Let me start by saying, this is a review based on my opinions.
That being said, hello everyone. I'll be your reviewer for the day.
As I finally ran the application for Age of Conan after a few hours of installation, I was prompted with a visually appealing patcher. Finally when the game was all patched up and ready to go, I entered into the Age of Conan.
When you come to the character creation, you are on board the slave boat that has taken you captive. Surrounded with other slaves, you choose your sex which then leads to your race, your class, and then your finer details.
After spending a good ten minutes deciding what I wanted to be, and how I wanted to look, I entered the island of Tortage. Immediately I was sucked into a "cut scene" which would help me through story line, I could assume. Once the cut scene ended, I went into yet another cut scene with an NPC whom discovered me washed ashore in my.. silken bathing suit? Anyways, the graphics on the island are immediately a stunner. I was surrounded by a lush jungle, crystal clear water, and a woman that is.. wait a second, that woman is chained up in a rather appealing outfit. I think i'll go talk to her.
Your first quest is for a woman that has also been captured, but for a different type of "slavery". She sends you to find the key to release her, you kill bad guy, he drops key, you free wench, yay she loves you. Ok, you get it.
While doing this quest and getting through the jungle, the new "combat system" is introduced to you. No longer do you have to sit there and spam the same attack... or do you? Let me just say, I love the idea of a new combat system. There are issues with it, however.. and you can see my "PvE and PvP Combat" section on the subject at the bottomISH of this post.
I'm just going to speed forward through all this a few levels. After you enter the city of Tortage, and once you hit Level 5, you can begin your "Destiny Quest" line. These quests are an addition some would argue as being "new", I have seen this type of thing before and cannot claim the same thing. The idea was well worth it though, and you will hear no complaints from me. The greatest thing about the Destiny Quest line is that you can literally get "stuck" doing them because you get so into the story line. You'll be 13 before you even leave your first chunk of quests' (if you do them all without getting bored and going back into day time Tortage).
More skipping through to Level 40. By now, you've done a few dungeons and you've done one or two group quests (hopefully), so you see how the party system works. At 40 you are able to purchase a mount (which would be a horse, or if you bought the special editions/pre-orders you may have a Rhino or Mammoth to trot around on). Most people that hit Level 40 will find that you aren't able to ding and then run to town, scoop up your mount, and ride away. This isn't other games guys, I didn't end up getting my mount until around 54 myself. Not to mention, I borrowed some silver from a pal in town. So, don't get too excited about riding that horse all over the place, not to mention while I was playing they decided to remove the "attacks" (probably due to that guy that was in Conall's Valley hind kicking everyone off the bridge that you must cross to leave town) for the mounts.
More fast forwarding to Levels 60-80. This is the part of the game that lacks content compared to the lower levels. You'll find yourself going to the same spot for an hour or so of grinding (and competing for that spot with guilds) to get 80. I personally never ran out of quests, but this is just what all my guildies had warned me of.
As a level 80, the only thing you can really do is go around and kill people. You can also go zerg the raid bosses which have close to no personal feel to them, and it's literally just a big.. poop fest (which is sad for a raider).
Ok so, that was just to pin point certain parts of the "Age of Conan" leveling life. Now, for my actual "statistical inserts", which is just a really spiffy name for a more broken down explanation of certain aspects of the game.
[Graphics and Interface]
Almost everyone will say it, Age of Conan is maybe one of the best games out there as far as "ooh shinies" goes. If you can run it on High Settings with textures all maxed, it is like literally playing a 3-D Animated movie. The renderings are amazing, the anatomy is top notch.
You'll find the whole "helmet/hair" issue where if you have hair and you wear certain hoods, your hair will poke out in odd places. Amazing that is the one complaint I can really make as far as the graphics goes.
There is one issue I found with the game, when I first tried to play. I run a decent laptop, and after reading all the forums while I was patching I knew I should have no problem running the game on medium settings. Since medium was giving me such a hard time, I tried Low.. what a mistake. It seems that they didn't do a great job of programming the settings for the game. I found that at Medium with Shaders at 2.0 and Shadows off, my FPS was double versus having my settings at low and textures SO low that the game was one big blob. So, take that one as you will..
