Screens, an exclusive FMV movie and a spot of hack-'n'-slash with the man who would be king...
TDK Mediactive Europe acquired the Conan licence a while back and we've played early code of the first in a series of three games that are planned. We also have a trailer of the game for you, plus an FMV demo of the man himself in sword practice that is exclusive to gamesradar.com.
The trilogy of games, developed by Cauldron, consists of two prequels to the forthcoming movie, with the third game being the game of the movie, which has a working title of King Conan: Crown of Iron.
Created by novelist Robert E Howard, Conan went on to feature in his own comics - and brilliant they were too, being closer to current graphic novels in style than the typical Marvel-type comics of the day. The character also hit the big screen with Arnie playing the barbarian of legend in two movies. The first film was great, the second not-so...
And now Conan has made it to videogames in a third-person hack-'n'-slash adventure. First impressions are positive and we're glad to report that the very distinctive feel and atmosphere of the Conan character has been translated well. Cauldron have clearly done their homework from the story to the visuals. The game also features the fantastic film score by Basil Polaris.
We played through a couple of areas and, while the game obviously needs work, we were pleasantly surprised. However, there's a little more to it than many titles in the hack-'n'-slash genre. You can upgrade to more devastating weaponry, as you'd expect, and hike their damage effects, up to three levels. But what gives the game great potential that others often lack is that Conan himself will have up to 50 moves and combos.
We have to say, nowhere near that many moves appeared to be at our disposal during our slash session with the barbarian but, if Cauldron can get that many in, and provide tactical situations where intelligent play and utilisation of a variety of those moves are needed, then we could be talking very good times indeed.
What we played was fun, if a tad brainless, with the odd simple puzzle interjected into the gameplay. The enemies were no pushovers and it was fairly difficult. You're always outnumbered heavily but that's where the fun should be if Cauldron cram enough funky moves into the play.
Conan mainly hacks away with his sword but he can interact in other ways, including kicks and, sweetly, picking up an enemy and throwing them into oncoming attackers.
The game is very bloody, as it should be, and you can see the disintegration of Conan in the amount of blood that oozes from his wounded body. The sword icon in the top left corner of the screen has two segments to it. On the upper part of the blade is your life-bar, while the lower segment shows your energy-bar. You see, you can't just swing away forever, it's a bit more tactical than that. You'll find yourself giving it all you're worth when you notice your failing energy level. Hmmm, decisions. We found kicking the enemy in the balls and leggin' it for a breather tends to work...
There's also a nice touch when you die. Having shed his mortal coil, Conan is whisked away to a battle arena before his god Crom - a bloodthirsty type - and is given the opportunity to prove and redeem himself. In these arenas you have to fight a number of enemies that are generally weaker than those who have just killed you and, if you dispatch them, Crom is pleased. So much so he sends you back into battle at the precise point you died. With renewed life and stamina there's every chance you'll kill those who ran you through originally - and off you go on your merry way. Die again, however, and that really is curtains.
While the game clearly isn't an RPG, it does contain certain elements - none more so than having to natter with the local populace, where individuals will provide clues and information that you need to progress in your quest.
The game appears to be a fair old size when you consider that it contains two hours of cutscenes. The game world consists of five worlds made up of 65 sub-levels. You'll garner 16 weapons throughout the game that should help in disembowling (a Conan speciality) the 16 bosses that stand in your way.
Graphically, the game is spot-on in style but, quality wise, it needs attention. Good in places, ropey in others, a bit glitchy into the bargain, this is one area we really hope the developers will sort before release. Bear in mind the version we played is only around 75% complete, so it may well be in hand. We certainly hope so. The camera could also do with a tweak as it tends to stick in corners - a problem that blights almost all 3D third-person titles, to be fair.
The bottom line is that the Conan universe has been captured brilliantly by Cauldron. If the graphical and technical side of the game can reach the same standard of excellence, we'd be laughing. It's a tough order but we like to remain optimistic...
Conan is scheduled to appear on Xbox and PC in January and will follow later on PS2 and Gamecube.