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Conan

Conan

Conan

Conan is a 2007 action-adventure video game that puts players in control of the titular hero, Conan the Barbarian, from Robert E. Howard's fantasy literature. The game was published by THQ for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 game consoles. Its developer, Nihilistic Software, was inspired by the God of War and Ninja Gaiden video games to create an experience featuring gore and nudity.

In Conan, the hero is on a quest to recover his lost armor and defeat an evil wizard. Conan can fight with sword and shield, two-handed weapons, or a weapon in each hand. Starting with several basic attacks, the barbarian gains experience points by killing enemies. By exchanging these points for additional attacks, players improve the hero's fighting abilities. Magic powers complement Conan's arsenal, including the abilities to turn enemies into stone and conjure firestorms. The game also features context-sensitive action sequences in which players press a sequence of buttons displayed on the screen to complete actions such as killing powerful enemies and interacting with the environment.

Critics enjoyed Conan's combat system and gory kills, but said that the game failed to match the experience offered in God of War. Reactions varied on the game's depiction of the Conan universe; several critics praised the emulation of Frank Frazetta's famous artwork, but others found the game's graphics drab and of low resolution. Regarding the audio, Golden Globe-winning actor Ron Perlman was both praised and criticized for his voice work as Conan. Composer Mike Reagan received acclaim for the game's music and later gave live performances of the game's soundtrack at Video Games Live shows. Despite the generally favorable reviews and commercial success of the Conan franchise, Conan sold poorly and was a financial loss for THQ.

Conan Plot

Howard's short story, "Queen of the Black Coast", served as the inspiration for the game's plot. In the short story, Conan has a brief romance with Bęlit, a pirate queen. Near the end of the story a demonic creature kills Bęlit and Conan seeks revenge. The creature, however, is stronger than Conan, overpowers him, and is about to kill him when Bęlit's spirit startles it and inspires Conan to kill the beast. The game's story follows a similar theme with A'kanna in the role of Bęlit. Told as a campfire story, cut scenes—in the form of static artwork or animation rendered by the game engine—open and close each level with narratives from an elderly A'kanna.

The story starts at Parad Isle where Conan is raiding a tomb. Instead of finding treasure, he unknowingly frees Graven, a wizard who had been confined in a magical prison for his transgressions. Showing no gratitude, the wizard curses Conan's armor, scatters it across the world, and teleports the barbarian away. Vowing to retrieve his armor, Conan meets A'kanna while he is fighting through a pirate base. Teaming up with the barbarian to find his armor, the warrior queen hopes to use its magic to end the curse—the Black Death—that is causing her people to kill each other. Their quest leads players through several locations and boss creatures such as dragons, undead elephants, and krakens. Flashbacks are shown when retrieving a piece of armor after killing certain bosses; these back-stories tell of Graven's imprisonment of the gods, his plan to sacrifice his daughter A'kanna, and his creation of the Black Death to transform the world to his liking.

In the last level, Conan has retrieved all of his armor and returns to Parad Isle to rescue A'kanna from her father. After a long boss fight and several button-pressing sequences, Conan slays the wizard at the bottom of the ocean. Graven's defeat frees the gods he had imprisoned, and they bring him back to life for eternal punishment. The story ends with the separation of the barbarian and the warrior queen. Conan goes on to fulfill his destiny to be a king as written in Howard's stories. A'kanna, however, grows old in a village, telling stories to children and never forgetting Conan.

Conan Gameplay

Players control Conan the Barbarian from a third-person perspective while attempting to advance through the series of levels that subdivide the game. The gameplay is the same for each level: Conan moves from area to area, fighting groups of enemies until he reaches the end. At the end of certain levels, the barbarian has to fight a more powerful opponent called a boss. Defeating a boss involves a two-stage process: Conan has to inflict heavy damage on the creature and thus trigger an interactive button-pressing sequence that players have to complete to kill the boss. Several cycles of this process are required to defeat most bosses. Besides combat, button-pressing sequences are also used to interact with the environment, such as knocking down obstacles to create passageways, or as parts of platforming sequences in which Conan climbs walls and jumps from ledge to ledge. Players can save their progress by using special stones that are placed throughout the game.

Graphical representations of two men engage in combat. The clash of their swords against each other produces a large spark, and a blue circle, which is marked with a white "X". Another man, armed with a bow, is shown standing in the background. Coloured gauges are at the top left.

A button to initiate a counterattack is shown on pressing the block button at the correct moment.

