Some might ask why, exactly, there are multiple games featuring Robert E. Howard's seminal dark fantasy antihero Conan the Barbarian right now. The better question is, why not? The source material is rich with action that is both brutal and fantastical, qualities that can make for damn fine video games. THQ and Nihilistic had a playable single-level demo of their succinctly titled Conan for the PlayStation 3 at Barker Hangar during E3 2007, and it looks set to do well by its barbaric namesake.
As we started in on the brief demo, the influence of Sony's God of War games was nearly palpable, with a heavy focus on satisfyingly violent combat with multiple enemies, and a darkly medieval tone to the visuals. Our overarching objective over the course of the demo was to free several sailors imprisoned in small cages by enemy soldiers--roughly translating into lots of vicious swordfighting, and the occasional lever pull. With regular and heavy attacks that could be strung together into lengthy, bloody combos, the action moved fast, though with enough nuance to keep us on our toes.
Conan had several fighting styles at his disposal, and they were dictated by what sorts of weapons he had. Over the course of the demo, we fought enemies while armed with a single sword, two swords, or one gigantic blade, and the change of weaponry had an immediate effect on how the combat felt. There's an experience system at play as well, and when enough points were accrued, new combos could be learned. Many of the combos that could be learned were specific to the different weapon configurations, so it would seem that figuring out your favorite combat style and balancing how you spend those experience points will be important.
What we found most striking about Conan was how unflinchingly violent the gameplay was. When armed with two swords, Conan could swing them down hard, taking both of an enemy's arms with them, after which the now-armless enemy would thrash about until they were overcome by the loss of blood. Amongst the flurry of blades, enemies were also beheaded, sliced right down the middle, and generally dissected in the goriest way possible.
As derivative as it felt, we came away from the Conan demo with a generally positive impression, due largely to the gleeful carnage inherent to the combat. There was certainly no shortage of blood, which is just how Conan would want it.