Tech News on G4
'Conan' is bloody good fun
November 22, 2007
By John Powell - G4 Canada
As a fictional character, Conan has gotten a bad rep. You can blame Arnold Schwarzenegger and his pair of cheesy movies in the eighties for that. The only impression some people have of the character is of the simple-minded, sadistic oaf that Arnie portrayed. The real Conan found in the classic stories and books written by Robert E. Howard is a more complex character who employs brain as well as brawn and at various times has been a pirate, a thief, a mercenary and even a king.
When it comes to video games, Conan hasn't fared that well either. Most of the games are just exercises in thoughtless hack and slash, side-scrolling nonsense.
Exceedingly faithful to Howard's tales, 'Conan' for the Xbox 360 immerses the player in the mythical Hyborian Age in a game that transcends being just another 'God of War' clone.
The Hyborian Age is a lawless age where dark sorcerers worship vile forgotten gods, pirates plunder the seas and oceans, monstrous demons and creatures skulk in the shadows and nobody walks the streets without a sharp sword or dagger at their side. Our story begins with Conan (voiced awkwardly by Ron Perlman) escaping the clutches of Graven, a dark wizard who has released the deadly Black Death upon Hyboria. Before casting him aside, Graven takes Conan's magical armour from him. Washed up on a nearby island, Conan joins forces with the mysterious A'Kanna, a female warrior whose homeland was destroyed by Graven and his plague. A'Kanna convinces Conan that he is the only one who stands between Graven and the power he seeks so they join forces to take the mad wizard down.
'Conan' thrives on wanton brutality. In keeping with the spirit of Howard's
stories, the battles are all extraordinarily gory with the barbarian
cleaving his way through a multitude of foes at any given time. Wielding
Although he starts out with just one sword, Conan can pick up other kinds of weapons from the battlefield following any fight. The combat system is not based solely on button mashing though. You do have to block attacks either with your sword or an optional shield. Failure to do so against stronger foe will spell doom for you. Like 'God of War', there are some really simple puzzles to solve and with some of the boss battles, there are some timed button pounding sequences to master as you clash with ogres and dragons.
As you regain pieces of his magical armour, Conan gains new abilities such as turning his enemies to stone, raining fire down upon them, summoning flocks of voracious ravens and opening whirlwinds that suck baddies into another dimension. It seems that Graven isn't the only one who has a trick or two up his sleeve. Diehard purists may find Conan use of magic to be akin to Batman using a handgun but with the rest of the game being so true to the source material, we can forgive the developers...this time.
When it comes to presentation, all of the animations are superbly rendered in all their bloodstained glory. The cut scenes, however, leave something to be desired especially when it comes to the character's faces and hair. The dead eyes, bland features and hair that moves as one big clump just don't live up to the capabilities of the Xbox 360.
'Conan' is a very, very gruesome game but fans wouldn't have it any other way. Developers Nihilistic have borrowed liberally from the incomparable 'God of War' series but the game is not a second-rate carbon copy with the fabled Cimmerian standing in the place of Kratos. Although not perfect, 'Conan' stands on its own as a grisly guilty pleasure.
Rating: 7 / 10
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