Yep, it's true. I'm going to do a review of the Beta PvP Weekend.
Let me make this VERY clear:
This is NOT an Age of Conan review.
It's an Age of Conan Beta PvP Test Weekend review.
NDA was lifted for the weekend event yesterday. Since this is the only experience I have playing Age of Conan, remember that this is a very limited section of the game.
The Beta PvP weekend gives you character creation, about 5 levels (20-30 mins) of PvE content, and level 20 PvP matchmaking "battleground" type games.
Let's start first with graphics and performance.
My computer can't handle this game all turned up. I've got a 2.2ghz Dual AMD Athlon with 2 gig RAM and a 8600 GT. In order to have perfectly smooth framerate for PvP, I have to run on low settings. I'm sure since this is beta and not the full build it will perform differently then release.
It still looks great, and it runs very, very smooth. I'm able to bump up to Medium settings for the brief PvE tutorial. Beyond that, the character models and animations are excellent. The art style and "immersion" factor is way up. The jungles feel like jungles and the crypts feel like crypts. I'm really impressed by the animations. They are smooth and realistic. The fatalities are a nice treat every once in a while. When someone kills you with a fatality move it goes into kind of a cinematic mode where you watch the brutal death from the killers perspective. It's a nice touch.
Even on low settings this game looks top notch. I could barely move on High settings but it looked stunning. This game has some of the best character models I have seen in a MMORPG.
Server performance isn't bad, only 1 major outage Saturday night. Random disconnects now and again, but that is to be expected.
Graphics - 10/10
Performance - 8/10
Sound I'll only mention briefly. Lots of grunting and yelling which suits the IP and the setting well. The music is good, though very sparse. Voice acting in PvE tutorial section is top notch.
Sound - 9/10
Let's move to character creation.
There are three "races" though they are all humans. Your choice of race defines your look and customization options, but also available class selections. There are the standard body type and face and hair style etc. etc. that we are all used to, but you have an "advanced" mode where there are sliders for everything. I haven't played around too much, but it's an enjoyable and interesting system. As I said before, this game features some of the best looking character models I have ever seen in a MMORPG.
This is only limited by the fact there are only about a dozen hairstyles to choose from, and many are shared between races.
Character Creation - 9/10
The interface is pretty standard fair MMORPG. Nothing new or exciting or interesting to report here. Seems very dull and drab though. Like looking at a slab of granite.
Interface - 7/10
The PvE experience in the Beta PvP Test Weekend is painfully short. 20-30 minutes total play time, roughly 4-5 levels. My only complaint about the PvE is the length.
The quests / story are pretty standard fair, but the use of cutscenes and dialogue options add greatly to the experience. At this stage, I'm not sure any of the dialogue choices really matter, but I imagine they have more influence later on.
The game play is smooth and well paced. This opening tutorial island area is very linear and very easy, you can take on 3-4 baddies at a time no problem. I know this is "as designed" to ease players into the game. One thing I do enjoy is that even at these low levels, I've had many different armor/clothing options drop off of mobs. They have the same stats but totally different looks. I think this is a major plus.
PvE - 9/10
The PvP experience:
This Beta PvP Test Weekend offers a selection of 4 maps of 2 different game types. 1 map for a Deathmatch style game and 3 Capture the Flag maps. Each is fairly basic, symetrical, and on par with what you'd expect from a FPS type game or a similar MMO like the WoW battlegrounds. The areas all look interesting and function well, there are a few glitchy areas but that is to be expected. A few spots where you can get "stuck" and become invulnerable but unable to do anything.
Not going to go into too much detail on gameplay specifics, but everything you'd expect from this type of instanced, team based PvP is there. Teamwork helps a whole lot, as does communication and coordination.
PvP - 8/10
So how about them classes? There are 12 class of 4 different archetypes. Pretty much, they are Warriors, Priests, Rogues, Magicians. As I said before your racial selection determines what classes are available.
I've had the chance to try out every single one, so I'm not going to be too specific, but all the classes seem interesting and unique.
In terms of balance, after they fixed the Ranger class (was way too overpowered initially) it seems like the balance is actually pretty good at this stage. Any class that gets the jump on any other class has a fairly high chance of victory. Any 1vs1 fight is winnable (in my experience) and group engagements are just as chaotic and fun as you'd expect them to be.
