I've been doing the GameFly thing for quite some time now, and I've noticed that my play style has changed somewhat. Gone are the days of playing only a handful of games, but playing them so deeply that I know every last inch. I don't think it's correct to say my taste has changed, but I do think it has expanded. I now seek out games where the reviews criticize it for being "too short." I often would rather have short but memorable experiences with multiple games than a long deep relationship with one epic game. I've shifted to be a gaming polygamist. That's not to say that I don't enjoy deep, long-term gameplay (just look at how much MMO blogging I do), but I've now got a soft spot for the short but sweet weekend rental.
Conan is just that sort of game. Not to be confused with Age of Conan, the MMO, the Conan for the Xbox 360 is a simple third-person action slash-fest. You are Conan, and you kill stuff. And being the barbarian badass that you are, you vanquish your foes with gratuitous force. It's quite satisfying.
There's nothing terribly complicated about the core gameplay. There are three primary attack buttons and different combos for various sequences of these attacks. For the most part you can mash buttons and watch the carnage unfold. Later in the game you'll encounter foes that require you pull off specific combos to get passed their defenses, but it never gets too intricate. All told the combat feels pretty solid.
The boss battles in Conan are appropriately grand. You fight everything from a sand dragon to a kraken to an undead elephant. Seriously, the game gets major points for memorable boss creatures. Defeating the bosses involves a mix of standard combat and Quick Time Events. Thankfully the QTEs are lenient and never immediately fatal, so defeating a boss is never a matter of repetition until you achieve perfection.
You may be reading all of this and thing to yourself, "But I've played this game before." Yes, Conan is the posterchild for derivative game design. There is absolutely nothing here that hasn't already been done in dozens of other action games. But it's done well. Combat feels good, the animation is great, the bosses are memorable, and the whole experience only takes up about five hours of your time. This is the video game equivalent of the popcorn action flick. It won't give you any deep and meaningful revelations, but it sure is fun.
That's not to say that the game is lacking character. Conan may be a man of few words, but those few words are delivered well and are absolutely hilarious. The game has a charm to it. It's a chauvinistic and violent charm, but for some reason in the world of Conan the Barbarian that's totally endearing. For example, instead of collecting hidden packages, flags, or agility orbs, Conan seeks out topless women chained to poles. They strip off their shackles and thank Conan suggestively… achievement unlocked. It all sounds really offensive, but it fits thematically, and for some reason that makes it okay. Don't get me wrong, this game is not for the feint of heart. But for a five hour romp of decapitations and one liners, it's excellent.