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Conan

Platform(s): PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Genre: Action
Publisher: THQ
Developer: Nihilistic Software

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PS3 Preview - 'Conan'

by Thomas Wilde on Oct. 14, 2007 @ 3:31 a.m. PDT

Conan is an action adventure video game featuring a story of epic brutality, sheer evil and visceral combat. Players will follow the journey of Conan the Cimmerian as he fights a vicious battle against a variety of enemies and an elusive power that threatens to consume the Hyborian world. Playing as Conan, players will take advantage of a deep and gratifying combat system that offers a variety of deadly weapons, fighting styles and interactive environments to battle hordes of enemies.

Genre: Action
Publisher: THQ
Developer: Nihilistic
Release Date: October 23, 2007

In an odd turn of events, Conan is about to be released. When THQ debuted the game in San Francisco earlier this year, it was slated as coming out in early 2008. Yet, inexplicably, here it is. One wonders what's up with that.

Conan is a hack-and-slash action game based strictly on the universe Robert E. Howard created, placing you in the role of the titular Cimmerian warrior/thief/barbarian. (You know, "Cimmerian" should really be a prestige class.) You begin the game breaking into a forgotten tomb, destroying undead and smashing animated statues en route to raiding an ancient treasure.

Of course, that ancient treasure isn't quite what it's cracked up to be. Long story short, Conan washes ashore on an island full of pirates a few days later, and hilarity (and by "hilarity," I mean "lots of stabbing") ensues.

The word that immediately comes to mind to describe Conan is "gritty." It's a combo-based 3D hack-and-slash game, but unlike most games in this subgenre, it doesn't feature some vaguely supernatural protagonist, with vaguely ninjitsu-based special moves or something. Conan's moves list is comprised of equal parts combos and pure dirty tricks: thrown swords, body slams, large rocks, gut punches, cheap shots and the occasional dismemberment just to keep things spicy. It's a rare fight where you're not outnumbered three to one, and the challenge of the game is to figure out ways to rapidly even the odds.

Almost every enemy you defeat will drop a weapon, such as a sword, axe or claymore, and you can pick it up to change Conan's available attacks. When dual-wielding, you can throw out a rapid series of quick slashes that add up fast; when using a two-handed sword, you can charge up a massively powerful overhead chop that takes off limbs with gruesome ease. In Howard's fiction, Conan has always been a by-any-means-necessary sort of fighter, using whatever came to hand, and that style of combat comes through clearly in this game.

Conan can also block and parry attacks, the latter of which becomes very important early on. Anyone who wants to just button-mash his way through the game is going to get dismantled by the first miniboss he encounters.

By using your combos and various moves, you gain experience points and level up your individual attacks. The overall effect is that Conan naturally becomes better at whatever moves you use the most, shaping his fighting style to be what you'd most prefer it to be.

Most importantly, though, Conan retains a lot of the feel of Howard's fiction, and by that I mean it's laugh-out-loud funny without quite meaning to be. If you enjoy a good sword-and-sorcery pulp fiction novel now and again, you'll be right at home here.

It's not particularly deep, and the innovation police are going to complain about it, but Conan is a pretty good time for what it is. It's not reinventing the wheel, but it does allow you to fight your way through ancient ruins and up the stairs of forgotten temples, and that's really all you can ask of a Conan game.


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