The interface itself is pretty basic. You can't really customize anything, no clicking and dragging really. There are no "avatars" of your actual character. It's a simple, "Name/Health" at the top left of the screen. Your actual health/mana/stamina is in an odd set place, to the low center and left of your screen which is horizontally opposite of your targets. There is a "show targets' target" option, but it's rather easy to miss. The chat interface is pretty awful as well, it's fairly easy to ignore people talking trash since the colors were poorly chosen.
[Sounds, Technical Issues and Bugs]
As far as the sound goes, you can't really do much about a game having "repetitive character noises", such as yells and shrieks of pain. I can't complain about the sounds in the game, especially not the enviromental sounds. I will tell you that I play with my sound off, though.
Ahh Techinical Issues. I run this game with Medium Quality, 2.0 Shaders, and no shadows. I run this game decently well with these settings on a little Inspiron 1720 laptop -- which means that I don't have the most amazing gaming compatability. The only issue I had was with the video card, and lag at first try. I was shooting at 0.5FPS and I knew all too well something was up, a complete graphics driver wipe and re-install fixed it right up.
Another thing I noticed was the constant crashes. I crash at least 8 times a day while zoning. I've heard this is just because it's MY client, there is no telling.
The bugs.. oh the freaking bugs in this game. Every patch they fix something, they break another thing. At the start of the game, Tempests' of Set could have an uncountable amount of their idols due to bugs, in case you're wondering.. big bad Tempest of Set goes pew pew all over your face. There was also a bug with (mentioned below) a boss in the Sanctum dungeon (the first grouping dungeon) that would literally stand there and let you beat her until she died. As well as a bug with the boss in Tombs (Field of the Dead) that chases you to the spawn point if you wipe on her (which you probably will a few times -- she is uhm.. really hard?). I also find a lot of wierd client side issues when i'm running the game.
1.) Things like me sitting under my horse (only a torso and sliding along the ground) while he runs, at least i'm still moving at mount speed.
2.) OR the bug where I can't use stairs preventing me from being able to get into levels of Noble District.
3.) Or the bug where I fall through all the terrain, such as rocks, hills, or walking straight through buildings.
4.) Or even the bug where you are stuck in combat (may have been intentional) from a party member that can be a whole four zones away from you which prevents YOU from resting.
5.) Don't forget the bug that was avoiding people from leaving the island when they needed to kill that one named guy (no spoilers).
Ah, the list could go ON and ON. Those bugs were the ones I encountered before Level 60, no less.
Note: Bugs 1-3 can be fixed with a complete game restart, however.
Ok, this is where the game gets some negative points (which isn't even their fault that they appeal to certain kind of people). The first thing you'll see when you enter Tortage, is the wonderful and best ignored "OOC chat". This is a chat set for specific zones/areas and when you bring so many people to one place to talk, things get messy.
Once you are in higher level zones where killing people becomes part of your everyday leveling life, you deal with ALOT of complaints. People play on a global PvP game and you can't wait to slaughter them, too bad right after they send you a message questioning why you did it. I mean.. what do you say to that? I personally killed people because of their guild tags, but if I did choose to kill some random bloak I'm sure as heck not going to explain myself and as to why I did it. No matter what, you will not escape this and its' best you just suck it up. Not to mention, the OOC spam for "NAME sucks because he killed me whil i kil mobz i wuz like 50% healfth" is never ending, and so why OOC Chat is best turned off.
They also added "Regional" chats which are just OOC but way larger in size, I don't have to tell you what events take place there. Uncheck the subscription to the channel, just do it.
I will not be grading this, since there is no real way to do anything about this is except maybe banning spammers.
The role playing in the game is very minimal considering the amazing story line there is no to offer. You get three types of role players when you join an RP server.
1.) Mary Sue - The guy that is a demon summoned with the blood of a made up god like Khampf Anumuman and will eventually end the world with his huge wings of fire and hooves that resemble the hooves of an evil steed from HELL. Can you take that seriously? No? Ok, that's why it's a Mary Sue.
2.) Story/Comic Lore - These are the guys that role play from the lore that was created via: the comics and books. There is an issue with this, however, because in the game there are certain destiny events that completely over-ride this lore.
