WARNING: I don’t do content warnings, but I’m going to go ahead and issue a content warning here. This game features explicit nudity to cap off its visceral violence. If such things upset or offend you, you definitely shouldn’t play it (or probably even read this preview, for that matter).
Conan Exiles is a game that’s been on my radar for quite a while. I’ve always enjoyed the mythos surrounding Conan. Even with its disastrous lack of content after level 20, I was even a big fan of the Age of Conan MMO back in the day. Paired with my fondness of open-world survival craft-em-ups (or as I affectionately refer to them, “PVP s***bag simulators”), I’ve been pretty excited at the prospect of new Hyborian adventures. And yet, I dropped the ball entirely, completely missing the build-up to its Early Access release the other day until stumbling into Chris Livingston’s dongfest tweets via PC Gamer (100 pere cent NSFW).

Upon firing up the game, I had no idea what to expect beyond the hilariously physics-modeled genitalia and the expectation of players and NPCs alike who would be anxious to chop, bite, or otherwise sever it from my body given the chance. That being said, I made a promise to myself to not focus on such juvenile things, and I think you’ll find I’ve satisfied that desire to completion.

Conan Exiles Early Access Preview - Performance Issues

It took me a while to probe the ins and outs of the game, but before long, I managed to meet up with a friend of mine and we were able to beat out a rhythm and amass enough resources to erect a base to serve as our gathering point. It may not have been large, but it was proud and noble, and it would suit our needs just fine.

Sadly, that’s about as far as we got, as our evening was cut short by performance and connection issues. It started with classic rubber-banding, bouncing all over the place, and then nothing. FunCom promised it was only temporary and that they could get things back up and running in no time, but any attempts to resume have been met with similar disappointment. It’s not their fault, though, as it happens to every developer at first. And, honestly, character creation features (which I totally won’t name) have made for such a discussion point in the last 24 hours that the game seems to have made enough of an impression for players to want to give it a second chance.

To be honest, I truly hope they can deliver the goods. There’s been a fair amount of buildup, and I like what they have to show for themselves, even if it has a lot of growing to do before it can fully satisfy the expectations of its players. Conan Exiles has positioned itself to be one of the more brutal examples of the genre. Hard, raw, and uncut, you’re thrust into a world that will swallow you up if you let it. Its emphasis towards group endeavours and unwillingness to hold my hand makes for an exciting prospect in the genre.

Since the whole Day Z phenomenon, it seems like every Tom, Dick, and Harry has tried to take a stab at the survival genre. Most, however, come to the table with little or no prior experience, and no street cred. Conan Exiles has a veteran studio pushing it forward, and one of the most savage IPs to draw inspiration from; all they need to do now is come good on the details and we may end up with the most satisfying open-world experience to date.

Conan Exiles Early Access Preview - Performance Issues 2

Personally, I feel that Conan Exiles has come too soon, and could have, if nothing else, used some more stress testing before hitting Early Access. But it’s a problem that happens to the best of ‘em. Whether it’s worth the buy-in cost right now will depend largely on how rough you like your games, but it already runs more smoothly than Ark, the obvious Early Access Unreal 4 survival game against which it will be measured against from now until the end of times. And while Ark has an 18 month and 250+ patch head start on Conan Exiles, and the former just received a tech update featuring laser dinos, the latter features giant avatars of the gods, is receiving human sacrifices, and has an endowment slider with dong physics. Your move, Ark.

Currently, though, it’s a little rough even for my tastes, though none of that will stop me from enjoying for the time being. Maybe it’s a little cold in here, or maybe I’m just not looking at it in the right light, but Conan Exiles, though a fun ride while it lasts, is definitely going to need some serious fluffing before its final debut. Fortunately, if its Twitch popularity is anything to go by, there is no shortage of people willing to give them a hand sorting out the details.

I’ll be sure to report back in a couple days once the game’s over the initial hump of teething problems and server issues and the reality of literally being tea-bagged in PvP sets in. May the Gods help us all.