Conan Review - 23/01/2008

"Ooh, where are my clothes..?" This is just one of the many 'interesting' lines from Conan.

I guess it's hard if you're a developer, trying to make the best games with the tools you're given. But try and imagine what it must be like to be given a B grade movie Tie-in. That's what happened to Nihilistic Software when THQ threw the Conan license onto their desks. What did they do about it? Well, like above, they made the best out of what they given.

The story revolves around, you guessed it, Conan. A brave barbarian that has his eyes set on fame, fortune and naked ladies, so very similar to the average teenager of today. At the start of the game you discover a secret wizard, which in turn releases a spell called "The Black Plague" that basically kills anyone who stands in your way. On his journey he meets a young lady named A'Kanna who is searching for the armour Conan lost during the unleashing of the spell. Conan, being the kind guy that he is, agrees to help her find the armour under one condition, she has sex with him. Only joking, he gets to wear the armour, as he doesn't want it getting into the wrong hands.

Ouch! Conan has many tricks up his sleeve

I feel I have to get the worst of it out of the way as quick as possible. Conan looks terrible. If it were released as a PS2 game nobody would have seen any difference. In fact, compared to God of War 2, it's a middle rate PS2 game. Coupled with that, the acrobatics and platforming aspects of Conan are painful to play. It's like the game doesn't do what you want it too. When you compare Assassin's Creed's slick and quick movement, to Conan's inconsistent and sloppy jumps, you see just how bad it looks. Then you compare the perfect feel of Uncharted's Nathan, traversing exactly where you want him to go, to Conan's 'press up and I'll eventually get there' way of play. It just isn't right, especially for a 'next-gen' game. Most ledges don't even need any skill, some of them requiring 3 or 4 attempts before you realise which part of the ledge the game wants you to aim for. Usually it's just a matter of knowing whether it wants you to climb up something or left. If you need to climb up, all you need to do is keep tapping X/A and hold up on the stick. Same goes for left or right, but hold left or right. Now, onto the...better stuff.

This isnt what we've come to expect from the next gen systems

Conan is a bog standard hack n' slash game. There's nothing unique, although nothing is that bad either. The combat system doesn't stand out from the crowd too much, although the blocking system does excel. If you can time a left shoulder button press just before an enemies weapon hits you, time slows down and a button appears above your opponent's head. Pressing this button unleashes a devastatingly gory attack that can vary from slicing an enemy in half, to a Heavenly Sword style acrobatic display. Conan has access to various weapons throughout the game, with each having different attacks assigned to these special counters. One of my favourites has to be the standard sword's square counter, where Conan neatly shifts behind the enemy before slicing their head off. You need this technique more and more as you progress through the game, What with the enemies getting considerably harder as you progress.

Some of the enemies you encounter can block the counter moves that you will have perfected. One such enemy can only be described as a retarded ape, seriously, that uses Conan's head as a drum set. The enemies that you can't parry against are the most frustrating enemies in the game. As soon as they start their attack on you, there's a considerable chunk of your life gone. There's another enemy that'll get under your skin too, and these, although aren't retarded, are arguably worse. These come in hordes, and their shields have spikes that pop in and out of little holes. Every time you try to attack them they stick their spikes out and you get hurt, but leave them undamaged. My trick, no matter how boring it may have been, was to wait for them to charge at you, which is harder than it sounds, and then stab them in the back.

No man, is a match, for Conan!

One way in which Nihilistic has made it easier to kill these enemies is the powers you get from each individual piece of armour. Not to spoil any surprises, but the first is the ability, provided your blue bar is full, to turn enemies to stone for a limited period of time. This helps a lot, but it's a pity that you have to be careful when you use it, as you never know when the next horde of enemies will come.

The powers are essential against some of the bosses too, and these are long fights. You have to beat about 6 bosses altogether, and all of them are as obvious-to-defeat and annoying as each other. Most of them see you dodging an enemy's attack, by rolling, and then smacking it a few times, before repeating the process. It gets a tad repetitive towards the end and you just think, am I really still enjoying this?

This is just one of the many bosses you get to sink your blade into!

Luckily though, it'll only take you about 4-5 hours to get to the final boss, who can take a beating and a half, so it shouldn't keep you occupied for too long (If that can even be classed as a good thing.)

Nearly every aspect of Conan is stolen from other games, like the start where you begin with all your powers and upgrades, and then have to re-earn them. Sound like Assassin's Creed? How about the story telling? The narrator sounds identical to God of War's. But as we've learned from Uncharted: Drake's Fortune, this isn't always a bad thing. Stealing things from games that worked well can only mean that the game is better, because every element it steals, it almost nails. But even so, most gamers will wish they were playing a bigger budget title like Heavenly Sword or Devil May Cry, or anything else you can think of, because they're all better representations of the genre. If this retailed at a budget price, than this would be a steal. But as it's a full price game, not even the topless maidens can save it.

Score: 6.5 - Above Average



Nihilistic Software
PS3 - 360