Conan ReviewJason Leyanna
The character Conan, the barbarian from Cimmerian, is purely based on the series of Robert E. Howard stories. Some may also vaguely recollect the movie representation (or mention thereof) when Arnold Schwarzenegger portrayed Conan in the 1982 film. Now from THQ, Paradox Entertainment, and Nihilistic Software is a game titled “Conan”.
“Feel the cut of my steel.” - Conan
A full-screen campfire cinematic starts off with an older woman who is telling the back-story of Conan. Conan is a roaming barbarian who lusts, has blood-lust and is greedy for gold and treasures. After the cut-scene the game loads for a couple of seconds, and you are off to the initial quest. The difficulty can be set anywhere between easy and hard, with “King” being unlockable.
Initially the enemies that are encountered seem to be ghosts or wraiths with armor. These enemies may appear out of nowhere. Later there are pirates too... Along come some archers farther along the way, sending their arrows barreling through the air toward you. You can pull them out if you get hit and keep on going, but it should be a priority to take out these enemies first, otherwise you will be impaled numerous times with the arrows that will eat away at your health (and ego for that matter). It's good to see the variety of enemies that are shown every so often, but some of the time you'll see the same scrawny, generic-looking pirates come at you again and again.
Conan meets a female Archer (not to be confused with one of the topless females you rescue) and teams up on this adventurous quest. This is a particularly reluctant alliance on both parts, but it must be done since each needs the other. Early on she will be in a ship fighting off enemies on water while you hold off the enemies on land and make sure her boat doesn’t sink.
To control Conan there are four main buttons used for various types of attacks. You accumulate attack combos as you go along that can be stung together. This allows you to try something other than the main selection of attacks, though the basics can suffice for the most part. Weapons are mainly swords - wield one, two, or one more powerful sword at a time. You may choose different weapons from the array of fallen foes. Blocking is an imperative aspect of the gameplay, as you won't last long if you don't make use of this. Holding down the left trigger will limit the amount of harm from your enemies. Then you can attack while they let up on their offensive. The right control stick will roll you out of harms way. Treasure chests either heal you or make you more powerful. Urns are sporadically available which you lift up and drink sloppily to rejuvenate your health bar. So... make sure you drink up when your health is at stake.
Hints sometimes come up at the bottom of the viewable partition of the screen telling you how to perform certain moves and what to do in certain situations. It can be useful at first but can also be bothersome if you know what you're doing from the get-go.
The gameplay reminds me of some sort of combination of God of War, Prince of Persia, and Gauntlet. There is climactic music that goes along well with the various situations that Conan is involved in, from triumphant beats to others warning of impending doom. There are elaborate stone buildings to lush pirate-infested forests. The graphics are decent though they aren't pushing the capabilities of the Xbox 360. There is no user control over the camera angles. This is a double-edged sword. For the most part you see just what you need to see, but every once in a while you can't quite see over to the area that you'd like to without moving in awkward positions. You can pick up objects and enemies as well and throw them at other enemies when necessary (or to spice up the gameplay a bit – so it's not as repetitive). You muscle your way through doors and press buttons in combinations, increasing in difficulty as you progress through your arduous journey.
There are minor puzzles but nothing that takes very long to figure out. The game has quite linear gameplay; fight enemies, go to the next area, fight more, muscle your way through a door to more enemies, fight off pirate ships, take on bosses and continue the barbaric journey with your ally.
This hack 'n' slash action-adventure will please most with its variety of tasks and adventures, and the rescuing of the occasional bare-breasted females will most likely appeal to the teenage male demographic.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.