“Crush me with your love!” proclaims a topless maiden as I rip her free from her evil captor’s chains. You won’t be the only one to expect a filthy sex act to follow but Conan being the family friendly experience it is, only rewards you with a bit of hanky panky and titillation. Conan is a typical 18 rated action game packed to the brim with gore, maimed corpses, filth and relentless killing; this is a 13 year old sadist’s dream videogame. Released to minimal hype and low expectations, Conan was actually quite a nice surprise considering how clearly the early previews marked its God of War influences. This quickly led to people deeming it a ‘rip off’ or ‘poor mans version’ of the game in question, however at the right price, Conan may just make you forget all about that.
Meet Conan, the legendary fictitious barbarian with a strong taste for blood and many of the finer things in life. Voiced by Ron Perlman, Conan is strangely sold as quite a likable protagonist; despite his arrogant attitude and murderous qualities. He has an almost cheeky sense of humour; which I guarantee will frequently make you raise a smile, the best example of this is when he first meets warrior queen Akana. Upon confrontation she is relentless to Conan’s charms; even his ever hilarious “Service her, aye” one liner seemingly has no effect on the saucy slayer. Soon the two settle their feud and Conan willingly helps Akana rescue her captive crew, in return for her company and some inevitable bedtime action of course.
Story wise, Conan is your standard fare: a hero on a quest to retrieve lost armour with the power to defeat evil and bring peace back to a world gone mad. Ironically the sorcerer Graven, the main antagonist of the game was actually set free from his eternal slumber by Conan himself. Thus transitioning the story from that of a simple “Argh I’m big and beefy and want to kill things” title into a somewhat more personal adventure than other games in the genre. Despite all these niceties please do not expect a heart warming tale of epic proportions; the game still suffers from the usual flaws we’ve come to expect such as frequently poor scripting and vague dialogue.
Conan’s real enjoyment however lies within its brutal gameplay and battle system. While it does little to differentiate itself from other titles in the genre such as Devil May Cry, it still works solidly enough to entice the player to proceed onwards. Rather than simply having a set of prelisted attack patterns, you can pop up the pause menu and have Conan learn and master new attacks and fighting attributes. However for diversity’s sake certain attacks can only be performed in specific stances. For example the gruesome vertical swing can only be performed when Conan is wielding 2 blades (cue glorious blood effects and loss of limbs), while other attacks can only be used when you have the correct weapon corresponding with that move. This system works surprisingly well and gives the player a nice sense of variety when approaching different battle situations.
As far as the visual side of things go, Conan is a fairly attractive game; most notable though are the highly expressive character models and the frequently thrilling set pieces. There are some impressive moments to be had here, though disappointingly several of these are marred by uninspired level design and lack of colour diversity. The set pieces on the other hand are quite possibly the most commendable feature of Conan, as well as being the barrier between the game becoming simply average. One that springs to mind immediately actually takes part right before the game’s epilogue. To reach the final confrontation the player must actually race against the clock to ensure Conan’s success. After defeating a ridiculous amount of strong enemies the floor begins to fall and the entire cave appears to be collapsing. To reach the other side safely you must run and jump across the perishing platforms, however every so often you will face even more confrontations prompting you to beat them before progressing to the final fight. This can lead to plenty of frustration, especially on harder difficulties, but it captures a sense of tension perfectly.
“Despite all these niceties please do not expect a heart warming tale of epic proportions; the game still suffers from the usual flaws we’ve come to expect.”Boss fights are almost always a challenge, not only do they keep you hot on your toes but it also makes way for the game’s impressive QTE moments. While many see these as an intrusion on gameplay, the action that corresponds with your button presses is brilliantly visceral and entertaining. The QTE’s are few and far between but they almost always take place before the demise of a boss, leaving players with full control for a large majority of the game. It’s clear enough from the saucy cover art that this is not for the kiddies, while it may not be in the same league as the disgustingly brutal Manhunt 2, it is still one of the bloodiest games I’ve ever played. For those mature enough though will probably find the game’s tongue in cheek violence reminiscent of old titles such as Duke Nukem 3D and Carmageddon; it is simply way too over the top to be taken seriously (imagine ‘Carry on Conan’, if it were ever to exist).
Conan is the perfect rental title; it isn’t great and it isn’t bad either but it will undeniably entertain in the short period of time you spend with the game. Not to say that Conan doesn’t have its share of great moments; I would be lying if I said this was just a straight up action game. The mixture of cool bosses, great set pieces and immature humour makes Conan what it is – a mindless bit of fun that you shouldn’t be ashamed of enjoying. Despite this, I’d still recommend only buying the game if you find it at a decent sale price or simply just rent the title, considering this is single player only and struggles to pass the 6 hour line on the first playthrough then I’d definitely avoid paying full price for it. Overall, if you’re mature enough to find the violence funny and simply want something to play over a rainy weekend then you can do no wrong with Conan. Just make sure people nearby don’t hear the topless maidens cry out “My clothes! Where are my clothes!” every so often.