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BadSpock's Logical Conclusions.

My random thoughts about MMORPGs. A bit of critique, suggestion, debate, and insanity. Enjoy.

Author: BadSpock

Age of Conan Beta PvP Weekend Review

Posted by BadSpock Sunday April 20 2008 at 1:46PM
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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

PvE Experience:

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

Lhex writes:

Its the small things that kill a game for me too. It shows whether or not the game is polished.  One big let down I hear from players is the inability to finish combos during PvP due to bunny hopping and just the frenetic pace of battle.  And the lack of class balance, the assassin seems overpowered to me, the ranger of course and the pet classes seem gimped.

But I believe spellweaving is not implemented yet and once it is, caster classes may be alot stronger.

Yes, they have a pretty game, but actual gameplay is what makes a game successful. The first 20 mins of any game has a shock and awe euphoria, but can the class balances be ironed out to make for some solid gameplay is left to be seen.

From what I have seen in the beta weekend, no skill or strategy took place, just a zerg and strike mentality. Hopefully, during keep seiging we will see more at stake and more skill and strategies.

Sun Apr 20 2008 2:13PM Report
BadSpock writes:

Yeah I've tried to use the shielding and dodging and active blocking..

But it is no-where near as effective as spamming your combat abilities and taking care to make sure your combos hit.

If the other player isn't bunny hopping around like an idiot, and you are fighting toe to toe with another player, it's just a battle of numbers.

My class vs. their class. My 12 talent points vs. their 12 talent points. And of course luck, who can land more crits, etc.

You are right about the zerg and strike though, that's all it is right now.

Sun Apr 20 2008 2:31PM Report
grimfall writes:

You're 'little things' are a classic example of why not to do a review of a game, especially based on a one-weekend beta event.  Both of those problems are easily fixable, and probably on the list of things to fix before release.

About the shields, are you sure that there's no way to tell what your opponent is aiming at or using?  Could they have been sublte hints that you're missing?

Sun Apr 20 2008 2:54PM Report
faunus writes:

also remember you are seeing basically 5 levels worth of content in a restricted area used for production. Granted, it could be representative of a whole....but i doubt it.

Sun Apr 20 2008 2:57PM Report
BadSpock writes:

That is why I said about 10 times that this review is very limited and only covers the small portion of content available.

This is NOT an AoC review.

It's an Age of Conan Beta PvP Test Weekend review.

And the shield arcs are very noticable in PvE, I haven't seen them pop up on my targets in PvP.

Sun Apr 20 2008 3:04PM Report
Meltdown writes:

Actually your knowledge of the other class may be quite helpful in setting your sheilds. Assuming the combo attacks attack in the direction that you must hit then knowing that can protect you from their bigger attacks.

Of course this is untested and the combos may simply be dmg not from any specific direction.

Sun Apr 20 2008 3:44PM Report
daylight01 writes:

A nice honest review of the pvp weekend,thanks.

As for the small things,I think alot of what you mentioned does sound very much like a game still in beta and using an older engine so I would expect alot of them to be sorted for release,I think the biggest worry is the bunny hopper's it really could turn out to be so fustrating if this stay's the same and this would be the sort of thing that would turn gamer's away.

Sun Apr 20 2008 4:13PM Report
todeswulf writes:

"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, but too bad it's only for the first 20 levels. "

What in the hell are you talking about?  There are these type quest throughout the game.

Sun Apr 20 2008 5:02PM Report
BadSpock writes:

I was under the impression from reading the FAQ and discussing on the boards that the "single player like" experience is only the first 20 levels of the game.

 

Sun Apr 20 2008 8:10PM Report
BadSpock writes:

Of course if you could provide evidence to the contrary I would be delighted to see it.

 

Sun Apr 20 2008 8:10PM Report
Xasapis writes: The first 20 levels function as a archetype/class introduction to the world. The quests taking place during the night are done in single player mode. The quests taking place during day time can be done with others. There is a main quest line, starting at the Tortage island and following the player all the way up to the max level. The way the quests are delivered through the game remain the same. Therefore the cutscene approach of the various quests and the "first person" interaction with the NPCs is still there throughout the game. What's missing is just the voice act. Mon Apr 21 2008 12:50AM Report
todeswulf writes:

Yep what  Xasapis said basically that has been stated many times, and the major quest will have the Voice acting in as well. It bogles the mind that folks are stil trying to push AoC as a quest till level 20 then it's open gank game.

God save us from these self appointed experts and their  reviews. /smirk

Mon Apr 21 2008 2:01AM Report
Daedren writes:

Nice review. Don't listen to the haters. ;)

How was class representation in your opinion?

Mon Apr 21 2008 3:13AM Report
grimfall writes:

About the shields, are you sure that there's no way to tell what your opponent is aiming at or using?  Could they have been sublte hints that you're missing?

Mon Apr 21 2008 8:34AM Report
Ryowulf writes:

In pvp the point of shields is to block against strong combo attacks.

The classes were very unbalanced due to them being so close in armor and hp. For example people bitch about assassins, but they are light armor killers. When the heavy armor comes in later assassins would have a hard time of it.

See each class owns and is also owned by different classes. Caster > tanks. Tanks > rogues Rogues > casters.