3.) Game Lore - The guys that go by the lore of the game play itself as they progress through levels. The problem with these guys is that you get the Story/Comic Lore role players that will tell them they are wrong. So you get Game Lore role players that are taking their fast shot at an RP server just to be discouraged by the guys who say they're wrong -- though it's the game wrong.
I personally role play lightly, and I did play on an RP server. The problem with role playing servers is that it is only "acceptable" in /say or /shout. It's just not possible according to the lore to speak over a global channel, so the idea of role playing over a global channel is always mocked (advice to new role players: don't do it). If I created a big war against other guilds (which has happened a few times) I would be greeted back with role play when I dished mine out. Other than that, if you want role play, you better initiate it.
Some tips I can offer to initiate role playing in Age of Conan:
1.) Don't Mary Sue, obviously.
2.) Try to remember to use brackets when you are speaking OUT OF CHARACTER so people role playing with you do not become confused. In example:
Say: My name is Alcin. Son of Methidon from the valley of Conall.
Say: ((Brb, I need to take the trash out.))
Get it? Ah well, you will.
3.) Walk through cities, do not RUN. I know this sounds silly, but it helps a LOT. I've walked through towns with my mount and people knew I was there to take part in some role playing action.
4.) Do not role play a character that will control the other role players around them. This kind of fits into not being a "Mary Sue", but it's a seperate topic. You can still not be a Mary Sue with a story line that affects other characters, which is a no-no.
5.) Turn off "OOC" and the Global Area channel.
Execution: F (Who makes a game that is supposed to claim a high respect for Role Players that destroys the Story Lore? Honestly..)
NOTE: Some of you apparently feel this "Role Playing" section belongs here because of all the information that "doesn't seem to do with the game" and the review itself. When you have a game that has been following by the Lore with books suddenly just NOT do it anymore because they wanted to make their customer excited to play the game.. you get some upset role players. Age of Conan also follows a "strict set of rules" (according to Funcom) as far as the naming policy goes for ALL SERVER TYPES due to keeping the "feel of the environment" and the game alive. That is why I included the role playing information. It's like Lord of the Rings releasing a game where everyone could play Frodo or something.. it's just not supposed to happen.
[Economy and Guilds]
The economy and the guilds tie in at a very tight knit grip right now, and let me explain why. As of right now, crafting is useless. I mean USE-LESS. This is my opinion, don't get offended if you disagree, this is MY review and I vote useless. Ok? Ok. Gems were bugging and crashing clients, alchemy requires ingrediants that aren't even in the game yet. Which means one thing, the only resources worth farming for a profit are the ones required to build guild cities.
I myself got my guild city to Tier 2 and we were just finishing the walls. Farming the materials is not horrible, by any means. I rather farm in the game than actually play the game. Anyways, back to why the economy and the guilds tie in so well. Since there is no use for resources other than guild cities, you get these farmers that sit out for hours as Level 80's with nothing better to do than farm. Well, some how the prices on these resources are incredibly cheap. Your plan to create a T1 Construct is 1.25S (Dropped from 2G recently) and then your materials. Each construct needs like, eh.. at least 50 of each T1 resource (unless it is a wall or tower). You can go onto the trader and buy this for maybe 12S sometimes. Now, at low levels that is hard.. but after Level 55 you start making about 1G in a day of farming so <Shrug> take that one as you will.
As far as guild cities goes, they have no point in the game at the moment. They recently added the Trader to your Trader building in the guild city. Trader in your city means now you can grab and store in the guild bank, check the auction house, all that. The buildings are SUPPOSED to give out special feats for your guildies, just like the feats you spec into as you level for your "characters' build". These feats are not currently active in the game.
Then you have keeps, the thing we guild city owners were all so excited about. Have a battle keep and fighting one force versus another sounded amazing. Well, here's a few reason why it's not so amazing at this present time:
1.) Lag issues, not in actual latency but in FPS with even the most top notch systems. Being "Looked into" according to Funcom.
2.) No bonuses, still.
3.) Issues with guild buildings having an abnormally low amount of "health" if you will. They just don't last long enough, apparently.
4.) You have to "setup" a time you want to attack someones Keep. They get to agree, and the two of you can fight an epic duel. Some argue this good, some argue this bad. I won't state my opinion.
5.) The best part. You guys worked really hard to pass T3 and make a Keep?! Great! You can't attack other Keeps though.. nope. You can only be attacked. Great, defense wars are my favorite.
