Saturday, November 8, 2008

Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures

When Age of Conan (AoC) was first released, you can’t go to any gaming website without reading about it. I read about the amazing new combat system, the amazing graphics, and the fact that there is an actual story in the game.

I avoided it anyway. I’m don’t play MMO usually, and when I do; it’s only the free ones. I don’t like the idea of spending money on a 2 month subscription to a game that I may not like, and that’s not even counting the money I spent buying the game off the shelves! However about 2-3 months after the game came out, I found AoC on sale at a gaming convention. I thought why not, it’s on sale.

For those who have no idea what is AoC, it is a fantasy-themed mmorpg that brings players into the violent age of Conan the Barbarian. I have to say the game capture the world beautifully. It may be pretty but the soul of the world is correct as well. The world has a harsh beauty to it and it is both violent and chaotic. Even in the cities where you are safe from attack, there is still a dangerous feel to the world. Funcom did a brilliant job on the world of Hyboria.

As in most other MMOs, you start by creating a character in AoC. The character creation here is the best I’ve ever seem. There are 3 Races spilt over 12 Classes for you to choose. All are humans (in keeping with the Conan story), but you can choose between the Cimmerians, the Aquilonians, or the Stygians. The races you choose affect your class in a great way. For example, only the Stygians can be spell-casters. You can also mold the face and body to great details. Once the creation is over, the story begins.

The story starts when the slave vessel you were in is destroyed in a storm. You awake on the sands of an island and a cut scene. A strange old man tells you that you are a slave and that your slave master is on his way to town to report you as an escaped slave. Off you go to kill the slave master, and along the way you get to save a near-naked damsel in distress.

This section serves as a tutorial of sorts and is pretty well done. After killing the said slave-master, you will reach the city of Tortage. It is here that Age of Conan tries to offer something different from other MMOs. In Tortage, AoC is almost like a single-player game. There are plenty of cut scenes and even…voice acting. Gasp, voice acting in a MMO! The city of Tortage also has a series of quests called the Destiny Quests. When you enter the quest, you will be in an instance. This section is the story of the game and I thought it was very well done. The Destiny Quests you do is specific to the class you selected. In my first character as a barbarian (hey, Conan is a barbarian right), I had to steal a magical scroll from a witch, but when I was a demonologist doing the same quest, I had to complete tasks and become the apprentice of the same witch. This was a welcome change in the story which I enjoyed.

Once you reach level 19, you will be given the quest to get off the island. You can stay on the island till level 22 but I got off immediately. Once you are off the island, you will be transported to your homeland. From here on, AoC becomes more like a regular MMO. Vast maps to explore, lots to kill and quests to do.

So far, I enjoyed my time in Hyboria. The world is interesting and different from the other worlds out there in other MMOs. Other MMOs feel that they have to have a cutesy feel to it to attract the kids. That is not AoC. AoC is clearly a game meant for mature audiences, the game is littered with heads on spikes, naked women, foul language, betrayal and evil demons all over the place. I enjoy the fact that this is not a cookie-cutter game and that Funcom decided to take some risks. The magic system for one is totally different from other games. In AoC, magic is black magic. When a mage cast a spell, you are doing black magic and the game do let you forget it. I love it!

However, there are some weaknesses in the game. The beautiful deserts and gorgeous mountains in the game come at a steep price. The System Requirements in AoC are way higher than any other MMO I’ve played. If you don’t have a good computer, I suggest you forget about the game totally. Also different is that the world is not seamless. Every different part of Hyboria is separated and you must wait for a load before you can enter the next zone. This I just hate and I hope Funcom can do something about this. I also didn’t think much of the combat system. Most other MMOs has a standard auto-attack feature, but in AoC you have to press a key for each individual attack. There is Left, Right, and Forward, and then Lower Left and Lower Right. This system is used for combos. For example, after you use a combat power, you can enter Left or Right to continue the move and do even more damage. You press wrong the wrong key, and the combo stop. It’s a unique style that a lot of players in AoC seem to like but personally I don’t feel it’s that different.

However I will say that overall AoC is different! Whereas every other MMOs out there is trying to copy World of Warcraft (Warhammer Online is almost World of Warcraft 2.0), Funcom bring their game to a different direction. AoC may or may not be the game for you, but I strongly suggest you try it. No matter what, it is something different (especially at the start) and I enjoyed it immensely.

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