This review was originally published on Plastiksickness on September 15, 2008.
From the books of Robert E. Howard to your living room television comes Conan for the Xbox 360. In this game, players are given the chance to command one of the most barbaric men in fiction, whose story has been told everywhere from movies to comic books. Conan brings hack-and-slash gameplay, much like God of War, into your very own Hyborian adventure, but is this hack-and-slash gameplay good enough to justify a playthrough of this latest adventure game?
The graphics component of Conan is where the game could've used a little more work. Not the actual look of the game, but some of the graphical glitches and mishaps that could've been taken care of before release. The different environments look great from the start when you wake up on the beach and walk into the jungle setting, or when you'll come across little huts or small little settlements of your enemies. These will make you feel like you're in a true Hyborian setting right out of Howard's book. All of your enemies are modeled well and the boss models, whether it's just a small raider or the huge undead elephant, look particularly nice in combat. Models for Conan and Akanna are especially well done (as are the nearly naked maidens you encounter later that will call out for you to save them, and, once you rescue them, will thank you rather, um, promiscuously). But some of the glitches come up when the cutscenes begin--some of your weapons seem to disappear when a cutscene begins and then reappear when it's over, for example. Or you're battling an enemy and back him into a wall and he's actually battling from 'inside' the wall. Not huge mishaps, but certainly hitches that could've been completely eradicated through a longer development cycle. Another graphical misstep to note would be that the camera can sometimes hinder your movement while in combat or out adventure, but as with all adventure games, the camera angle always comes into play.
Sound wise, the game is decent enough. Ron Perlman voices the part of Conan, and while that may seem like a great choice, throughout your travels, it'll just seem like he didn't put everything he could into it. Some parts seem like he's pushing the words from his mouth, and this can take away from the story element of the game. While it's not terrible, it could have been just a little better. Other parts voiced throughout the game, such as Graven and the Warrior Queen Akanna, sound great and really drive the game forward. Sometimes though, you'll hear some of Conan's punchlines repeated too closely where it takes away from the wittiness of the actual comments. On the other hand, the orchestral score sounds great throughout each and every locale and during the big boss fights. Whether you're decapitating an enemy or maneuvering different puzzle pieces, you'll be pressed onward with a great musical score that really captures the barbaric adventure from beginning till end.
Replay value for Conan is decent, whether you're pushing for the numerous achievements that consume most of your combat throughout the game or trying out the different difficulty settings. Once those two objectives are complete, though, it's hard to tell who would come back to Conan--but then the same can be said about God of War and multitudes of people, including myself, could easily go through that game again, strictly for the combat system. And that combat system just may be Conan's saving grace in the replayablity factor. One thing that might hinder the various playthroughs is the time spent loading. One would think, with having a next-generation system such as the Xbox 360 and the fact that the game is split up into levels, that the load times would be pretty decent, but for some reason, you'll be spending more time than usual between levels. Even if you've just died five steps from a checkpoint, the load will always be the same. And this loading will seem even more time-consuming with the final boss battle because of how frustratingly hard it can be.
Overall, it's a decent action/adventure game all around. With a decent storyline, some of the best combat, and decent graphics and sound, Conan is a game that can be enjoyed by a lot of people, fans of Robert Howard's fantasy setting or not. With a fully fleshed-out combat system that rivals the like of God of War, and with a decent enough story starring the Cimmerian Warrior everyone loves, Conan is a game you should spend some time with, particularly since it only takes around six to seven hours to complete the entire game.
Bottom Line: With great combat, good graphics and sound, and a decent storyline, Conan is a game you should run through at least once.