From graphics and audio to PVP mechanics and gameplay Age of Conan is poised to be the first 3rd generation MMORPG that got it right. After 3rd gen meltdowns like Vanguard and mediocre releases like LOTRO the market is wide open and thats why the servers have been full and on que every night at peak time since retail release.
I have been playing since beta and the retail release since preorder head start. Here is my Age of Conan 40 level review:
Age of Conan: Hybordian Adventures is the besttitle I have seen in a very long time and almost my entire guild agrees with me. We are not a bunch of 16 year old CS fraggers that endorse every game that flies off the shelf at launch, we are seasoned and at an average age of around 30 and we have been around and playing MMORPGs since the very first titles in the genre hit stores. This is my in-depth review after playing since the pre-order head start and taking my toon to level 40.
Graphics - Here is my graphics one liner. Vanguard meets WoW with a dash of old world detail and a side or incredibly realistic looking blood and guts. I think the overall look and feel of the game is a great balance. Age of Conan leaves little to be desired in appearance without crossing the boundary that makes a game too hard for lower end graphics cards to run. The world looks good but textures up close look borderline amazing. The animations are pretty top notch as well, from spells and to combos and jumping Age of Conan took MMORPG animation to a new level.
Audio - Great. The audio is of superb quality but most impressive is the creative quality and how well the audio fits into the overall theme of the game. The music is incredible, from Celtic chants to medieval war drum lines you feel like you have your own soundtrack throughout the entire game. In the forest there is relaxing fanciful tunes and in a dungeon the music makes you want to kill things just as it should. The grunts and battle cries as different classes complete different combos and skills are diverse and realistic, they really help immerse you in battles.
Storyline - Best ever. I am a notorious quest hater, I prefer the grind where I have more control over how fast I can level and can use our guild to full advantage. Questing for me in Age of Conan is aided by a deep and realistic storyline. MMORPG story lines are notoriously flowery and full of complete fluff, not AOC. Age of Conan delivers realistic story lines demanding the blood of prostitutes and heads on pig poles among other things. I actually read quite a few of the cut scene text windows, that is a HUGE deal for me. I read Hemingway and Thoreau not game cut scene text so the fact alone that I read most of these at all speaks volumes for the AOC storyline.
Dungeons and Instances - Superb. Best ever. I have never been a fan of instances because I believe in the idea of a persistent world. That being said I am not only a fan of the Age of Conan instancing I think it could be the model for the perfect balance of persistence and instancing. You can run your class specific quests in your own instance whenever you want to. We have all run class quests and had the mobs camped for hours on end or been ganked by some tards every time you get to the spot and had to bring in guildies to clear it up the 5 on 1 noobfest. Instanced dungeons are well done and abundant from level 13 or so on. Every zone also has several instances and as the population of the server is so high there are always people in every instance. There is never a shortage of people to kill and when a guild rolls out 6 guys to kill your duo you can just jump instances and continue on. Party leaders can summon party members to their instance and when party members look at the instance drop down there is a star by the instance that the party leader is in, very functional mechanics.
PVP - Possibly the best MMORPG PVP system created, with so many things not in game yet it is impossible to make an accurate assessment of the PVP system as a whole but I will say that my first impression is amazing. Classes seem relatively balanced with the exception of a Priest of Mitra spell that can be spammed with no recharge time (will be undoubtedly nerfed very soon). The Age of Conan PVP system requires much more skill than any other system to date, the days of button spamming are gone. In Age of Conan we see thing like combos in which things must be done in a certain order and with the right timing, we see the ability to doge incoming attacks based on the direction they are coming from, we see first person shooter features in archer classes, and many other mechanical featured designed to incorporate skill into game play.
Resource Gathering - You can start gathering resources at level 20 by getting the resource quests at any number of various locations throughout the game. These quests allow you to gather the lowest level resources but you must turn in your first 20 of each to complete the quest. The next quests in the gathering lines require rare items that you have a chance of getting while you gather. Resource nodes are pretty sparse comparatively speaking but who knows how that will play out in the end game. Each node only has a certain amount or resources that can be harvested from it before it recharges so you can see how that is an issue when the entire server is trying to craft and build guild cities.
Guild Villages and Cities - Once a guild leader has reached level 40 and has 24+ members excluding himself he can reserve a plot for the guild village/city. The guild leader can choose the region the plot is place in but the game actually picks the specific plot an instance for you. To start a city a guild needs an architect, the recipe for the keep which costs about 2.5 gold, and the resources for the keep. The keep must be the first building constructed. Guild cities are huge and I will do some more in-depth articles on them later.
Overall - Age of Conan may be the first 3rd generation MMORPG to get the model right. Many have come and many have failed. I have never had this much fun in the earliest stages of any MMORPG and if the PVP and siege mechanics turn out to be as good as everyone thinks they will be Age of Conan: Hybordian Adventures is poised to be one of the greatest games of all time.