I have to admit, when I first heard there was a game coming out based on Robert E. Howard’s well-known creation, I was extremely skeptical. For one, games based on movies have proven less worth the investment of our time and money than most trade-stocks these days, so why would a game based on a literary character be any different? And two, I have a certain bias against other writers and companies coming up with ‘new adventures’ for characters created by long-dead authors (though I’m admittedly guilty of the practice myself). In fact, I nearly passed up the game entirely were it not for a friend who lent it to me. I thought, what’s the harm in at least trying it? I’m glad I did.
Now if you liked God of War, you’ll enjoy Conan, because they’re very similar in many ways. On the other hand, if you didn’t like God of War, you should have a blood test done to check your testosterone levels, because you are not a man. In fact, were it not for Conan, Kratos may never have existed, so it seems fitting for this game to adopt the successful design of one of the greatest action games of all time. The fighting system is the familiar brutal hack and slash of GoW, gaining points from each kill (or broken jar) to put into your various skills. But here is where Conan changes things up a bit.
In the game, Conan is given four fighting styles, each with its own unique moves and brutal finishing moves for dispatching enemies (and for fans of the movies, you’ll chuckle as much as I did to see that Camel Punch is one of his fisticuffs skills). It really is a joy to see how many different ways you can end the unlife of the undead.
What’s more, Conan is also given the ability to not only use any weapon his enemies can use, but he can also take the weapons, mid-combo, from an enemy and kill them with it. CROM! This is so awesome! Never mind Conan’s occasional one-liners to add colour to the devastation he brings down upon his enemies (such as ‘I’ll split your skull to the teeth!’ a recognizable line from Howard himself), performed excellently by none other than Ron Perlman.
As for the story and atmosphere, it’s a near perfect emulation of the sword and sorcery world of Robert E. Howard, with all its brutal violence and dark history. And even forgetting its unprecedented loyalty to the source material, the story is quite interesting and engaging as Conan unknowingly releases a powerful wizard from his prison and so is inevitably swept up into much larger events.
The only real complaint I have about Conan is the obnoxiously difficult final boss (be prepared to die many, many, many, many, many times trying to defeat him). In fact, despite all my praise for Conan, I can’t deny this may very well take the cake as the worst final battle in video game history. Yeah. Yeah, I think that’s safe to say.
Though it’s somewhat unoriginal, I don’t understand why the game didn’t create more buzz. It may have borrowed much from the God of War series, but it does have a few original additions to make the familiar system seem less recycled. But original or not, Conan is truly a joy to play, even for the Conan fans.
Game Play: 4/5
Replay Value: 3/5
Conan and all related properties are ™ trademark and © copyright of Paradox Entertainment, Nihilistic Software, THQ, and all related parties.