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Age of Conan: Unchained General Article: Return to Hyboria Part 4

By Phil James on June 22, 2011

2011 has been an eventful year for Conan.  The franchise that is, for the barbarian himself who can say.  There’s a new film due out, and I have to say it looks pretty rockin’.  I am one issue away from a full run of Conan comics. Age of Conan will be expanding with new zones in The Savage Coast of Turan update.  There will also be content which will tie in with the movie.  There have been server merges and oh yeah... it’s also going free to play - more on that later.

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At the moment I am in the final week of my pay to play month.  I have returned to the shores of Hyboria since leaving a few weeks after the launch. Not wishing to repeat the content I played last time, I bought the new expansion and have been happily accepting and turning in quests there.  Now I’m at the end of my play time, I was wondering how to spend my time.  Age of Conan is a top and bottom heavy game.  It doesn’t seem to have attracted many new players since its poor reception at launch so we are left with a dedicated hard core of players at the level cap.  There are also many players in the level 1-20 range as Tortage, the trial area, has been free to play for some time.  In between those areas I haven’t seen many souls.  Hopefully this year will see a more robust player base.

However that doesn’t help me now.  I’m not at the level cap yet but still need something to do so I decided to try out the Destiny Quests.  This starts off in Tortage and carries on through the rest of the game.  You pick up the quests at levels 30, 50, 60 and 80.  It’s a decent quest-line, however I was certain I wouldn’t have time to see it through to the end so I just gave myself a little sampler.  The quest revolves around the Phoenix Medallion which you get during the final stages of the Tortage.  After liberating that port and being thrown out into the world you can continue the quest once you hit one of the above levels. There are pieces of the medallion missing and by retrieving them you can regain some of your memories and eventually at level 80 you can meet the big man himself, Conan.

The level 30 quest, Phoenix of the South, sends you across the world to Khopshef Province in Stygia.  There you learn that the piece of the medallion is in a cave on a mountain top.  Every time you level up you gain some skill points and you can put them into a variety of skills such as hiding, run speed, bandaging and many more.  There is also a climb skill and if you have neglected this then you would have to level up a bit more in order to be skilled enough to get to the top of the mountain.

Once you are up there all is not well, unsurprisingly.  There is a Blood Defiler up there – a kind of demon - which some evil magic types are keeping sweet with an almost endless supply of blood.  They are also keeping it docile by tainting the blood with Black Lotus.  In order to get your medallion piece you have to take down this fiend which you can do by collecting some extra lotuses (loti?) and drugging it up further making it easier to kill.  It’s a tough fight but soloable and after that you can collect your artefact piece from an altar.  Completion of the quest gives you a permanent boost to your character, I chose a health boost. Then I was off on my merry way.

The permanent upgrade to my character’s stats is a great reward for completing a major part of the game’s quest-line, something which other games could definitely learn from.  I’m all in favour of main storylines in MMOs: it gives you something above and beyond the humdrum quest grind that goes on.  A clearly marked story line with meaningful rewards is something that is definitely worth returning to Age of Conan for.

So there we have it, a month spent in the world of Hyboria.  Some may claim that I didn’t really get a proper taste for the game.  After all I didn’t make it to the level cap where most of the population resides.  Unfortunately I missed out on grouping except for the occasional pairing now and then in Tortage when I found other players in the same area I was in.  However, now that the game is going free to play I don’t see any reason why I won’t continue.  I can take my character all the way to the end, albeit rather slowly I imagine without spending any money.  I’d also be tempted to roll a few alts and level with – hopefully – the hordes of people joining or rejoining the game.

Then there is the new hardcore PVP server coming our way.  I like the idea of only having one character on the server, especially for PVP, it makes your character more meaningful.  I’ll definitely have my eye on this one, even though the limited loot and my general suckiness at PVP means I’ll be naked in no time.  Oh well, I’ll just have to roll a female character so at least there will be an upside to epically failing.

Overall I’ve enjoyed my time back in Conan’s world.  I’m not sure I’d ever seriously think of re-subbing.  It has come a long way since the launch that turned me and many others off, but it doesn’t offer enough to make me reach for my credit card.

Fortunately, soon I can play without having to.

Phil James / Husband, Father, Comedian, Writer. Sort of in that order.

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