Straight from the mind of one Robert E. Howard comes a strapping, dark-haired Cimmerian warrior, named Conan. Brandishing his massive axe and two-handed sword, he's ready to chop anything that stands between him and his destiny. The developers of the game claimed that the main inspiration for Conan comes from Robert E. Howard's novel. This became self-evident from the moment we began playing the game. To begin with, Conan looks nothing like the venerated movie character flawlessly depicted in John Milus' epic Conan the Barbarian, starting Arnold Schwarzenegger. In this game, Conan completely fits the descriptions from the books, and even looks a bit like the character portrayed in Conan comics. And yet, certain scenes in the game were unmistakably inspired by characters and set-pieces from the aforementioned movie (regardless of what the developers might be saying about it). Mind you, the storyline itself has its own course and is not related to any of the movies. Conan seeks vengeance for what the Vulture Clan did do his village and he won't stop until they are hunted down and brought to justice.
Conan sets out on his quest to track down the Vulture Clan, armed only with a single two-handed sword. He also has a few basic moves to help him overcome opponents. In time, fighting against numerous foes, he gathers experience points which are distributed to assorted combat skills later on. This remains the crux of the gameplay and will be one of your primary tasks as you go along facing a multitude of baddies. Each move, from your basic swing to Conan's mean jab, can be leveled up to give you more leverage in combat. You'll also be able to unlock completely new moves and combos as Conan progresses, collecting more and more experience points. After gathering a solid variety of combat moves, you can combine them to chop up bad guys. It can be really fun exercising several moves at a time; for instance, a mighty uppercut, a quick kick and a swift head-slicing move. Generally, when it comes to combat, Conan may offer you a few immersive hours of pure action-packed gameplay. Unfortunately, there won't be much to involve you deeper into the game than that. Weapons, for example, were poorly balanced which becomes apparent in several chapters of the game. There's a number of different swords you run into along the way, but you'll also be able to get your mitts on hammers, battles axes, and similar middle-age style weaponry. The thing is that most gamers are likely to focus their attention on upgrading sword skills rather than hammer and axe abilities. This will happen for a number of reasons. Swinging massive axes and hammers takes a bit of time, but the power of the punch isn't powerful enough to justify the extended swing time. The sword, however, is lighter, quicker, and easier to brandish. Even though some elements of the combat in Conan are actually enjoyable, these balancing issues may ward off many gamers. Plus, the game's general lack of depth and the whole slicing and dicing thing soon becomes quite tedious (maybe if a few limbs would fall off now and then... just a thought).
Saving your status in this game involves visiting the almighty war God, Crom. When Conan dies in battle he gets another chance to prove himself in the presence of Crom. Success will allow you to pick up where you left off, whereas losing will spell the end of your quest. Magic stones can also be collected across levels, giving you the possibility of saving the game. Of course, there's a limited amount of these stones in every level, so you are required to spend them wisely. From a certain standpoint, this aspect can be regarded as one of the rare innovative and enjoyable moments throughout the whole experience. Then again, playing through standard and generally tiring hack'n'slash segments of the game won't exactly motivate gamers to play on.
We weren't entirely pleased with the controls either. They appear to work fine when it comes to maneuvering Conan himself, but panning the camera around can cause a few annoying situations during gameplay. For example, during certain battles Conan would seem too far off for players to discern exactly what they're doing or what they're supposed to be doing. Maybe all this works differently with the console gamepad, but the PC keyboard/mouse combo was obviously handled in a very slipshod manner.
Traveling through the hazardous regions of Hyborea, players encounter heaps of baddies, such as wolves, cavemen, colossal sharp-toothed polar bears, wraith-like creatures, and so on. To flavor the gameplay a wee bit, the lads at Cauldron threw in a slew of boss-creatures. This makes the game a bit more challenging... relatively speaking. It depends on how you define challenging. None of the bosses really exhibits any remarkable fighting abilities or intelligence. In fact, some of them are weird-looking ghost-like fiends that simply shoot magic fireballs at you incessantly, and since Conan doesn't have any long-ranged weapons, it boils down to dodging and then moving in closer for the kill. With the enemy firing like crazy, believe me; this task won't be easy at all. As for regular opponents, the AI doesn't seem to be doing much in that department either. In order to triumph over monsters, all you have to do is catch them in a series of moves or combos before they do the same thing to you.
Marching through the Hyborian realms, Conan also gets to solve an occasional puzzle or two, resting from almost constant swordplay. These puzzles are often unimaginative and unchallenging to say the least, so it's probably better to look upon Conan as an action-packed hack'n'slasher rather than a typical action/adventure. Some poor attempts were made to incorporate a few measly adventure elements. When you arrive to the The Capital of Zingara, you'll have a chance to find your way around the city by chatting with several NPC's that inhabit the nearby area. Sadly, dialogues are unoriginal and boring to sit through, even when you stumble across a segment crucial to the game's storyline. Poor character voicing makes the situation even worse, and it contributes to our overall disappointment with the game.
The bad audio continues with repetitive ambient noises and recurring monster screeches - stuff like wolf howling, bear growling, etc. In any case, they're all tiresome and annoying to listen to. The game's soundtrack makes things a bit more enjoyable, featuring tunes composed by Basil Poledouris (yep, once again, the same dude who brought you the soundtrack from the first Conan movie).
There's not much we would like to point out when it comes to the graphics. We've seen so many games that look better than this. Although it does showcase a few cute visual effects now and again and pleasing character animation, the surroundings are in dire need of additional textures and polys, while specific areas appear almost featureless. To make up for the second-rate visuals, the designers thought it might be a good idea to cram the scenery with as much reflections as possible. In truth, particular sections look more like cheap and burnished porcelain rather than ordinary backdrops.
To sum it up, Conan is a typical ported modern-day console brawler with very little gameplay depth to keep PC gamers occupied. Actually, the weird camera issues and unchallenging AI are likely to fend off any gamer out there. The combat is enjoyable for a few hours tops, but after a while players will most probably get tired of the mindless action. Also, there isn't anything exceptionally alluring that would draw you back into the game after you've played it for, say, several hours. There's no multiplayer, or any additional feature that might make the whole thing more interesting.
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Commandos: Strike Force, Close Combat: First to Fight, Constantine, Condemned: Criminal Origins, Call of Juarez, Chrome, Contract J.A.C.K., Counter-Strike: Condition Zero
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