I don’t know what it is about the Conan franchise that makes it so endearing. This is a character who has existed in one form or another for close to a century now. Maybe you grew up watching Arnold Schwarzenegger swing steel around in the cult classic 1982 movie that also spawned the godawful 1984 sequel Conan: The Destroyer.
Maybe you’re a product of the Saturday morning cartoon wars that gave birth to two animated series and at least one live-action series from an era that was obsessed with Hercules and looked to cash in with Robin Hood and Sinbad TV shows of all things. Hell, even the Conan comics were fantastic back in the day. Marvel’s Savage Sword of Conan is still some of the best art ever dedicated to the barbarian, while the Dark Horse comics of the 2000s restored the adventurer to his crafty and cunning ways of survival in a and that time forgot.
And yet, Conan has always been the kind of character who has existed on the edge of pop culture. Everybody knows of him, but few people truly know who he is. That’s a pity, because the mythos of the Conan franchise makes for some stunning reading.
And now we’ve arrived at Conan: Age of Exiles. It’s not the first game set in the world of the destroyer, but it certainly is the first game to bear his name and not star him in a lead role. Because Conan: Age of Exiles has you toiling away as one of many new outcasts in the Hypoborean wastes, left with only your wits and your generous genitals after Conan rescues you from certain death.
Age of Exiles is that game, and it certainly does live up to the Early Access brand attached to it. It’s very, very far from unplayable but the rough edges are plain to see so far. Textures don’t always pop in, some features feel half-realised so far and connecting to an actual populated server is a Herculean task to say the least. But that’s all part of the package when you pony up for quick access into a game months before it is meant to launch.
Thing is, while I’ve heard other players on the forum complain of rubber-banding and disconnects, my own experiences have been stable so far. At least on my own custom server that is and on the rare occasion that I’ve managed to join a public session. Age of Exiles is still fully playable in its current state, but it will leave you wanting more. And that’s because right now, there’s nothing really novel to its approach to crafting and survival.
There’s just a lack of impact to any of the eventual combat, that all-important “oomph” that you’d expect from a game set in a world of swords and sorcery. But what Conan: Age of Exiles does have going for it at least, is a wealth of lore that makes the world around you fascinating to explore. It’s the edge needed to help distance itself away from Ark: Survival Evolved which currently dominates the Steam charts, a game which Age of Exiles is going to have a very hard time displacing from its throne as said king happens to be a finely-tuned and polished example of the genre right now.
But Age of Exiles is an interesting stab in a brutally tough world that will show you no mercy. The days are still early indeed, but I’m keen to see how Funcom fleshes out the narrative with a more dedicated pursuit to the riddle of steel in the months to come. Also, full points for allowing me to give my character a massive kidney-scraper to have flopping around in battle.