The CIA doesn’t have Conan pushing too many pencils.
After playing the demo of Conan I was left thinking ‘well there’s a waste of bandwidth’ and I was pretty sure I’d be leaving this one well alone but if there’s one genre of gaming that I wish there was more of it’s the old-fashioned scrolling beat ’em up and with non-XBLA examples being particularly thin on the ground I eventually succumbed.
The plot sees the iconic barbarian fighting hordes of enemies in an effort to destroy an evil force and recover his magic armour. Yep, standard fighting game plot bullshit that you’ll lose interest in after the first nanosecond and initially the game seems just as generic.
At first glance it appears to be standard button-mashing fare with light and heavy attacks, some basic platform sections and armies of goons just waiting to be despatched. As you begin your quest through the lengthy scrolling locales you’d be forgiven for thinking that this was more sub-budget quality filler piss for the end of year sales.
You’d be wrong though as, whilst Conan is seemingly pretty generic, it does have some charm especially if you don’t mind liberal dashings of sex and violence in your gaming. Also, the combat system is surprisingly deep for a game of this type and leads to lots of variation in the player’s tactics as they unlock new moves and then attempt to master them.
Moves are unlocked by earning experience points (red shiny things that you absorb in a Devil May Cry fashion) and before long you can start adding them to your repertoire. From grapple techniques like back-breakers to new sword combos, several styles are catered for. Using these moves levels them up until they are mastered, which leads to more experience and presumably brings you to some sort of achievement.
Also Conan can pick up, drop or throw swords which means he can go from a normal sword, sword/shield combo, heavy sword or dual swords. Each style has varying levels of speed and power but you’ll end up using them all to level them up to buy more moves.
What you see is what you get with this one fella’s. Gore, tits, monsters, swords, Ron Perlman (hmmmm) and Claudia Black (hmmmmmmmm).
Linear routes (aside from an occasional hidden room with treasure chests), simple combat (although the parry attack animations are always a pleasure to watch) and mostly daft enemy AI (frequently not attacking you till you strike the first blow). I’m not slagging this game off â€“ with what you may think as negative selling points this game still shines and was a joy to complete.
You have a few token magic spell you gain throughout the game â€“ which can be very useful when in a sticky situation, but this game is purely hack ‘n slash. Theres no innovation. No majorly next-gen graffix. But like I said it still manages to be pure (not too taxing) fun! I don’t look forward to DMC4 handing my arse to me.
Aye, boss battles are unfair. In one I recall a QTE popping up (unexpectedly) while I’m laying on a twatting. I’m still hammering X to bludgeon the git but then the unexpected QTE says O. FAIL! Later on during a QTE I was actually prepared for I’m told to hammer O and then unexpectedly the next command of X pops up, while I’m still hammering O. FAIL!
These niggles are really infrequent and really shouldn’t deter you from this game. You’ll get through the game without too much bother, but you’ll have fun while you go, boosting up all your attacks to master level and of course rescuing the maidens throughout the game for the only reason that it’s the right and noble thing to doâ€¦ yupâ€¦ that’s my answer and I’m sticking to it. No titillation involved.
If you see this sub £20 – you buy it. If you see this at full price â€“ you still strongly think about getting it.
Secondary Score: 7/10
Each move is accompanied by a surprisingly graphic splashing of blood or removal of limbs which gives this game the same feel as a 3D Mortal Kombat but with a bit more of a sense of fun. Although this is tested later on by some fairly simple, but tedious, switch-flicking tasks and a few token platforming sections that tend to get a little bit irritating after a while.
Music and sound are reasonable enough with some hammy voice acting by the legendary Ron Perlman but the graphics do seem a little low on detail and the animation isn’t great either. Still, the whole package holds together if you’ve got an appreciation for budget gems (even if this wasn’t strictly released as a budget title, it just got to that price point very quickly).
So, for the twenty sterlings I paid for it, I was pretty happy with it. At least until it pulled my least favourite scrolling beat ’em up trick ever. Yep, fucking bosses that suddenly regain all their health and turn up with a new attack pattern. Conan loves this trick and can, quite frankly, fuck off. It’s not as bad as Final Fight: Streetwise was but it’s in that ballpark which makes for a slightly unsatisfying final quarter of the game. Luckily, the bosses do have fairly easy to learn attack patterns so the playing experience can be salvaged.
As for the other negatives in this game, well they come with the territory. Yes, it is repetitive but not as much as a Dynasty Warriors and the wealth of moves available do help combat the grind of it. Also, the game is pretty short also with just a few hours of gameplay although the achievements do encourage a few run-throughs.
And yes, the camera isn’t great and okay there are too many quick time events for my liking but the game remains an interesting diversion in a sea of shooters and racers and could possibly be the best example of the genre on the 360 at least until Devil May Cry arrives in February.
Like its central character, Conan is dumb, brash and visceral but for gamers who don’t mind a bit of blood on the screen, and spewing from their right thumb, this is a very worthwhile purchase. At least if you can find it at the right price.