[PvE and PvP Combat]
So, everyone has been pretty excited about a new combat system that isn't just spamming the same little shortcut over and over again. In my opinion, it's not much different in Age of Conan. You still sit there spamming keys, and I don't see how it would be different for any game really.. what else would you do if you WEREN'T hitting the same keys over and over again?
One thing to note as A+ in Age of Conan, the way the "AoE" works. I don't particularly mean Area of Effect "Spells", I mean the way weapons work in hitting more than one target. The great thing about Age of Conan is that finally some physics was put into a game with a law that basically states "If there is three mobs in front of me.. and I'm swishing my sword around, I think it should hit all three mobs". The sad thing about this, is that it has completely spoiled me and I have trouble playing games where my weapon is only capable of hitting one enemy at a time.
As far as these "New Combo" styles go, I can't help but be really upset with them. I love the idea of having to do a certain order of attacks to perform a combo, that's great. I dislike the fact that when execute your combo, your character goes into a "cutscene" of their own (if you will). Basically, they take part in a non-avoidable animation for each combo (IE: Twirling, Swooshing around, etc). The problem with this (as a female character) is that apparently when Funcom designed this amazing idea, they made the animations for female avatars longer than male ones. When you take longer to do your dance from your combo, you are not able to use AS MANY combos, when you are not able to use as many combos you do less DPS. According to Funcom they are "looking into it" just as they always claim.
The combos for melee also create a problem for PvP situations. Lets just say Player A is running from Player B (whom is a melee). Player B can have 40 levels on this guy, and even if he wanted to kill him chances are he isn't going to chase him around because it will be one big waste of time. Basically, when you are trying to chase someone and execute your combos to actually DO damage, your animation takes so long that you sit there doing your stuff, while the player just runs off. It takes a player maybe .5 seconds to get out of your range while you're doing a combo that takes about two seconds. This doesn't sound like a big deal, but when you roll Melee and try to PvP people that run off, you come back to me and we'll talk.
[Class Balance and Skills]
So, when we come acoss the conversation about class balance you need to remember one note. This game is very new. How long did it take other games to balance out their classes for PvP? A few years you say? Some even argue that they STILL are not balanced, so keep that in mind.
Another thing is that all game companies make the same mistake, instead of buffing up classes to have equal chances versus other classes, they NERF. Yes, lets nerf people and piss them off because WE were the guys that thought this might be an amazing idea to give a class - they get to enjoy it for awhile and we snatch it away. Funcom is following this exact path, and of course there is plenty of complaints.
That being said, to the classes. Tempest of Set are argueable the most "over powered", though i've done my research and I rarely see them on the top DPS charts. The thing about these guys is that their heals are HoT's, and due to POOR COMBO EXECUTION DESIGN if a melee even tries to fight a decent ToS, the guy isn't going to sit there and let him get combos off. This means, your white damage doesn't out damage his heals, period. Assassins and Dark Templar are argueably the most useless class (which is sad to hear since my Dark Templar was my main to 80). You will literally see people asking for group members and saying "we want NO DT or Ass(assin)". There are people that would literally whisper me on my DT and ask what possessed me to level one.
Honestly, it's argued that Bear Shaman/Priest of Mitra/Tempest of Set are the most over powered. They are HEALERS, they have more survivability with sacrificing some armor. Oh, but wait a second.. Does it really matter what your armor is if you aren't getting hit since you can sit and watch someone execute a combo and then jump out of the way? No, it does not.
Aka: I don't think any classes are over powered, I think they need to make combos executeable while moving. Period.
Execution: B (I give this an B, because I don't believe they did a bad job with class equality other than DT and Ass. I just think Combo Execution needs to be tweaked.)
[Questing and Leveling]
Earlier in the game you will literally fly through levels from purely quests. You don't find yourself having to really "Grind" until around level 55 and up. Fortunatly for us, the grinding in the game really isn't that bad. Funcom did a great job of keeping the leveling requirement for experiance well scaled, maybe a little TOO well scaled (I was 80 within the first two or so weeks).
Your destiny quests' also aren't as easy to come across once you're out of Tortage. After Tortage you get another Destiny Quest at Level 30, then 50, then 60, then your final at 80.
