I’ve written quite a few articles about Conan Exiles and a lot of that is due to the fact that I consider it a poster example of Early Access done well. The dramatic difference between CE during Steam’s Early Access program and the game that released is arguably one of the best turn-arounds that I’ve seen. I liked the game to begin with, but it was just another survival game with all the rough edges and missing content you’d expect.
I’m not saying that I was 100% happy at release, and the loss of the really cool magic system is still something that chaps at me a bit, but the aggregate gain was too substantial to be ignored. It’s a pattern that Funcom has consistently iterated on over the past couple years since the game released. There’s been a stream of mixed content through paid DLC and regular patches. Conan Exiles is as fun today as it was when it released, and though I don’t have as many friends living their lives in those particular virtual spaces these days, I still drop into a random server occasionally to get my low-fantasy kicks in.
Funcom recently pushed another substantial patch to Conan Exiles with several key updates. We’ll explore some of those updates today and maybe help other fellow exiles decide if they’d like to reinstall the game and give it a go or not. Updates have significantly changed crafting, thralls, and even the Family Sharing option, each of which substantially different enough to warrant discussion. We’ll try to get through it all before the next purge hits, though.
One thing that Funcom has been really good about is adding new stuff to Conan Exiles. Constant updates have added new furniture and crafting options to make each server feel more diverse and interesting. Granted, I buy every DLC they put out whether I use it or not, so I’m always not totally clear on where the line is between free stuff and the new items gained through paid transactions, but the new update definitely adds new features on the free end of that spectrum.
Crafting has been revamped so that the station has more weight in what the player can create, and some new stations have been added. At its most basic, each type of station now has multiple tiers that iteratively allow access to better gear and resources. I like this because it solves an admittedly minor problem that’s always bugged me.
I usually start off building a base somewhere and then find that the space is too small and the materials too outdated before long. At some point, I end up abandoning that base to migrate to a new area and build a new base out of better materials and with more room for all the various crafting stations. It’s not that bad, but it is frustrating to walk away from that work.
The new system will change that, I think. I haven’t had a chance to really advance that far down the crafting tree just yet, but in testing I started to realize that base design is likely to change moving forward, and I believe it’ll do so in a really cool way.
I don’t think folks will be walking away from old bases or tearing them down. They’re still useful for resource production, even at lower tiers. Instead, I think bases will expand organically similar to how communities did historically. Older buildings will retain their thralls and their production of material, even as new buildings with newer and more desirable materials are constructed nearby for more advanced crafting. I think this means we’ll begin to see more compounds in Conan Exiles over time, with more variability in the construction materials.
The new update expands the number of crafting stations, not just by creating new tiers for existing stations but also by moving some recipes to all new workbenches.
I expect player bases will become more interesting and that’s a really cool emergent behavior that should be fun to explore over time. Lower tier stations don’t need the same protection as higher-tier stations, so it makes sense that resulting base growth will be a bit more natural moving forward.
That’ll require we think about purges and PvP in new terms and generally opens up the game in a lot of new interesting ways. That’s not even getting into how some of the crafting has been split off into new stations, creating added diversity of process. In general, the diversification of structures and processes introduced by this change just adds a lot of variability to the game that I think is going to make it far more interesting to me going forward. This builds on a game that I already thought was interesting and fun anyway, so it’s clearly a win.
A key ingredient in the crafting process, and one that’s unique to Conan Exiles, is the thrall system. This functionality has been updated in the new patch, as well. Thralls now add various bonuses to crafted items, making them additive to the process rather than being a requirement for certain gear.
I really like this change a lot. On one hand, I did like the idea that no everyone had access to every unique piece of gear because that limitation of access creates diversity. Obviously, I’m a big fan of diversity in games, because there’s nothing more boring than a game where everyone is wearing the same gear. I think the thrall changes still allow for that visual heterogeneity while still enabling folks to look however they want cosmetically.
Now, instead of specific thralls being required to make specific gear, they just improve gear through unique stats. Often, this is just a matter of which stats are improved to what degree, but in some cases, thralls can actually add bonus stat improvements, making unique thralls still highly desirable.
The new thrall system means even lower-tier thralls still have some use and will likely help make bases more visually interesting with an increased NPC presence.
It’s a system that maintains the value of specialized thralls but doesn’t restrict a player needlessly until they get lucky and find the randomly spawning thrall they need before someone else does. Plus, this just feels like it’s additive to the process and not something that’s preventing me from doing what I want in the game. I really like that and feel like it improves dramatically on the old system in all the right ways.
I also like that this allows players to get thralls as they find them and use those thralls without feeling like they’re missing out on the one they really want. I’ll always be able to use the spare thralls in the lower-tier crafting stations to produce general materials and just ensure my best are in the higher tier stations that are actively producing upgraded gear for me. I like that there’s now more reason to capture thralls and that you’ll end up with a more populated base for it.
