Just prior to my forced vacation , I downloaded and bought a 3 month sub to Funcom’s Age of Conan. Hey why not get lost in Hyboria when you have the time right! I’m a big fan of the IP and sword and sorcery genre. I had given Conan a half assed try a couple of years ago and lasted 10 levels. However, Conan never left my mmo periphery and I just had to see what kind of world Funcom brought to life, knowing the job they did with The Secret World.
Gameplay: I started off on the familiar beach and worked my way to the starter zone of Tortage.
In Tortage, you are guided to a tavern/inn as your main story quest hub. The Cheers of Hyboria apparently. Here, it became interesting because you were able to chose between a multi-player phase (daytime) and a solo phase (night-time). I didn’t quite understand it at first but it quickly became apparent that the night phase was where I wanted to be. In the daytime phase, I was overwhelmed by the number of quests that were thrown at me. It seems literally every other NPC has a exclamation point over there head offering me a quest or two. I didn’t find many of these side quest particularly interesting, it was standard fetch and kill quests. Switching to the night phase and 90% of these NPCs disappeared but I still had plenty of targeted quests to do. The night phase obviously gave me a better since of direction and it was easy to keep track of what was happening in the main story line. That main story line is about Strom, an evil pirate leader that is blockading Tortage and is taking orders/under the control of a powerful and equally evil Sorcerer (sorry can’t remember the name). Your job is to bring him down. So, doing the main story line worked well until I hit some leveling barriers…ie, the next main story quests was gated by level and I was 1 level below that. So, I went back to the daytime phase and grinded out a handful of side quests and jugged down an XP boost potion. In no time I got a couple of levels and and suddenly found myself in the final battle for Tortage. This was a tricky fight and it did take me a handful of deaths and reboots to get to the end boss. Respawns and prickly mob aggro range were the death of me several times as well as just not knowing all the nuisances of the class I’m playing. Going thru it the first time, it was a challenging ride and quite fun. I said goodbye to Tortage after this fight, leaving behind a ton of angry looking NPCs with quotation marks hovering over their heads and and was welcomed to the Conalls Valley. Seriously, there’s a lot of quests there if you want them.
Combat: This is tricky to explain. It’s action-ee combat. It’s a different beast than standard MMOs but I found it shares some similarities with Funcom’s other mmo, The Secret World and ArenaNet’s GW2. You have combo skills which I have all hotkeyed and directional arrows (left, right, and forward). You hit a combo skill and the corresponding directional arrow(s), all of which is displayed on your UI. It felt very satisfying. Oh, almost forget…character collision. You will collide with other players so move aside when walking down the sidewalks. There’s also an amount of blood and gore shown which I believe you can tone down in your customization options. I didn’t seem to enhance my experience and I found it slowed down the action combat to display the animations.
Class: I decided upon a Conqueror. A strong in your face melee class that can take a lot of damage. It was a good choice. The combat feels fluid and responsive. Hit a combo skill then hit a directional arrow. All goes well as long as I remain patient. If I rush things, I end up missing the correct directional arrow and the combo isn’t as powerful. On the other hand, as I leveled up, I didn’t feel like I was introduced to new skills in such a way that explained how to use them or I didn’t pay attention to the tutorial.. It’s something I’m still struggling with now as I’m not quite sure which skills I should have on my hot bar and when/how to use the Formations and Disciplines. The UI isn’t a big help either. It’s functional but I would like some more customization options.
Graphics: o boy. I’m not a fan of the character models. Everyone looked very similar in Tortage, maybe that will change in other areas. Some NPCs had plain creepy eyes and the talking animations seemed off putting. Female breasts were featured prominently on all the models, making it a great place for teenage boys. I do like the landscape but I might need to tweek my colors, it does look a bit too brownish.
Soundtrack: Not much to report here, I enjoyed the soundtrack running in the background but wasn’t overwhelmed by it. I probably need to listen to it more, I’m sure there’s one or two tracks that I’d buy off Itunes but who knows.
Crafting: Nothing to say here as I haven’t crafted anything. I’m assuming this is gated by level and I haven’t reached that level yet. I understand crafting is getting a huge revamp in the coming months so that should be interesting to see what Funcom has up their sleeve. Note, I’m not a fan of the TSW crafting system.
My plan is simply to get as far as I can in the next 3 months and enjoy the story, a casual approach to level cap…we’ll see.