In any event casters rule at 20. Pets are great if you use them right. They can shut down healers fast.

Combos suck, which means melee has to rely on their standard attack without gaining the benefits so they are weaker right off the bat.

The world is to small and pathed. There are glass walls all over newbie island forcing you down a narrow path. In pvp its load screen after load screen. At a certain point if you die you don't respawn, but their is no option to watch or leave you can't only stare at the screen and wait.

Its not an awful game. It needs polish and its really not much different than any other mmo.

 

Mon Apr 21 2008 8:40AM Report
BadSpock writes:

There, I editted out the "too bad it's only the first 20 levels."

I was mistaken about that, I'm human. SORRY..

lol ya'll don't need to defend ssoooooo fiercely...

Grimfall - that's the 2nd time you said that... am I really missing something??

Mon Apr 21 2008 9:06AM Report
BadSpock writes:

Class representation was... hard to say definetively.

For instance I found the Conqueror and Barbarian to be very similar. The Conq. was fairly useless dual-wielding in my opinion, so I used a two-hand weapon, which made it eerily similar to the barbarian.

I really loved the Bear Shaman and Dark Templar. Bear Shaman was a great support class, not too offensively strong but the fast cast heals could help you stand toe to toe in a fight, and since the common heal was a heal over time, it was fun to hang back and buff/heal your buddies then charge in with 2H mace swinging!

The Dark Templar was just so hard to kill, not too offensively strong, but specced right I had 2-3 life taps going at once and some other great effects to keep myself standing and slowly drain my opponent down.

The Necomancer was a lot of fun with the 3 zombie pets, spells seemed weak but at distance I could usually burn someone down before they got to me... Unless they charged me. I think I specced wrong because I noticed other Necros (I think Necros) using a stun that rooted someone for 10 seconds... little too overpowered in my opinion...

Mon Apr 21 2008 9:13AM Report
Daedren writes:

Thanks for the feedback again herrobya.

I was really asking about Class representation. What was the most played class? I was assuming Rangers / Assassins to be everywhere.

Anyway, just curious, no big deal. ;)

Mon Apr 21 2008 10:37AM Report
Athelan writes:

At level 20 many of the classes will seem similar as they have not really grown into their identities that early on.

You are absolutely right about little things. It's the little things that are hard to lock all of them down and make things appear polished and thats one of the main focus's for us right now.

Thanks for the very objective write-up I think with a bit more time to play we could get you to raise a few of those scores.

Mon Apr 21 2008 12:47PM Report
Tron420 writes:

I agree with Heerobya entirely. However he left out something that REALLY BOTHERED ME. When you die, you can't interact with any of your interface except the chat window by clicking on it. And during those times where your totem was destroyed making you unable to respawn, staying dead for a long time resulted in lots of prolonged AFK time for me.

 

Just to parallel one of your thoughts, I found it difficult to position myself for combos while executing the combo at the same time. In this fast and furious PVP style, you have to constantly keep moving while you do all your combos. In the end I just made all of my combos the single button versions. However, I bet part of my problem was a L2P issue. :)

 

Lastly, I found the arrow and spell effects lacking. Also the melee combo animations could have been spruced up with some sort of glow effect or something.

Mon Apr 21 2008 2:26PM Report
BadSpock writes:

Oh sorry Daedren. Umm.. Actually, I didn't really noticed anything to skewed. 

I think a LOT of people were trying out a ton of different classes so not too many people stuck with one toon all weekend. 

So the class representation was all over the board. I did notice that Guardians, Dark Templars, and the Priest classes where some of the least represented, but you'd always find a couple here and there.

More Necromancers, Barbarians, Rangers, Assassins. 

But honestly, not overwhelmingly so.

Mon Apr 21 2008 3:12PM Report
BadSpock writes:

Very true Tron420 I forgot about that... I mean at LEAST let us look through our characters stats, ability windows, spec trees etc. 

And Athelan I have heard that the PvP weekend build is older build then the one currently in closed Beta.

So these issues may have already been resolved.. who knows? No one that can tell us without breaking the NDA, that's who!

Mon Apr 21 2008 3:16PM Report
Athelan writes:

Its a catch 22, when we added "glowy effects" to combo's people complained about it being too magicy and non lore based so :P damned if you do damned if you don't

Mon Apr 21 2008 5:35PM Report
Tron420 writes:

Athelan: yeah I bet... Can't please everyone. One of the reasons I even brought it up was because the amount of carnage going on was evident based on the sound effects / grunting going on instead of crap blowing up. Personally, I have a sweet spot for the _Video_ part in Video Game. =P

 

Going into a rated M game I was dying to see cool spell effects with limbs flying and blood gushing. But hey, I'm just one guy. I'm still glad I preordered.

Tue Apr 22 2008 12:14AM Report
BadSpock writes:

Most of the time I actually got a sweet fatality finish thing, I didn't even notice the cool animation, just the blood splatter on my screen because I was already battling someone else.

Wed Apr 23 2008 11:31AM Report
theodat writes:

I remember Vanguard...all of your reviews will be re-read in 30 days.  I won't make the $50 mistake again.  For now I am going to stick with what I know.  Alot of these reviews remind me when Vanguard came out. 

Sun May 18 2008 6:52PM Report

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