Combined with the changes to crafting stations, I feel like crafting in Conan Exiles has made a sudden and unexpected turn for the better. It’s not really a turn I’d been demanding because I hadn’t really thought about it much, but I really like the opportunities it opens up for players in the game. More importantly, I like that I have a whole new crafting system to explore and play with, and it’s just the excuse I needed to get back into the game again.
Not all is sunshine in the land of Hybornia, though. Funcom has implemented one update that I think could be a little more controversial and that I don’t think is a total win. Steam allows families to share access to games. Until recently, I didn’t have any kids so it’s not something I’ve ever really used. I now have a niece living with me who’s something of a gamer and I’ve discovered and begun to use the Family Sharing feature, especially for games that I don’t really expect her to play that often.
Funcom has created a new server setting, defaulted to on, that restricts “shared” accounts. Basically, it means that the account which purchased Conan Exiles can play just fine, but the kids’ accounts (not that anyone should be sharing CE with kids, exactly) won’t be able to connect to the server. All official servers have had this feature implemented and because it’s enabled by default, many private servers are probably running with this option enabled whether through intent or not.
I’m looking forward to playing the new updates with my niece and nephew. I was planning to buy them each a copy of the game anyway, but I’m a little irked at feeling like a lot of people will be tricked into doing the same.
I think we have to acknowledge the very real problem that Funcom is trying to address, and it’s one to which I’m certainly sympathetic. No matter what you do, there will always be those losers that get their kicks out of ruining other people’s fun and by cheating. Server admins often have the option of kicking and eventually banning those individuals, but it turns out the Family Share feature is a way to get around that. Banned morons have been creating new accounts, sharing their games with those accounts and then reconnecting in order to get around those bans.
That’s clearly not okay and Funcom is implementing this system to address that issue, but I’m just not totally onboard with this solution to the problem. For one, I don’t see any reason users connecting with a shared account couldn’t include information from the parent account in the connection request, which could then be used to check against blacklisted players.
It’s possible that there’s some functionality that I’m not aware of here or some reason behind the scenes why this isn’t an available solution. I can’t help but feel like it’s more an attempt to sell more product, though. Creating this server feature and defaulting it to on means suddenly families who have been playing together all this time are likely to find they can no longer do so in many cases. Players often don’t have access to the actual administrators of servers that they end up playing on and these families may not know who to talk to about disabling the feature, even if the server administrators would be amiable to doing so were anyone to ask.
I get the problem and I’m really glad to see Funcom taking active steps towards addressing it. I don’t even mind them doing something that directly pushes those playing the game for free via the family sharing feature to purchase additional copies, but I don’t like the idea that it’s being done with this little notice and in what I feel is in a bit of an obfuscated manner. I’d rather they were just upfront about the fact that they don’t like families sharing the game among each other as they’ve been doing.
Despite my objections to the Family Sharing thing, I don’t think it’s going to be that big of a deal in the end. Some servers will obviously make the change and will attract more families, and that may even be a good thing by consolidating folks who play the game under similar circumstances. I also think it’s ultimately good to push folks toward buying additional extra copies of the game, which I really think is the more honest thing to do as a consumer, anyway. That said, I’d really like to see Funcom issue multi-use discounts to existing owners of the game so that they don’t have to pay full price while buying extra copies of the game for kids if they’re going to address the issue like they have.
I don’t think that possible misstep detracts overly much from an otherwise outstanding update to a really great game. Conan Exiles has been one of my favorite games for a while now and this free change to the base game just makes it that much better. It’s also well timed as I plan to introduce my niece and possibly another nephew who’s just turned a year older to the game. Even as they experience it for the first time, I can focus on playing with the new crafting system and get sort of a second chance at a first experience with the kids.
If you’ve been looking for an excuse to get into Conan Exiles or if you’ve been gone from the game and found yourself missing it, this is a great reason to make the jump. I’m a fan of this game and even one possible misstep isn’t going to be enough to dampen the joy I experience from seeing a good game get better. I also think the game has aged well, so see no problems recommending it to those who are interested in the survival genre, even at full price. What’s more, the various DLC addons just add cosmetics and don’t really impact the game much, though I certainly think they’re worth picking up if you want the option of a specific aesthetic.
For now, I’ll have to take my leave of you. I’ve got to buy a couple more copies of the game and get them out to the kids. I just threw together a new server and I’m excited to try it out with first-timers. I’d really like to hear what they think about the game considering how much more mature the survival genre is these days. Until next time, may the waves of the purge break upon your walls like tides against a rock.