Nihilistic Software Q&A: Conan
Come October 23, action fans are in for one heck of a bloody treat- THQ and Nihilistic Software present Conan, a hack 'n slash with more to it than meets the eye. We wanted to learn more about this potential thrill ride of a game - and we know our readers are curious - so we came up with a batch of questions. Robert Huebner, president and project director of Nihilistic Software, was good enough to answer them.
PSXE: The competition for action games these days is really steep. What do you think separates Conan from the rest of the pack?
Huebner: "We focused on the core combat systems to make sure the controls are fast and responsive, that the moves are fun to do and that there was a solid layer of strategy to the combat decisions the player makes. A lot of games these days focus on the cinematics or on canned moves or sequences, but sometimes even the prettiest game doesnít have combat that stays engaging after an hour of so of play. We tried to build in a lot of complexity so the player has a reason to unlock and learn new moves rather than just sticking to one or two moves that can complete the whole game."
PSXE: Obviously, there's a major emphasis on combat in Conan. We've heard we can pick things up and toss them at the enemy, but how else can we interact with the environment?
Huebner: In addition to picking up objects and weapons, players can also use the environment as a weapon. For example, in many levels there are sharp spikes along the edges of the play area. In those cases, if players grab enemies and throw them, or use certain moves that cause enemies to fly into the air, they can end up impaling on these spikes, killing them instantly. In other cases, players can fight on a bridge and use specific moves to knock enemies off the ledge to their death. Itís also a lot of fun to set enemies on fire in the levels that contain torches or campfires. Well, not fun for them, but fun for Conan.
PSXE: The combat seems pretty deep to us. Conan will be able to perform grapples and throws in addition to using traditional weaponry, for example. What else can you tell us about the intricacy of the battle?
Huebner: Thanks. There are a lot of elements to the combat system, and our combat designers spent a lot of time working out the various interactions of the systems. Shields, for example, are useful because they can block arrows and can withstand heavy attacks. Stunning is also important; some enemies will prevent you from doing certain moves unless you stun them first. Then there are other things to explore like Prone kills, weapon steals, sweeps, shockwaves, song of death mode and so on. It sounds complicated but the different factors are rolled out over a number of levels, so itís not really that intimidating, but it hopefully keeps things fresh. Oh, and parries, I canít forget parries.
PSXE: Apparently, there will be experience to gain in the game. A lot of action games these days are adopting traits from other genres (like experience from RPGs). Will Conan feel anything like the third-person action in Oblivion, or are we simply looking at a straight-up action game with a few deeper aspects?
Huebner: I canít claim that itís anything like Oblivion. I do like the fact that in Conan, the player has to make actual choices about where to specialize in terms of learning new combat moves. I think weíve tweaked the XP curve so that itís impossible to master all the moves in a single play through. Since each of the weapon trees is different and has different uses, it will change your experience if you choose to specialize in two-handed swords instead of dual-wield, for example. Thatís the main place where RPG systems get involved. Itís something weíd like to do more of in the future; I think itís a good goal to have in mind. Most action games have a long way to go before they can be compared to something like Oblivion.
10/5/2007 Ben Dutka