This is not a rant, more of a deconstruction of what in my opinion is missing in the game.
The thing that I’ve asked the most (as many others) since early access has been the addition of more narrative content which gives more motivation to the players outside of PVP. Although I know that multiplayer is the main focus of the game, narrative is something that gamers can get back to everytime depending on their mood, because they watched a movie or read a book. Funcom has not been very caring about this aspect of the game, and while is understandable, it’s a huge missed oportunity to widen the market of this product.
To me the lack of story telling is not linked to the lack of a huge central narrative. it’s about character story telling, a bit of questing, visual story telling, fighting story telling and dungeon story telling.
For example there’s a huge cave feel with giant Crows at one side of the mountain at the east edge of the frozen north, the cave itself is massive and full of enemies, you can take up to 20 minutes traversing it, suffering from wounds of the fights and frostbite, it’s pretty well done level-design wise and at the end you arrive at a big bunch of nothing, no reward, no scroll, no dead or alive NPC, no boss, no story telling… is just a big cave filled with monsters… 99% of dungeons in Conan exiles are designed this way.
Another example, the NPCs both friendly and hostile… the friendly NPCs are pointless in Conan Exiles, they give way too little info about themselves and have almost no interaction with the player outside a couple of stories, you don’t have any kind of relation with friendly NPCs… they are not allies, nor potential enemies nor interesting characters (with very few exceptions), which intrinsically means that the only way you can have companions in the game is by enslaving them, is impossible to rally NPCs into your city by diplomacy or common goals, as for the hostiles, they are the same, you have visually interesting tribes and enclaves with a big bunch of nothing at the end (with the exception of the Pirate ship in the Jungle and the captain at the end maybe)… another missed opportunity for Story telling, since there’s no way to have amicable relation with some tribes and others as enemies creating a live faction system, there’s no way to come in peace to this people or give them tribute or nothing they are basically the same as a pack of hyenas conceptualy speaking, they hate you because you exist, it’s not that you attacked them is not that they want to rob you, theres not a single story telling element justifying their hostility… they just are.
Again with the Combat, 99% of the boss fights are just damage sponges with no fighting Story telling (with the exception of the jungle witch), unlike Darksouls (even though I know is a different genre) in which each combat against each foe is a story in itself also the enemies are easy to loose since they don’t climb, jump or swim making the combat pretty straight forward and not very interesting narrative wise.
Another Example, the Thrall system, the impersonal relation between the player and the thralls make them little less than living towers with no personality, life or even dialog, they are glorified furniture (even though now they have to be feed but at the same time are unable to get food themselves making them more like unwanted babies). Other than a big pair of boobs, there’s no bond between the player and his people, no hierarchy or chimestry… no moral, no treason, no nothing they are just there (outside of the fact that they make for very useless followers for battle or exploring).
Another example, the wave based purge system which is nothing more than an annoyance, again, because of the lack of story telling elements to it… a couple of spiders hitting at the first fundation they encounter is hardly an exciting experience, in fact is a little puzzling that there are animal purge at all… there’s no reasoning behind this attacks, no strategy no organization and no dialog or story telling whatsoever.
And the most ambitious thing that I think the game is lacking is the fact that NPCs don’t build, raid or call on avatars (this would be a technical nightmare to make, but it would make the game completely inmortal and very alive on it’s own) it would be interesting to blur the line between player enemy clans and NPC enemy clans but I know this particular suggestion is a handfull of coding, and overall work.
Most of the things that I’m pointing out have no conection to a huge central narrative or plot, nor would they break the survival nature of the game itself… they are the very little elements of story telling that make games like Darksouls 1 a diamond in the rought, and the lack of these elements make Conan Exiles a piece of carbon that could be a Diamond in the rought…
The problem is not the light nature of the RPG elements, the problem is that such light elements in Conan Exiles are very lackluster, poorly concieved, half baked or completely missing in some aspects, and while you could argue that every Survival game is like that, Conan is a very character driven property from it’s very conception, everything, from the fights to the eating has a story behind it, a small narrative. Conan is not very plot driven in literature it’s about the characters, the fights and the settings.
Conan Exiles have this only in a superficial level, the characters are void, the fights are repetitive and the setting, while beautifull, feels empty and lifeless after a while, and the worst thing is that there are a few glimps of the intention to have light BUT AWESOME small story telling elements, but they stopped caring about those very early in development, giving priority to Multiplayer focused mechanics and game breaking bugs (that they brought on themselves for realeasing a product that was years away from beign ready for release).
Conan Exiles is not just another survival, it’s a game with one of the greatest american fantasies attached to it’s name, there’s no room for it to be like the others, is would be simply not respecfull to the source material, and while is already very different on its own the lack of story telling is very noticesable. A little love to the way the Exiles land speaks to the player (a bit of questing and more lore… like 200% more) could go a long way, a little revamp of the very dissapointing and seemingly unfished dungeons (remember that nothing at the end of Hanuman cave? or the eternaly closed door at the end of the giant crocodile cave?) could bring up a lot of magic, and a little personality to the Exiles land inhabitants (including Thralls) could make this game something especial.
To me Conan Exiles is the best survival game I’ve played, which makes its flaws more obvious to me, story telling is its weakest point (outside of technical issues) and one that can be fixed with less effort than a dye system, or a pet mechanics (outside of the NPC building, raiding and calling avatars of course)… unlike these very superficial additions, story telling could make this game everlasting, right now it’s a life simulation without life in it. And giving the very high quality of the map, atmosphere and mechanics (climbing was and still is the biggest homerun of the devs) is a very sad case… the bare bones of greatness are there, but the focus post launch (again outside of mechanical issues) is misguided, creatively dead and extremely dissapointing regarding story telling.
Not before long the servers will be empty and the solo aspect of the game would not be enough to justify replayability. Unless funcom change this mentality and focus in the conversation between the player and the world, this game is destined to collect dust in the steam library of all its player base (it has already happened since launch, many player are gone for good).
In my opinion, Conan fans don’t like this game because is perfect, we like it because we have no other option with the brand when it come to video games… we have 2 mediocre and old hack and slash, a dead MMO and Exiles… the choice is pretty obvious.
Maybe I’m asking a lot, maybe not, but these things to me are holding this game back from greatness.
Leave your thoughts, try to be nice and sorry for my bad English.