We got the chance to sit down with Funcom at GDC to check out the Age of Conan expansion. If you are a Conan fan you will appreciate the story they put into it, plus some of the features that are on the way. Funcom has really brought Conan up from its rough beginnings and Rise of the God Slayer looks to add some fun elements for both players and fans alike.
The story of the expansion begins with the Tower of the Elephant. If you have not read the story go do it now. Conan as a thief meets a creature from another dimension with the head of an elephant. The creature has great power and is held captive by a wizard. In the end Conan frees the creature back to its realm where it kills the wizard. The Heart of the Elephant, which Conan wins, soon crumbles to dust. We learn that Yog Kosha, the creature had great influence in Khitai, the Hyborian equivalent of China. That is where the story leads us and where the expansion takes place.
One great thing about Rise of the God Slayer is that there are no new levels. The advancement system being brought in this time around for players is an alternate system which comes in on top of the other specs a character can have. Not only that, players will get a new race with the Khitans as a playable faction. The Khitans start out on Tortage like everyone else, but will go to their homeland to continue adventures and leveling. Characters will have access to new customizations with tattoos, piercings, and of course new gear.
There are five new factions in the expansion, and players will have a choice on who to ally with. The Children of Yog Kosha though noble and good natured ,blame Conan for the death of their fallen God. The Brittle Blade, The Last Legion, and the Tamarin Tigers make up the factions that players will encounter. There are also two secret factions in the game that players can unlock. Do not worry. Craig Morrison assured us that it will not be hard to figure them out.
The expansion will offer five zones that are wide open. They wanted to create a more open playing field in the game. The zones encompass the make up of Asia with lush jungles, Steppes, and the capital city of Pai Kang. Craig explained that they wanted zones the way Robert E. Howard would view them. Heavy jungles with ruins, Steppes and plains with horseman similar to Mongols all bring the full experience to players.
Characters also have the choice to get two new mounts with the expansion. Age of Conan has offered players some great mounts in the past with Mammoths and Rhinos. Now, players can choose from a Tiger or Wolf mount. Mounts are acquired through a quest chain which will take players through raising their mount as their own. The best part about mounts is that players then have a choice to keep them for riding or to use them as in game pets with abilities. Craig explained they really wanted to give players options with the expansion. Keep in mind, Conan has mounted combat so it is a win - win situation. They do want to make sure that players get the choice, but also might feel consequences for their actions.
We got a look at one of the dungeons in the new expansion. The Celestial Necropolis gives players a few challenges in terms of fighting the dead. A great segment we saw had players extend a bridge by standing on different plates. Just like some of the puzzle designs in console games, players had to perform the correct emote to get the pieces they needed to cross the bridge. Not everyone could cross at once and players the party had to split. The group on the other side then had to complete the puzzle so the others could come across. Craig explained that they wanted more thought in the dungeons. They liked offering players some different challenges instead of just boss fights. That being said, there are plenty of fights as well.
Overall, Rise of the God Slayer is a great step for Age of Conan. It adds some story elements that any Robert E. Howard fan would appreciate and gives the players some new factions and advancement without asking them to have to grind out levels. The armor sets we got to see looked great and players have a lot to look forward to. Funcom expects to have the expansion out sometime in the first half of 2010. We hope to bring you more coverage as we go.