Conan starts each level with his default one-handed sword, and can pick up shields and other weapons to switch between three styles of attack: fighting with a one-handed weapon, a two-handed weapon, or a weapon in each hand. Each style features several attacks with names like "Cimmerian Charge" and "Black River Rage". The barbarian can change or stop his attacks at any time, creating many options in combat. When Conan lands a sequence of successive hits on his enemies, he activates his Song of Death, which increases the damage of his attacks for a short time. For defense, Conan can roll under enemy attacks or block them. If the player presses the block button just when an enemy is about to hit the barbarian, an image of a controller button appears on the screen. Pressing the button shown will make Conan execute a gory counterattack, which instantly kills the enemy. Other methods to kill enemies include grabbing and throwing them against other objects, such as spikes and other enemies, or over cliffs.

In addition to physical assaults, Conan can use magic powers to damage enemies. Gaining these powers in later stages of the game, the barbarian can turn opponents into stone, call down fire from the heavens, and summon flocks of ravens to do his bidding. These magical attacks can quickly end fights, but their use is limited by the number of magic points Conan has. When an enemy is killed, colored runes—each one conferring its own special advantage—are released and gathered by the barbarian. Red runes act as experience points, which are exchanged for advanced attacks. Green and blue runes restore Conan's health and magic points, respectively. The barbarian can also obtain runes by breaking containers and freeing maidens from captivity.

Reception
Conan received fair-to-good ratings from critics. In 2008, review aggregator sites Metacritic and Game Rankings selected around 80 reviews and calculated average scores of 69 (out of 100) and 70% for the game, respectively. Most critics agreed that the game's best selling point was its variety in combat. They had a lot of fun with its easy-to-learn controls, skill customization, and most of all, the varied brutal depictions of Conan's kills. TeamXbox said that the combat system "blossoms into a complex string of commands that will reward the user (with gore) for pressing the right buttons at the right time". The pounding, militaristic orchestra tunes accompanying the action further enhanced the critics' experience with the game.

Many critics complained that Conan copied many ideas from God of War. Game Informer referred to this imitation as " groveling at Kratos' feet, begging for gameplay wisdom". A few reviewers, however, found this forgivable and stated that the game was made to be fun without any higher ambitions. Conan's camera system irritated several critics for failing to provide an adequate view of the situation at certain critical moments. Its puzzles were overly simple and lacked clear directions for proceeding to the next step. The artificial intelligence for the adversaries in the game was found to be predictable and flawed by a few critics. In addition, they found the final encounter with Graven to be overly long and frustrating. Calling the fight "as painful as a trip to the proctologist", IGN and Game Informer judged it to be one of the worst boss fights in video game history.

The critics had mixed opinions about three prominent features of the game: voice acting, artwork, and faithfulness to Howard's writings. Perlman earned acclaim for his vocal performance and gravely voice that matched the game's dialogue, but he also received criticism for not sounding like a barbarian. A few applauded Nihilistic for capturing the oil painting feel of Frazetta's art, but several others said that the graphics consisted of drab-looking environments that were jagged-edged and pixelated when zoomed in. Although the animations were rated to be smooth and vivid, the lack of variety among enemy character models was criticized. Several critics also praised Nihilistic for recreating the atmosphere of Howard's stories. The decision to have Conan use magic was, however, called a "blasphemy" by IGN. G4techTV Canada disagreed and forgave the game on the grounds that it was mostly faithful to the books. Ray Huling of The Escapist said that the game's developers misunderstood Conan's appeal to the masses. In the journalist's opinion, Howard's depiction of Conan's brutal physical nature called attention to the dull nature of their lives and offered them a temporary escape. Furthermore, Huling said that Nihilistic used the characteristics of Conan for superficial purposes, and that, in copying the mechanics of another game without any groundbreaking innovations of its own, Nihilistic missed the essence of Howard's stories and created a shell of what its game could have been.

Despite the generally favorable reviews and success of Howard's franchise, Conan was not a commercial success. It sold poorly and failed to recoup THQ's investment. The publisher publicly announced that the game's poor sales contributed to their US$20 million write-off in fiscal year 2008. Although the game's violence was praised by the gaming industry, it was condemned by the National Institute on Media and the Family, which placed Conan on a list of games that parents were urged to avoid buying for their children. Conan's Mature rating from the Entertainment Software Rating Board, largely due to its violent content, made the game a target for a law being pushed in California, United States. Proposed in 2005, the law was intended to regulate sales of Mature-rated games. It was blocked by a legal challenge from the gaming industry in 2007, but California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who played Conan in the 1982 film, appealed the judgment, seeking to ensure that Conan and other games with similar levels of violence would be sold only to those above the age of 17. On February 20, 2009, His appeal was rejected by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, who ruled that such a restriction violated the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.[53


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