My Honest Review – Great Potential, but still Potential
Ok, yet another review of Age of Conan. I have played open beta, early access and currently own a Collector’s edition of the game. I signed up on a RP/PvP server.
What is great about this game?
The combat system is at least different, at best innovative for melee classes. The directional attacks are responsive and offer some strategy in addition to the hot button abilities we have seen in past MMOs. Combat also provides a chance for fatalities, which provide a bonus to the character and his/her party for a short period of time as well as an interesting animation. Critics argue that mashing 1-2-3 offers nothing more as far as strategy, but there is a difference when a player is trying to “break through an opening” of an enemies “shields” (more on this later). It does behoove you to pay attention to an enemies ‘shields” so you can inflict the most damage you can.
There are strafes, charges, evasions which all can play a role in combat. You can get off a stun, maybe evade an attack with quick successive directional move before attacking. This will undoubtedly cater more to the Xbox console gaming, but it works for the PC.
Combinations allow characters to chain special maneuvers for strategic effects, so instead of a hot button is mashed for an effect, a player needs to hit a directional attack to set the effect off. If you forget to hit the required button, it will stay up for a few seconds, allowing you to set it off for the next opponent.
Combat 9 out of 10
Reason I do not give it a 10 is because of the shield system. In PvE, the shield system offers a strategic method for physical characters. Suppose the enemy loads its protection to one side of its body. Your attacks are heavily mitigated and blunted in damage output. Players have to change the direction of their attacks for best effect. This is good for gamers. What falls apart is while they give the shield option for players, It is cumbersome to use. Holding down the control key and hitting 1-2-3 is what you need to do to adjust shield strength for your character. Unless FunCom makes this easier to use, I doubt anyone will use their protective shields for their avatar.
Visual 9 out of 10
If you were contemplating a new computer, this game may convince you to invest in a new gaming computer. It is visually stunning. Animations and detail to environment is a treat to behold. Even if the game doesn’t appeal to you in the long run, a computer that can run this game well should be able to run other games in the near future. Unfortunately, its boon is also its bane, because less than moderate systems can’t handle AoC performance well and as a result you have to put its settings on low and turn off a lot of goodies to endure the game demands.
Sound 10 out of 10
I cannot say enough about the backround music, combat grunts and yells, environmental sounds, and the voice overs in early levels. It is immersive and enjoyable. The log on screen is left on just to get me in the mood for a Conan world.
Content 7 out of 10
On the plus side, the gaming world is huge. You can fill your journal log quickly with things to do at up to about lvl 45. If you want to solo, you won’t find yourself competing for quest objectives too much. If you want to take on group objectives, you will start seeing calls for groups around the late twenties.
You can climb walls and swim underwater for some quest objectives. Have not seen underwater combat.
Drawbacks are that Quests are standard in nature, kill X number of enemies. Pick up/ delivery quests. One escort quest so far (in the White Sands instance). A few timed quests. Objects that you can interact with are only quest objectives.
As of this blog, higher end content is not as bountiful. A few high end dungeons. As most claim, we wish we had more.. They promise more..
Design 3 out of 10 (so far)
Age of Conan promised so much and seemed to deliver so little. The first twenty levels are immersive and gets you locked into the game - If you do not mind instancing. You get good storylines, but no variations. The interactions with NPCs offer a few choices. One inevitably terminating the conversation (Goodbye) and two more choices. Good news you can rifle through them without worrying about any wrong decision because they all end up being the same. Bad news is, well, see the last sentence.
AoC offers skills, abilities and feats. The abilities you get every 5 levels are the signature powers of your character after level 10. Feat points are awarded one per level and skills are generic things like hp regeneration, mana , hiding, perception, running. I feel like it was a City of Heroes common pool of powers for players to choose. So nothing really ground breaking until you hit every 5th level. And it is usually power upgrades instead of a new strategic ability. (example: Wave of Life: rank 1, rank 2 etc.)
