Conan Review (PS3)

As a reviewer I have a choice. Do I stick to the by the numbers review pattern, change the words slightly and hand it in or do I actually try and keep things fresh and original every time I put finger to key? I always strive for the latter, whether or not I succeed is up to you the reader but at least I try. Unlike Nihilistic Software. I donít think a copy and paste job of all reviews (games in their case, obviously) that have gone by and just changing the words a bit will suffice. No matter if my style works or not, I donít think I could live with myself if I simply regurgitated what has gone before. Conan PS3 is the most blatant example of laziness in this regard that Iíve come across in a while. Take every game in the genre that has gone before, change it ever-so slightly, market it and package it for full price. Thatís not on.

You can slam this guyís head into those spikes on his hammer!
Slamming people into ground never gets dull

However, if we set aside all my cries and claims of shovel ware, Conan is actually fun. Surely that is all that should matter when playing a game? Well hereís the rub, itís only entertaining because of what it has stolen from its peers. In fact, if anyone can point out anything original in the game then please leave a comment in the side bar and let me know, as I couldnít find one.

Anyway, Iím rambling. Bottom line is, if youíve played the utterly superb God of War parts one and two then Conan has simply taken every original idea that Sony Studios, Santa Monica had and blatantly mimicked it. With absolutely no attempt to disguise it, without shame or regret, Nihilistic Software wants you to buy God of War 3 but with new characters and no real sense of the atmosphere and purpose that made the first two so great.

Iíll explain. Right from the off the female narrative is identical to that of the aforementioned. Either theyíve employed the same voice actor or theyíve found her twin sister. Then there are the combos: these are obviously inherent in every hackíníslash but their implementation is heavily borrowed from GoW. When you kill and enemy red orbs fly out of them and Conan sucks them up. These red orbs give you XP (experience points). Press Select and you can then buy combos with your redness to make your battles more interesting. Sound familiar?

Right, thatís that fight over with. Whatís for lunch?
Killing animals is not something I enjoy. Good thing Iím not Conan then isnít it?

Then thereíre of course the green orbs, which not surprisingly give you health. Littered around the map youíll find urns with wispy green smoke twirling its way out of the clay mouthpiece that can be picked up and drank - again, not too dissimilar to God of War. Even the way you open chests Ė by kicking them Ė is a direct steal from Kratos himself. Opening and closing doors and gates too are identical. So many times I sat their shaking my head at the sheer cheek of it. Itís the same game. All the way down to the style and presentation of the cut-scenes. Itís as though Nihilistic left no stone unturned.

So, if we look away from plagiarism for a moment, if Conan does what God of War did just as well then whatís the problem? The problem is it doesnít. For one, the combos arenít as exciting or as fulfilling to pull off. Although they are varied and learning them all would be the gaming equivalent of learning Cantonese, nothing quite beats Kratosí Blades of Chaos. Thatís not to say Iíd never play a hackíníslash again, but when Iím playing a game that so obviously wants to be what it isnít, I could help but make the comparison.

The graphics are ok at the very best. Functional is probably a better word for them. Iíve seen better, Iíve seen much better. This couldíve been Conanís saving grace: showing us all what God of War in High Definition should look like. Although Ninja Theory tried that with Heavenly Sword and that didnít really pay off for them either, though let it be said that tearing aside, HS is a much better looking game than Conan.

The music offers very little. I was actually humming the stirring, orchestral Vader-esque music of God of War at times as that pushed me on and kept me gripped right the way through Kratosí adventure. This is something Conan so desperately needs: purpose. Music is still an undervalued instrument and though every time the musical score stands out, we reviewers continually harp on about it. Unfortunately it seems to fall of deaf ears.

This is a game about hacking and slashing your way through countless hoards of enemies and in that respect it serves its purpose. The enemy AI is however rather lacking. Sometimes I just stand there with my back to them and they donít attack. Other times I can run behind the bowmen (yes, they nicked that too) and they just keep on looking in the direction I came from although Iíve literally walked right in front of them. Correcting small details like that are what makes good games great, or in this case, a relatively ok game good.

Fighting on a ship with a huge monster in the background: Where have I seen that before?
The bigger they come the harder they fall!

Conan shouldíve really tried to do something else than be something it could never live up to being. All the ingredients are there, the familiar, charismatic protagonist, sexy, swarthy maidens who look at you as though all youíd have to do is click your fingers, huge swords (no pun intended) and lots of blood and gore. However, it really does feel like I have played this game nearly three years ago and back then it was much, much better than it is now. If you live and breathe this type of thing then every negative aspect Iíve pointed out will read like a positive and good luck to you, have fun. But for the rest of you who were maybe hoping for a game that might stretch the boundaries of the genre somewhat youíll be disappointed.

Top Game Moment:
Ripping someoneís guts right out of their chest!

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