Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Conan! Review

Okay, here's the Conan review. Short version: I hate it. Less short version: totally typical MMORPG.

There are a few flaws in Conan. Let's work our way up to the killer ones, ignoring the standard fatal flaws of treadmills and high population density.


The smallest flaw is that everyone has more or less the same body type. While they were kind enough to let everyone set their physical parameters, the parameters are barely noticeable. For example, the women can be anything from a busty, skinny girl to a busty, slender girl.

They have a slider specifically for boobs... why does it only vary the boobs between C and F cups? They have a slider for arms... why does it vary the arms from geek to slightly fit? Whatever happened to muscular? The weird part is that the girls all have very strong shoulders, even though at their most powerful their arms barely fit the frame. Skinny magician girls look silly, with ten foot wide shoulders and boobs like cannons.

Giving players the ability to make unique characters is good, I agree. However, it's important to remember that people are going to be identified by their gross characteristics: we don't get many close-ups of other people in these games. Gross characteristics: that's body shape, color, and what they are wearing. Keeping to "preferred" levels of variation isn't going to help a whole lot. Everyone might as well just choose a haircut and a face, like in most other MMORPGs.


I have to say that Conan has the MOST balls-to-the-wall introduction stage of any game I've ever seen. Every single hero was kidnapped, memory wiped, stamped with a parasitic seal, and washed up on shore to be entangled in a plot involving armies and gods both.

EVERY SINGLE HERO? Tens of thousands of them?

Wow! That's kinda fucking daring, ain't it? It's instancing taken to the extreme, I guess.

I suppose it's Standard Operating Procedure, but... on such a scale. It's breathtaking. And dehumanizing. And RP-breaking. It's like they took one of my major hates - an unchanging world that you can't affect at all - and injected it directly into the pores of all I hold dear.

It's made worse by the fact that, as a MMORPG, this game is full of the other people at all times. Which makes no logical sense at all, since in "real life" it would take me about fifteen minutes to round up enough of us, say, "Hey, we've all been screwed over by this lady!" and then we'd all go off and kill her. It'd be about half an enemy for each of us.

There's definitely no sense of being at all special or interesting.


To me, aside from the endless treadmilling, the biggest flaw in the Conan game is this:

Where's the low fantasy?

A low fantasy setting is more than just torchlight and big-chinned men who are evidently completely immune to chafing. I mean, sure, that's a part of it.

But a low fantasy setting is more about being isolated with no resources. It's about bashing through challenges with low cunning, physical power, and a good deal of awesomely choreographed brutality.

At no point does Conan go up to Ye Old Armor Vendor and buy himself a better suit of armor. If he changes clothes, it's because the old ones were ripped off him by his last encounter, whether horrible monsters or adoring women (or adoring monsters and horrible women). As a matter of course, nobody wears heavy armor anyway, since metalcraft is primitive and the jungle is too fucking hot for that crap.

At no point does Conan walk over to Joe's Vendatorium and swap out his broadsword for a slightly shinier broadsword, handing over some coin. Conan spends coin on ale, women, and getting his ass robbed. He uses the same sword until it breaks. Then he uses his goddamn HANDS.

Conan does not collect discarded armor, and if he picks up his enemy's weapon, he'll drop it again once he's rammed it down someone's throat. He will happily collect tiger teeth and small gems... but he doesn't carry around five bowls of rat stew, eighteen jugs of mead, twelve stolen kilts, and a handful of dessicated hands.

Conan does not fight by swinging his sword left, then waiting a moment and swinging it right. He fights by cutting someone in half in one swing. If they survive, or block, or evade, he punches them, picks them up into the air, and crushes them like a tin can that won't be invented for three thousand years. If a fight lasts longer than three seconds, it had better be against something the size of a house or involve weird magic.

Instead of being true to the IP, Conan is a bog-standard MMORPG. Their feeble attempt to create "deep and interesting combat" by letting you swing in any of three directions is... well, um, a feeble attempt to create "deep and interesting combat". It doesn't work, even when you have to play Conan Says for combos. It's only vaguely more interesting than other games', and certainly not in true Conan style.

The continuous buying, selling, and upgrading of equipment is retarded. It's the antithesis of low fantasy.

This is the most severe flaw I could find that was not treadmilling. It was one that probably would have made me hate the game even if they removed the treadmilling.

Of course, if they got rid of the treadmill, this flaw would naturally vanish.

But what would you fill your player's time with, then?


SambearPoet said...

This review makes me laugh, and I seriously don't want to play Conan now. Thanks for saving me a lot of terrible hours of game play.

I totally agree with you about all the things you said about Conan. Conan might steal a sword - IF it was the sword of an ancient warrior king - but he wouldn't *buy* one.

Craig Perko said...


It's not a bad MMORPG, to be fair. It's just... not really very Conan.