AoC offers PvP. It promised blood money as loot from fallen players. This blood coin was the currency to purchase PvP gear. As of this blog, there is nothing. PvP is simply a diversion with no purpose. Thus, the only reason to kill other players other than mini games is … Ganking, Griefing, Spawn Camping are complaints in the game. I wonder why…Unless FunCom does something soon, Sieges – supposedly one of the end game content concepts, will be a diversionary exercise of guild pride only. Unlike WAR, which does promise rewards for players for participating in PvP activity, AoC has little to offer other than personal PvP thrill at this time.
Loot has been mediocre so far in AoC. Green items are common, and blue items are rare, purple items are raid only (except a final reward in the Arena). The best items are received from quests thus far. When starting out I thought I was going to be impressed by cosmetic variations of loot with similar stats. Do I want a pirate boots or sandals? Do I want a pirate chest top or robe? Sadly this does not seem to persist in later levels. Given there is no fashion vendor I thought AoC was going to solve that cosmetic problem with a variety of loot drops with similar stats.
For all the problems with Vanguard, I must say travel was painless given the vastness of it. Age of Conan gives my feet blisters until mid game. If you didn’t preorder, well I suppose you will be walking more until you get enough cash for a horse. You are often trekking a ways to get to quest destinations. Then the irritating quest flaw design, after you return for your reward the NPC tells you to go back to the area again for more chores. WAR promises this quest curse will be curtailed by allowing players that have already killed x bears not to do it again because now the NPC wants their claws instead of their teeth. At least AoC should offer a draft horse as a destiny quest reward or a summon party member spell to assist in group activities.
Crafting 5 out of 10
Crafting is different. Unfortunately it is one of those changes that is for the worse not better. You are not stuck in front of a table grinding recipes or losing materials for failures. You are running around looking for resource nodes to gather materials to instantly create an object. If you want to improve your gear via crafting, it seems the gem slots have lots of problems right now, so don’t bother. Purpose of crafting right now appears to be building your guild keep structures. At least the monotony is broken up with an occasional prospector that spawns to dispute your claim to your node and tries to kill you for it. So forget about the temptation of creating a bot character to do this menial work.
Other broken promises?
The game offered drinking and drunken brawls in taverns. Not in yet. Sex buffs from prostitutes? Nope.
AoC at one time offered a nice variety of professions for players to choose. I looked forward to playing the difference between a Lich and Necromancer. What does a Waylayer do? A Lotus character implies some monk like martial artist; sadly there are no hand to hand combatants in Conan. The interesting professions got pared down quickly and now I can understand why. FunCom was so focused on the combat mechanics and beauty of the game, that the other aspects of the game were an afterthought. How in the name of Crom can they give “different” classes a chance?
The interface is the weakest part in AoC. The user interface is big and begs for a mod. How do I know where my group members are located? How do I change chat fonts? How do I set up channels? Why can’t it all be on one channel and I filter out what I don’t want on my screen? My mini map is fubar again and everything is greyed out, AHHHH!
Overall Performance 6 out of 10
As stated before, if you don’t have a good gaming rig, you will find yourself with problems. Slow loading instances, NPCs taking awhile to materialize before you, latency, group combat hitches. My XP computer limps through the game, while my Vista rig does very well.
The game does have potential to be an enriching experience. The game did need a few more months to make it a great game. For now, FunCom is capitalizing on the fact that it is new, it has a M rating so players can see blood, boobs and four letter blasphemies. As for role playing, it aint there. This is an interesting observation because I am on a RP server and see so many guilds recruiting claiming to be role playing oriented. Yet I don’t see much of it in game. This tells me players want to experience new powers then see the effects of those powers first. After they “mastered” combat they may turn to role playing.
I suspect FunCom either had a deadline because funds were running low or they didn’t want to compete with Wrath of the Lich King or WAR. They gambled and won. Launching early with reduced features, they will get a few months of subscriptions as long as the excuses are well written.