Early access begins for Conan Exiles, a brutal, beautiful, Minecraftian survival sim. John Yan and myself waded into its real-time simulated sands just last night. See the video below for a snippet of what John's time in Conan's world looked like. Hint: It's a lot of starvation, running out of stamina, and being too tired to fight wandering mobs of imps. Don't worry, you'll die a lot at first, too. I only gained a modicum of success after learning how to run, hide, craft, and then fight—in that order.
Survival sims tend to exist in perpetual beta, and I expect as much from Conan Exiles. It makes sense from a marketing perspective. When you're in early access, you tend to attract early adopter gamers, enthusiast press, and earn a free pass on final review scores. You still sell your game at $30 or $60 a pop, your Metacritic stays clean, and you typically hang out in the news cycle for years at a time, rather than scraping for press during a major expansion pack release.
John reports that Funcom's goal for Conan Exiles is to launch in one year. That's not official. In fact, that will be an incredibly short early access period, if Funcom sticks to that timeline. Especially since successful genre predecessors have taken their sweet time (not always a bad thing!) in early access. Rust has thrived in early access for four years. Same with DayZ. Ditto for 7 Days to Die. ARK: Survival Evolved is encroaching on two years, but has released an expansion pack while still being in early access. Again, this is all brilliant from a marketing perspective.
Conan Exiles has its own flavor. While most survival sims are post-modern—starting you off in your underwear but eventually putting contemporary contraptions at your disposal—Exiles stays primitive in nature. You won't ride around on scooters and shoot players with rusty AK-47s here. I like that about Exiles. But that adherence to novelist Robert E. Howard's world and aesthetic won't appeal to everyone. You've pretty much got to be cool with loincloths and battleaxes being near the top of the technology tree here.
Conan Exiles is in early access now on Steam. It needs a lot of polish. Watch this space for my early access preview. Here's that snippet of John's play time:
FUNCOM’S NEW OPEN-WORLD GAME CONAN EXILES OUT NOW!
– Conan Exiles, an open-world survival sandbox game set in the brutal lands of Conan the Barbarian, is now available in Early Access –
– Brand new Early Access Launch Trailer available! –
Oslo, Norway – January 31st, 2017 – By Crom! It is time to drink, slay, and be content in the first ever open-world survival sandbox game set in the brutal lands of Conan the Barbarian. Conan Exiles, developed and published by Funcom, entered into Early Access on PC today and gamers everywhere can now test their mettle in the vast universe of the world’s greatest fantasy hero. Here you must survive, build, and dominate as you strive to carve out a space of your own in a hostile, yet staggeringly beautiful landscape. Build anything from a humble abode to a sprawling city, then go out and conquer the lands of your enemies through savage, combat or possess the towering avatar of your god and smite them with righteous fury.
Conan Exiles is available on Steam at a $29.99 Early Access price. A special edition is also available at $59.99 serving up a range of exclusive Conan the Barbarian digital items (and a physical t-shirt, shipping and handling included) which celebrates the life and legacy of his creator Robert E. Howard. The game can be purchased via Steam and www.conanexiles.com and is available in 11 different languages, including Korean, Japanese, and Chinese.
“After over twenty-four years in the business and over thirty titles released, we are excited to be launching our very first Early Access game,” says Funcom CEO Rui Casais. “We are incredibly proud of what the game has to offer from day one, but development on an Early Access game is an ongoing process and we look forward to be working side by side with the community making sure we introduce the content, features, and improvements that realizes the full potential of Conan Exiles. This is the start of a true adventure!”
Funcom also launched the new website for Conan Exiles today on www.conanexiles.com, where players can also access the latest news as well as information on what the developers will be bringing to the game in the next few updates.