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Conan Unconquered Review - Conan, Smasher of Waves

Gaming article by Dan Hodges on Tuesday, June 4, 2019 - 11:00
Review

I don’t know much about Conan the Barbarian, but if Conan Unconquered has taught me anything, it’s that the half-naked legend is very good at slaying waves of enemies. And he’s very angry about it. With help from the eponymous barbarian, Petroglyph’s latest strategy title is taking a different approach than their previous games. Taking clear inspiration from 2017’s They Are Billions - a quality RTS popularising survival-strategy - Conan Unconquered is essentially a blend of strategy and tower defense.

Build up a base, form an army, defend against relentless waves of enemies, rinse and repeat. Although Conan Unconquered is an unavoidably one-dimensional game, there’s more than enough depth to keep things exciting. Hero characters like Conan and Valeria give you powerful units to work with, each equipped with an active ability and able to level up over time. The density of the game’s tech tree is staggering. Saying it’s intimidating is selling it short, but delving deeper into stronger units and better technology is the entire appeal.

 

Creating Your Own Story In Conan Unconquered

conan unconquered comic
Conan Unconquered tells its story in comic strip form

Upon opening Conan Unconquered, you’ll see a sharp-looking cinematic that’s equal parts epic and dramatic. It shows Conan facing off against legions of nasty monsters and seems to be setting up something exciting. However, that potential quickly subsides as you realize the rest of the game’s narrative is in comic strip form. Presentationally, the comic strips look top notch. They’re obviously the product of professional production, but they seem like a real afterthought, tossed to one side on the main menu. If Conan lore is your thing, the comic is incredibly dense, but don’t expect to get anything out of it with a passing interest.

As cliche as it sounds, the real narratives are the ones you create during your horde-slaying adventures. A single game - which steadily ramps up in intensity over the course of 10, 25, or infinite rounds - is slow, deliberate, and gruelingly long. A 10-wave match will take you up to an hour to fight through. This ends up working both for and against the game. On the one hand, games are grippingly tense, with each horde offering a fresh batch of nail-biting tension. You’ll quickly find yourself invested in every run, and a quick 20-minute session turns into a 90-minute slog every time.

 

On the other hand, the slow pacing can be excruciating. Between the lack of a speedup option and the leisurely movement speed of your units, Conan Unconquered really likes to take its time. You’ll often find yourself just waiting for the next wave to arrive with nothing else to do. Although it typically creates some stellar tension, it can sometimes be downright tedious. Add infrequent crashes and no autosaving into the mix and you’ve got a recipe for frustration.

The Nitty Gritty Of Conan Unconquered

conan unconquered sandstorm
Sandstorms will occasionally come through and make life much harder for you.

Thankfully, the minute-to-minute action is satisfyingly pulpy. Enemies explode into gratifying showers of gore upon death and the score that pops up above their heads is infinitely rewarding. Building up a solid defense and watching waves of enemies hopelessly clash into it is a really compelling loop. It’s a ton of fun, especially in co-op, where you can partner up with an additional player and try to survive together, but the minutiae could use some polish.

 

The pathing of units is sloppy, and it can be awkward to make them go where you want them while issuing commands in combat feels sluggish and unresponsive. The most frustrating part of trying to command your army is getting them to put out fires. As you get deeper into a game, you’ll encounter units that can set your walls and buildings ablaze. Naturally, this can devastate your wooden defenses, so you’ll want to quell it immediately. Unfortunately, your units are extremely bad about reacting to it. Slow, unresponsive, and occasionally refusing to anything about them. The game could use a much better way to attend to rampant flames.

Conan Unconquered does have some neat ideas about longevity, though. The game’s achievements provide permanent bonuses like increased starting gold or max health upgrades for units and buildings, meaning you’ll naturally grow stronger the more you play. Furthermore, once you finish a game, you can save the map’s seed and challenge others to tackle it. It’s a compelling loop, and the addition of high scores is a compelling way to encourage some fun competition.

Conan Unconquered Review | Final Thoughts

conan unconquered plate spinning
If nothing else, Conan Unconquered is a great plate-spinning simulator.

Unfortunately, technical issues mar the game. Infrequent crashes, visuals glitches, and a frame rate that struggles with a zoomed out camera are the main offenders, but units can also get stuck in terrain or fail to follow commands. Hopefully, it’s something that’ll be ironed out with some patches, but Conan Unconquered is an undoubtedly unstable game in its current form. It’s a shame, really, because the presentation is solid. The music is emphatic, the visuals are pretty sharp, and there are some surprisingly solid animations for an RTS.

Ultimately, Conan Unconquered is a really solid shot at blending RTS base-building, survival resource management, and tower defense sensibilities. Games are grueling and intense, inspiring a constant desire to go again, but the technical issues and spotty responsiveness can be an unfortunate setback. Still, Petroglyph has laid the foundation for a quality and challenging co-op game that could really shine with some updates.

 


TechRaptor reviewed Conan Unconquered on PC via Steam with a copy provided by the publisher.

Review Summary

6.5

Conan Unconquered is a deep and rewarding strategy-survival title with some unfortunate technical issues that could really shine with some updates. Grab a friend and you'll have a quality co-op game on your hands.

Pros

  • Tense and Compelling Action
  • Impressive Depth

Cons

  • Technically Messy
  • No Speedup Option

About the Author

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Dan Hodges

Staff Writer

Dan is a lover of games, music, and movies from the UK. He can usually be found buried in RPGs, shooters, roguelikes, and sometimes World of Warcraft, but he'll play anything he can get his hands on really.