The Survivalist: The good, the bad, and the barbaric of Conan Exiles’ launch
If the survival genre is any indication, Early Access is a nigh indestructable beast! Time and time again we’ve seen where so many have failed to defeat this end boss. But that all changed when one mighty barbarian came along and did just that. Conan Exiles strangled the last breath out of the Early Access beast with its bare hands and cast it aside, then strode straight into the waiting arms of launch this week.
Now there is lots to say about this launch, and a good chunk of it is pretty glowing. However, no launch is without some troubles. And sadly, there is also a despicable element as well. Here’s my look at the good, the bad, and the barbaric of the first couple of days of Conan Exiles’ launch.
What’s so good about the launch? For one, it actually did! Talk about a rarity in this genre. While so many other titles are languishing in three, four, even five plus years of early access, Conan Exiles broke free from that non-launch’s deadly grasp with just a year and three months in early access. True, It didn’t hit the year mark on the nose when it moved from a Q1 to Q2 launch, but in the survival world of launch delays, that’s not even a blink. And no, I don’t count the initial four month’s delay of the actual launch of early access because the game wasn’t out for people to buy and play at that point. From beginning to end, early access was just 15 months. Once Funcom set a hard launch date rather than a launch window, it stuck to it. Yes, it cut a bit of content to make that happen, but that content will remain free if/when it makes it to the game. This is gold star material here, folks. The Verdict is officially in: Conan Exiles wins at early access, and will be the standard others can be held to.
I’d like to say there weren’t massive outages or difficulty in getting into servers, but the survival genre has a bit of a different set up than MMOs do. Instead of a few massive servers, there are tons of smaller ones. And there are also privately hosted ones. I really don’t have any personal experience with the official ones, but I didn’t hear of anything major breaking down; there were some queues on official servers and Funcom was quickly adding more servers to meet demand (more on the blundering way it did that later). I had absolutely no issues jumping right onto my private server, no long delays, no game-breaking bugs, nothing of the sort. The update, transition to launch, and logging in was as smooth as silk.
As for gameplay, I’ve only made it to the swamp so far (the volcano will have to wait until I gear up better!), but having such a massive influx of land to wander and experience for launch is fantastic! Include that with the new systems to get into like farming and the journey quest-like path (which certainly gives a huge leg up on XP gain), and you get a launch that’s something substantial. It seems like many companies just let launch slide by with only a few tweaks or a minor update, if that. In that respect, launch truly is nothing more than a change of status. Look at us, we changed our designation, see? Conan Exiles, on the other hand, made it feel like a true launch with plenty of new content even for those who — like me — have been playing since day one.
Another good aspect that is less launch and more new-content related that I want to mention is that the bedrolls do not despawn on use! I had either forgotten or not realized this from my hands on (in all fairness I used a bed then), and had quickly made a replacement upon my first death before realizing the original was still at my feet. It is greatly appreciated not having your next death respawn you leagues away from where you are adventuring just because you might not have gotten to place another down quick enough. As a server admin, I am also liking the one-only rule that means there aren’t scores of forgotten bedrolls littering the landscape and potentially bogging down the server.
So the biggest bad thing for me was the lack of stone for building in the swamp. I’m serious! Upon logging into our freshly wiped server, I made a beeline for the swamp area because that is where I wanted to explore and find a neat little cubby in a tree to build my first home. That’s where I came to discover I was seriously ill-prepared because I needed lots of stone, and the swamp didn’t have any where I was. Sure, that’s not a tragedy, design flaw, or game-destroying thing, but that means I have to run quite a distance back and forth to grab materials. Hey, it was a personal disappointment.
I also have to add the ending of the new opening cinematic to the bad list. Not the entire thing, but one of the last lines. When Conan the Barbarian waxes poetic about living and loving… that was just too corny for me! This is a brutal survival game, and he suddenly started spouting off like a Hallmark card? “Live, love, burn with life, slay and stay alive.” That level of cheesy needs to be on nachos, not coming out of Conan’s mouth. Maybe if the delivery were different I could accept it better. At least he redeemed himself a bit when he ended on the more chilling, “We will meet again, dead woman.”
I’m going to add the new healing mechanic here as well, although I think it may grow on me as I become more accustomed to it. Right now, I have to stuff my face with food quickly in order to try and not die after a single combat, and heavens help me if I get attacked by adds in quick succession. I also need to get used to the stamina loss when fighting while encumbered because that seems to feel much more punishing.
As much as I wanted to make this section “the deadly” and talk about dying to new creatures in the new lands, Funcom had to go and totally derail my plans. My whole launch column was fairly glowing initially, but that changed when the studio decided to do its day-two switcheroo. Yes, launch day went well, and then we got the morning after. After everything was going so well, why did Funcom have to go and shoot itself in the foot with that kind of a move?
The blunder I’m talking about is the changing of established official servers from PvE-Conflict to straight PvP after people had already spent time leveling and building there. Why would you even do this, Funcom? You know, I am pretty dang sure if the people wanted to be on a full PvP server, they would have rolled a character on one and played there. They didn’t. Meaning they didn’t want that! I don’t care how much you think people want more PvP servers; some players have very obviously told you they don’t want that when they started playing on your PvE-Conflict servers in the first place. Why get rid of them? Your answer did nothing to help the situation, and while you’ve since said you will relent and add new PvE-C servers in the future, that doesn’t help those left in the lurch yesterday.
You know what the explanation sounded like to me, the need to fast track more PvP servers because they were more popular? It sounded like the old “screw your players that were supporting you the whole time in favor of the new cash.” Honestly. Funcom literally destroyed gaming for people on certain servers just to make quick room for more new players with their newly purchased games. That. Is. Not. OK. You could have just waited a smidgen and given them new servers. Oh look, you have more new servers already! Instead, you tarnished a pretty great launch with a stupid, stupid, insulting move that totally alienates a population that you not only could have enticed into the game but already had! Yes, there are people who want a partial PvP experience without losing their homes. Why did you just kick them to the curb? There could have been many more wanting that experience, who bought the game, and now don’t get it. I hope they find all private server homes, but even that has risk.
I say that was not a good enough reason for such a drastic change. I also don’t buy that three types of servers are confusing. I think most people are savvy enough to choose among three server types. You could have left the old servers alone and just not make new ones of that type. I’m willing to bet, however, that population on those servers would have grew after launch. That’s the time when lots of new players come to your game! But I guess we’ll never know. Your loss Funcom.