic Park using Ark Survival Evolved as a reference point isn’t completely inaccurate as far as the depth of gameplay opportunities exist within this title. By the nature of this type of title it is not story driven but the world does include its own set of lore and history that can be revealed by talking to NPCs and uncovering journals and other artifacts to help learn the situation the player was thrust in and what exactly is going on with the exiles.
Conan Exiles is still in early access, and as such it does not play like a finished product at all times, but we can excuse that because it is still openly a work in progress. The developers do listen to community feedback and will be responding to any issues reported by players. Some of the plans for Conan Exiles includes tweaking the combat system to make it go from acceptable to exceptional, and most other ideas they have in the works involve building on what is already present like expanding the religion and thrall system. Combat mounted on animals is also a topic of discussion. In its current state there are still some bugs that need to be ironed out and some features be improved, but the development team is aware of these concerns and is addressing them, but again, this is still a title in Early Access. As it stands now if someone is into survival games and likes the appeal of Conan the Barbarian there is some fun to be had in its current state, especially if you can get your friends involved. This is a game that does require a decent time commitment and has a learning curve to it, but shows great potential.