Around 71 I started to rely on Villa quests for a good amount of experiance. Villa quests are these quests for a solo dungeon assigned to (only) you that you can repeat (I believe every four hours) in the Noble District of Tarantia.
You will find that grouping up for experiance (especially with a Tempest of Set) is well worth it. I leveled with a Tempest of Set by my side to 80 (as a Dark Templar) and we would literally just go into camps of about 12 mobs and just destroy them within a few seconds left at full health/mana/stamina.
For the most part, you don't ever find yourself needing to grind to go to a new zone or do a certain quest. There was always a quest I could do, and contrary to popular belief, the grey quests' in this game are worth the keep. Most players also suggest keeping all your Level 70 quests, grinding to 75, and then starting quests from there so that you can hit 80 with no time issues.
[Dungeons and Raids]
The dungeons in the game are still rather buggy. One of the bosses in Sanctum was bugged to simply stand there while you attacked her (to death) for a few good weeks. Character leashes (at least last I played) were also in the dungeons, meaning that when you ran past a group of mobs that aggroed you and you continued to run, they would eventually go back to their original placement in said dungeon.
Raiding in this game is just.. awful for me. When I come from a chain of games with amazing dungeons, epic "strategy" fights, and organized classes for doing certain things in said raid, it's hard to take the raids in Age of Conan seriously. "We have tank, we have heal, we have stabby stab, we win", it's just awful. Not to mention, the raid bosses were wigging out for the first groups to them, which resulted in basically free epic loot that couldn't be taken away since they did technically beat the boss that dropped said loot.
All I can say is, if you are used to really personal raid fights where you need XX player at XX spot in XX time or you all wipe (and you enjoy this) then you may also be dissappointed with how the raiding dungeons work.
Ps. I'm not saying this can't easily be improved, but it will probably be another few months before it is changed up a bit.
Ok... customer service, where to start. Well, lets start where it all began.. in Tortage. My first character ever was a Tempest of Set, ah how I enjoyed her. Unfortunately for me, she got stuck in the quest to leave the island (which is a part of your destiny quests). The problem with the Destiny Quests' is that they send you to private dungeons, meaning a dungeon for ONLY yourself. Since these little "dungeons" are triggered by certain events in the game, once you get past one event you cannot go back to the other ones. In example, you need to kill XX boss in front of burning building to extenguish the fire, so you do all that. You cannot come back now, since it's supposed to be like a "realistic" story line. When things are scripted out like this, and your character happens to bug out on a boss you killed and then you do not get the credit for it, you can't leave the instance.
So basically, my story is that in the City of Tortage you are supposed to kill a man to speak to ANOTHER man about leaving the island. In this event I killed said man and got no credit, so the second man I needed to speak to would not speak to me. This resulted in a whole 9 hours of waiting around the next day for ONE GM Ticket to be opened.
Now, let it be known that getting a GM response with a GM Ticket is not at all an instant thing. You need to basically know you're going to have at least four hours of just sitting at your computer watching your monitor - 4 hours being the VERY least-. If you petition a GM and then happen to leave your computer, your petition can time out. So you just wasted your spot in line, and now you have to petition all over.
Even though the GM's do take forever, mine was incredibly helpful. She assisted me perfectly, helping me to the island, giving me my Destiny Quest reward, and setting me on my way.
Age of Conan was a fun game for about, a week. After hitting 80, you kind of sit around and wonder what you do next. I myself had my own guild, an amazing website for it, city walls are about done, and I still can't decide to stay or not. The raiding is just absolute icky compared to what i'm used to. The combat system is great, but the combo system can make PvP a nightmare. I think that Funcom just needed to find some way to fix whatever problem it was that made them release this game so early, because obviously it wasn't ready. There has been people saying "Oh, it was funds", or "Oh, it was Warhammer", yea.. I really don't care what it was. They should have thought a bit harder before releasing something that was not worth really purchasing.
I have to be honest, I am very un-biased with games. I play every free MMO I see, I play all the payed ones for at least a month to get the feel for them. I have seen free MMO's with far more to offer and way less buggier than Age of Conan. That, is not a good thing..
Overall Effort: C (You may have tried very hard.. but obviously not hard enough).
Overall Execution: B (You did something right, you made tons of money. Lets see if it keeps flowing at this rate).