“Barbarism,” said Conan creator Robert E. Howard, “is the natural state of mankind.” Civilization is a fluke; a “whim of circumstance.” It’s a theme Howard wove into virtually every paragraph about his raven-haired Cimmerian, and it seems to manifest itself in undiluted form in Conan Exiles, Funcom’s upcoming open-world survival game set in Howard’s Hyborian Age. That, at least, is the impression I got from Conan Exiles’ creative director Joel Bylos and executive producer Lawrence Poe in an interview earlier this week.
Funcom’s no stranger to this world — it was, after all, behind 2008’s ambitious but troubled massively multiplayer online RPG Age of Conan. But Age of Conan found us far along in Conan’s years, when he was already sitting semi-comfortably on the throne of Aquilonia. Conan Exiles finds him in a younger, wilder age, when he’s roughly 26 and in between the events of Howard’s “Xuthal of the Dusk” and “A Witch Shall Be Born.”