Each class has skill points for different stats like mana regen, health regen, your ability to hide (everyone can hide and move stealthy if they choose) your detection of hidden players, taunt rating for PvE tanks etc.
You also have a very WoW like talent tree system. 3 trees, two specific to that class and the 3rd tree is generic across the archetype.
Nothing really new and different here.
Classes - 7/10
Combat, the big one.
There is no autoattack. You can attack in three direction, left right and middle (top). You have to manual click or hit the appropriate key (1,2,3 by default) in order to swing your weapon. Targeting is somewhat sticky, but range does count. You can swing at any time, but you have to be in range and facing your target to land the attack. You can also damage other players/mobs that you swing at even if they are not your selected target.
The abilities and spells come in two forms. The standard "click and activate" and the AoC combos. You hit your ability key then have to swing an either 1 or 2 step combo sequence. I'm posting a screen with the combo indicator at the end of this article.
You also have "shields." 3 rings of protection that are by default evenly distributed on your left, right, and center arc. These of course correspond to the left, right, center swing directions of your attacks. You can manual reassign the shield rings to stack a certain direction. Like all 3 center or 2 center one left etc.
I have found no point to this yet. You can't see the enemies shield rings in PvP, and in PvE you can't tell what sector the mob/npc is swinging at. I'm sure this may have some use later, especially in PvE, but I don't see too much point to it now. If you look at the screenshot of combat, you'll see the crocodile has their shield rings distributed. All this means is that you then choose to swing at an "unprotected" area instead. It's simple, but does add an element to combat that makes you more involved.
You actually have to pay attention to your opponents defenses and react accordingly. Again, this is only in PvE.
Bunny hoppers in PvP are 10x time as annoying. Your toon tries to autotrack their movement, but you end up having to turn around and move a lot. This makes it hard to then select the 3 direction attack keys. Maybe I'm just not that good at it yet, but I screw up a lot of combos trying to keep myself in range and facing a bunny hopper in PvP.
Combat - 7/10
Finally the big question:
Is it fun?
The short answer is yes. The PvE experience was fun and interesting, not all too different then you'd expect from any other MMORPG but the combat system makes it a little more involved. The cutscenes and dialogue are a great addition.
The PvP is fast and furious, and suprisingly well balanced at the level 20 tier. (once they fixed Ranger that is) The capture the flag scenarios seem a lot more fun and interesting to me personally, and this is mostly because not too many people actually care about winning, just slaughtering each other and improving their own kill/death ratio.
It's a very satisfying PvP experience that has kept me glued all weekend. The short PvE experience makes me itch for more, so that is definetly a positive.
It's WAY too hard to comment on the longevity of the title because this is just a small taste of the game. It's like taking away everything in WoW except the battlegrounds. There is still so much to be seen.
Fun factor - 8/10
Finally the little stuff.
It's the little stuff that really makes or breaks a game for me. This is a very limited test but from what I have seen this is the area that concerns me most. It's just stupid little simple things that I feel are done horribly wrong but have a lasting effect on my impression of the game.
The logout command (/camp) and the logout menu button in the option menu don't actually say "Logout." Instead they say "Exit Game." It's very stupid in my opinion and misleading. The global chat and help channels are filled with people asking how they log out. Such a small thing, but a big difference.
Also when you do log out you are taken back to the login screen, not the character selection. Maybe it's just a personal preference thing, but I don't like it.
It also seems to take FOREVER for your character to actually log out. Trying to switch to a different toon is a hassle. You log out, are taken back to the login screen, authenticate, get to character select... But then if your character isn't fully logged out yet and you try and log in on a different toon, you get an error and it boots you back to the Login prompt. Annoying as hell. You have to relog in back to the character select and try again, hoping your previous toon finally frak'n logged out.
When you queue up for a PvP scenario you've got this huge window taking up half the screen with the search running. I guess I'm just totally used to the "queue and forget" system in WoW where all you have on screen is the mini-map icon.
When you die in PvP even it takes you to a loading screen. It's brief sure, but it's still a loading screen every time you die...
Little Things - 5/10
Overall.... Overall I'm excited to hopefully get into the Fileplanet beta starting May 1st. I really want to explore the PvE side more. This Beta PvP Weekend Test was such a small taste, but I like what I saw. I'm not going to rush out and pre-order a copy, but I am excited for another chance to play.
Overall rating (sum of total scores / maximum possible) --
87/110 = .7909 %
Overall Score - 7.9 / 10