Conan Exiles Isle of Siptah is the long-awaited expansion to the Barbarian MMO. Amongst the community, longstanding rumours of the expansion have been spread far and wide though details have remained scarce. Until a few days ago, the only publicly released details took the form of mysterious insignia and symbols on the website, as well as enticing imagery and quotes from Conan lore on the game’s social media channels. Here at MMOGames, we’ve had the inside scoop for a while and were one of the first to try out a secret preview server. Here’s what we discovered.
In a game known for its diverse biomes, we were excited to see what the new forested island had in store for us. When loading up the expansion, players have the choice of two starting locations. We don’t like to do anything the easy way, so we opted for the “dangerous” north-east coast of the isle.
Players create completely new characters for the expansion. After designing our Persian-inspired barbarian king, we were informed that he was actually an exiled prisoner whose crimes include “Swindling a baron”, “Sullying a virgin”, and “Spreading malicious rumours” (not quite the noble lineage we’d envisaged). So here we were, shipwrecked on the shores of a mysterious isle with a coastline punctuated by the smashed skeletal remains of other doomed ships.
We’re not Conan Exiles pros and we’re not afraid to admit that we may have underestimated the difficulty when we chose our starting location. We were immediately killed by the first creature that we came across…an oversized pelican.
This was not it...
It didn’t take long for us to get the hang out of things. We crafted some primitive stone weaponry – appreciating and enjoying the subtle micro-tasks that guide you through the game’s essentials as you explore the expansive map and non-linear gameplay.
For a game set in the age of bloodthirsty barbarians, combat is not widely regarded to be Conan Exile’s greatest strength. However, we soon found that one of the most common criticisms, that the world does not feel dangerous enough, felt unfounded. After chasing down what we deemed to be a wolf cub, we found ourselves at the mercy of his vicious (and fully grown) kin chasing us for what seemed like an eternity until we climbed to refuge at the top of one of coastal ruins that line the island’s edges.
While Conan Exile’s combat system is unlikely to win any awards anytime soon, it should be said that it has significantly improved since the game’s release. The new enemies of the Isle of Siptah were threatening, engaging, and well designed.
It was in these ruins of an ancient civilization that we made our first proper camp. The amount of crafting and building options available after spending our first dozen Knowledge Points felt a little overwhelming. However, it evidences Conan Exile’s much praised building system which truly excels in comparison to other games of its ilk.
We won’t delve too deeply into the new crafting options because showcasing their full potential would require a dedicated article. However, the expansion offers two new building sets – those made from the waterlogged remains of shipwrecks and those of archaic stormglass. While we later managed to find some stormglass, our first and greatest shelter was created using the flotsam and jetsam of these seacrafts - a nautical-themed home protected from the elements with the sails of fallen seafarers. To experience just how amazing Conan Exile’s crafting can be, check out the constructions of master-builder and content-creator Sven P.
Like the main game, Isle of Siptah is non-linear and largely leaves the player alone to uncover the narrative. With limited time to explore the massive island, we needed to decide upon an objective. As we mentioned earlier, we don’t like to make things easy for ourselves, so we set out for the mysterious tower in the very center of the massive new map.
Heading inland, we worked our way through ancient forests whose mists hid precipitous drops, crocodile-infested rivers, and old fort-bridges with draconoid beasts that we dared not tangle with. Reaching the top of one of these cliffs, we let out a little scream as a putrid green dog-sized spider started chasing us. Then we let out a much louder scream as a house-sized tarantula leapt into our path. Using a few not-so-friendly silverbacks as a distraction, we managed to work our way deeper into the forest.
After pausing briefly to create a new shelter (this time featuring an Armorers Bench so that we could be better equipped for any future arachnids) we searched for secrets amongst the roots in the fading daylight. Little did we know, the secrets weren’t to be found on the forest floor but in the canopies where mysterious elvish-looking treehouses radiatied purple light from above.
We wanted to stay and explore but the call of the tower was too strong. Even as we left, we were unsure as to whether the impressive structure was a constant feature or player-made by one of the other reviewers with access to the preview server. While in-game building systems have improved universally, there aren’t many MMOs around that could boast such a claim.
While our version of the expansion was missing Conan’s usual excellent score and soundtrack, the ominous sounds of thunder drew us closer to the island’s middle – which was now shrouded on the map screen by a gigantic-swirling vortex. The closer we grew to it, the greater the sense of ominous foreboding.
A great walled structure guarded by skeletal warriors marked our final obstacle before reaching this vortex. Upon approach, the winds gathered and leaves swirled around us. By dodging arrows and scaling walls, we secured entry to the inner map. Here we crossed huge stone sky bridges, following clues from Siptah’s journal and pilfering relic fragments from hidden chests.
A brief respite from the Maelstrom allowed us to push through Siptah’s Ascension to Siptah’s Contemplation - the final stretch lay before us with the largest beasts we’d yet to encounter roaming the harsh new landscape. The skies had returned to blue and while the storming vortex raged a little less fiercely, tentacles squirmed out from within to create a Cthulhu-esque horror scene. As their creative director told us for our upcoming interview, HP Lovecraft and Conan author Robert E. Howard were great friends who often influenced each other's work.
One of Isle of Siptah’s new features is an upgrade to its recent mount system; players are now able to tame, armor, and ride gigantic rhinoceroses. We cautiously approached one only to have it chase us through the rib cages of long-dead giants right into the clutches of (definitively not-dead) elemental monsters that inhabit the dangerous lands of the island’s core. Upon reflection, we decided we’ll have to save the rhino-riding for another time, though Funcom's official expansion screenshots speak for themselves...
We don’t want to spoil the game so we won’t tell you all that we found there. But we will tell you that the storm is a sorcerer’s nexus. Here, while active, the dark arts teleport beasts and humans together in surges of sorcery that offer rare thralls to add to your army. The new feature is set to create a bloody new battleground for players to fight over valuable NPCs. And while the expansion may not be the full integration of sorcery that many players have long sought-after, magic undeniably plays a key role.
If you're looking to learn more about Conan Exile's plans for magic integration, stay tuned to MMOGames.com for an exclusive interview with Conan Exiles' Creative Director Joel Bylos.
Many of these arcane secrets are likely to be found in Isle of Siptah’s new dungeon type. “Vaults”, which can be found scattered along the laylines, are filled with fiends, demons, puzzles, and of course, treasure. Though their greatest value lies in the sigils of the elder races hidden deep within.
Overall, the expansion showed a good amount of promise for a game that still has a lot to give. Prior to this, we had been playing the ever-underrated RPG Outward – a survival RPG lovers’ dream-game. We appreciated the similarities: the non-linear nature and the survive-or-die autonomy that players are thrust into embracing.
It’s difficult to give a fair score to the preview because so many of the most beloved aspects of Conan Exiles couldn’t be experienced in this manner: the buildings crafted through dedicated days of gameplay, the thrall system, and the massive clan-on-clan PvP battles. Still, the solo and duo play options still have a lot of potential for the highly enjoyable discovery of the new map, vaults, and secrets. And don’t forget, Conan Exile’s thrall system grants questing companionship for solitary players.
We hope that the expansion will attract enough players back to the game to reinvigorate it. To this day, there is much that Conan Exiles has that its competitors lack. We look forward to giving the game another try once its servers are inhabited by Conan’s lively dedicated player-base.
Stay tuned for our exclusive upcoming interview with Joel Bylos, Chief Creative Officer at Funcom and Creative Director of Conan Exiles! To be released in 24 hours!
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