- Enormous number of weapons and combination attacks, great boss battles, stunning battle animations
- Enemies are too predictable, storytelling lacks polish
Conan might've been elevated to the Mount Olympus-like heights that a certain other warrior has achieved had it not been for the disjointed narrative and dispassionate vocal performances.
Price$ 99.95 (AUD)
Before there was The Lord of the Rings, there was Robert E. Howard's Conan the Cimmerian. Now, the big brute is starring in his own video game.
But don't call this a comeback: even though it's been 75 years since he was born, Conan's still more than ready to crack a few skulls.
Choose your weapons
Conan might start off with little more than a sword and a health meter, but right out of the gate the hulk's got his pick of three different ways to do battle, and each lends itself to different situations and styles. A blade in each hand deals damage with frightening speed, but equipping a shield instead means enemies have a harder time breaking through blocks. A single two-handed death-dealer can pound the life from anything in a few short strokes, but its sluggish movement demands careful timing.
Since damn near everything you kill drops equipment, the opportunity to change approaches is seldom far away. Conan's path through this dark world might be a straight line most of the time, but his arsenal reads like the inventory checklist for a weapons store: swords, scimitars, halberds, polearms, axes, shields, torches, boulders, and more lie strewn all over the place.
House of pain
The laundry list of armaments is nothing compared to the enormous library of combination attacks Conan can unlock, and each is gorier than the last: limbs are sliced from torsos, heads removed from shoulders, and intestines spilled from corpses cleaved in twain. Fallen foes release red runes to be spent on new repertoire manoeuvres; once learned, most can then be practiced in battle until mastered, at which point additional bonuses are awarded. As if that weren't enough, as Conan gathers pieces of his armour, he gains special powers, like the ability to briefly turn enemies to stone, or call a rain of fire down from the heavens.
From the Barachan Isles to Stygia, the visuals evoke traditional sword-and-sorcery paintings. The level of environmental detail never quite reaches critical next-generation mass, but turning everything from dusty arenas and dank caverns into blood-drenched abattoirs gives the game a powerful sense of warped grandeur.
Dancing with the devil
In truth, it's the simple joy of watching Conan slip in and out of slo-mo as he dispatches evil in dozens of imaginative ways that keeps the whole game from feeling as repetitive as it really is. The simple-minded enemies seldom provide enough of a challenge to warrant such an extensive playbook, though. From witch doctors to monstrous simians, each is locked into a repetitive dance of canned moves, and besting each is a simple matter of memorising their patterns. Far too often success hinges on provoking an attack, rolling away, and then spinning up a powerful combo.
The long and satisfying boss battles against huge fiends like the Elephant Demon and Sand Dragon fare better, even if their timed button-pressing cues owe a great deal to God of War. Waiting more than half a minute for the last checkpoint to load each time you die doesn't do wonders for immersion, but slowly whittling each deity down to size provides some of Conan's most fulfilling moments.
Fans of the Conan books will likely be disappointed by the disjointed narrative and surprisingly dispassionate vocal performances, and most gamers will see the button-tapping mini-games and bare-breasted maidens as the hollow window-dressing they are, but Conan is still an agreeable diversion despite its obvious faults. If only the rest of the game were as inventive as the seemingly bottomless library of animated brutality, Conan might've been elevated to the Mount Olympus-like heights that a certain other warrior has achieved.
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