Editor’s Note: The preview will be split into several articles as Conan Exiles length and size outweighs a normal review. Expect further articles soon exploring more of Conan.

Conan has had a difficult time transitioning onto the gaming market and has meet mixed responses. Odd as something like Conan would surely make for excellent gaming but never reached that high standard of God of War or other hack and slashers. Being a big fan of the Conan franchise from the corny action films of the 80’s to some of the modern incarnations in gaming, I was certainly thrilled to see what Exiles had to bring. I oddly enjoyed the 2007 game and was excited none the less to hear of this from Funcom.

Funcom have stripped down the legend that is Conan to its bare bones and built up a compelling survival RPG. Players will take on the role of a lonesome criminal who’s been crucified and left for dead in the Exile wastelands. We are saved by none other than Conan himself and from here your journey for survival begins. Players will engage with many of the traditional aspects of survival games that fit the bill perfectly for the themes and mythos of Conan. From scavenging resources to hunting for food, there’s plenty here to engage upon for fans of the survivalist genre.

There’s the classic RPG character creation which allows you to embody a might warrior from one of seven different classes. There’s the standard features you can alter from facial, body type and the wildly spoken about addition of genitals! Yay, finally I can play as a man with a giant tackle. Overall, the character creation is generic, aside from optional large endowment, there’s little to make it stand out. I’m hoping that choosing a certain race or religion will have altercations in your adventure as it does in other RPG’s like Skyrim.

Broken down, your exile must feed, drink water and maintain a healthy standing in the wastelands while hunting, gathering resources and defending from antagonising forces. Exploring the Exile wastelands is harsh and this is definitely a challenge for those who seek rewards through hardships and brutal punishment.

Funcom allows players to have total freedom in their journeys without excessive hand holding that would normally ruin the experience. Players will indeed gain a terrifying and exhilarating sense of independence as they embark on a great adventure, where you have to adapt and learn the mechanics for yourself in order to survive. Conan is a gruelling exercise of trial and error which will anger many but personally made me value my progression and forced me to learn from my mistakes. Implemented throughout your adventure will be a structure sets of tasks that allow you to learn the basics of survival from feeding and finding shelter to the more complex mechanics of crafting, fighting and building. These tasks are presented through various tiers which also acts as a form of basic narrative. What I did like was having no force plots structures placed on my character such as fulfilling revenge, becoming a king or the cliche chosen one. It was just a simple journey of survival and world building that would expand with my progression.

There are three main difficulties to alter the learning curve which is great for new comers or the veteran survivalists. No matter what difficulty you play on, there’s plenty of suffering to be had. Most of it is player generated but there were some issues that come to light.
While progression offers an insight to new skills and can aid you significantly in your journey, there were times when being a certain level halted the experience together. When you die, your character will lose all their items, everything from weapons, food and resources. This is fine as you can reclaim loot in a substantial amount of time and by building a home, you can save yourself the trouble as certain aspects won't get taken from you upon death. But in order to build certain features that allow this, you have to reach a particular level and this could be the main issue with progression. Levelling up after a period of time becomes slightly tedious without having to take some major risks. After level 7, my character began a slow grind rather than the natural progression just to obtain new skills. I understand the idea that you level faster by adapting quickly or take on harder missions, but some of the perks and skills you learn at level 13 I felt should've been accessible at a lower level.

These small issues don’t ruin the flow but can stagger it for experienced players or be outright punishing for those with less patience.

Even on the easiest difficulty, Conan still proved a challenge. But despite the hardships and some balancing issues, Conan always encouraged my sense of adventure and lured me back after I cooled down. It’s all down to your own pacing, how well you prepare, how fast you learn and how quickly you adapt. There’s plenty to learn but everything comes naturally despite the fact there’s little tutorials and guides in the game. You can read up on how to complete various actions or otherwise, which is more fun is to do it for yourself and learn on what you do.

After all it is a survival game.

The campaign is broken down into a number of objectives such as finding water, food and shelter with the level of requirements increasing as you level up. You’ll come to understand the world naturally from starting stages without feeling overwhelmed by tedious tasks but rather the fundamentals of survival. There's plenty of resource management, crafting weapons and housing and also of course combat. At this early stage I've encountered only other players, AI controlled exiles and various creatures trying to eat me. Combat is simple in execution, focusing on a melee heavy approach that's effective if not a little clunky.

Now Conan: Exiles offers a number of diverse campaign structures for players to engage in. The experience will be centred in the Exile wasteland but there will be a number of different modes you can play depending on the intended experience. Firstly, there’s PVP (player vs player). For those seeking to show their dominance as a lone wolf but more interestingly for people who want to form clans in order to survive. Very compelling concept compared to other MMO’s such as WOW.

Then there’s PVN, which is the player vs environment mode, removing the player vs player element. Instead this mode takes players who rather face the elements together, where they can form clans, hunt,build towns/cities and defeat monsters without the hardship and strong possibilities of encountering other murderous players. This was my favourite mode as I became so easily immersed in world building with communities and forming alliances to hunt and fight monsters within the Exile wasteland. Then if you like to take on the wastelands alone, there’s the single player campaign which is actually the hardest, considering you have to rely solely on your own instincts and skills. Unless you bring a friend into a co-op game that is, which I highly recommend.

Conan Exiles is still in early development with a release date of March 2018. We’re still a fair way from that time frame and there’s plenty more to experience in the meantime. Conan is still rough around the edges but the game’s core is very compelling for fans of fantasy and survival style games.

There’s plenty more to Conan Exiles coming up. Stay tuned for more from Alice Quinn as she explores further into the wastelands of Conan Exiles.

An Xbox One Early Access key was provided by Funcom for the purpose of this Preview