As I said on the previous page, Age of Conan is among the best looking MMOs on the market. In terms of art style, the developers went with a realistic look in order to try to capture the grittiness of the Conan universe. In this reviewer’s opinion, it worked.
While no art style is going to make everyone happy, Funcom’s visual style draws the player into the world, from detailed and fairly realistic-looking character and monster models (The crocodiles on White Sands Isle might be my favorite) to striking geographical vistas.
My experience with the game’s animations was that they were smooth and fairly fluid. Pretty fun to watch. You can really tell that Funcom made heavy use of motion capture to get the important parts just right. This becomes especially obvious during fatality attacks.
Age of Conan provides players with one of the most innovative and interesting combat systems that we have seen in recent years. The designers have taken tried and true (but by no means universally popular) MMORPG combat conventions and added a new level of interactivity. While the game still makes use of powers that are gained based on class and level, they have added more complexity through specific directional attacks that do more or less damage depending on the enemy’s shielding. The shielding shifts throughout combat, forcing players to adapt their attack styles. More than once while playing through the first twenty levels, my Ranger was killed by a tougher enemy because I used the wrong attack at the wrong time.
I have read some of the criticisms of the system, and there are some valid points there. While Age of Conan combat most certainly innovates on the current MMORPG mould, it isn’t a radical departure. Players who are hoping for something completely new will probably be disappointed at first glance because of the similarities.
For my part, I found it difficult to come around to at first, but after reaching level five I got engrossed in it and now find it a bit dull to play combat that isn’t as interactive.
For kicks, I thought it might be fun to test out the theory that while Conan’s combat looks different on the surface, players can get away with just button-mashing their way through a fight:
While it is possible to almost mindlessly fight against enemies that are lower in level than you are, more often than not button mashing led to my death when fighting against the more challenging enemies. Could you play through the game by button-mashing? Yes, in parts, but it would be an incredibly frustrating experience. It was for me.
Used properly, the combat system presents an entertaining challenge that kept me engaged far longer than any other system ever has.
I have no complaints about the Age of Conan sound. In fact, I thought that it was one of the strongest elements of the game, especially in the first twenty levels during a players’ time in and around the city of Tortage. The music seems to fit the world perfectly and the sound effects combined with the visuals to draw the player in. It's exactly what you want from your sound crew.
I had mixed feelings about Age of Conan’s community, especially when I first started out on my adventures. The general chat channel, which is supposed to be geared toward new player help, is more often than not filled with inane and offensive chatter. To a large number of gamers, especially those without past experience with MMOs, this is going to be an immediate turn-off. While players have the ability to ignore other players in chat, change chat channels and the like, I could not (after an admittedly short period of time looking) find a tool that would allow me to report even something as frustrating as a gold spammer (while it felt like there were fewer of them than in other MMOs, they’re still there).
While that may have seemed like a condemnation of the Age of Conan community, I also had some exceptional experiences with my fellow players. Numerous times while waiting for quest mobs to spawn, I was asked to group up with some of the other players waiting there. Not only did that allow us to all benefit from killing the mob that eventually spawned, keeping us all from waiting patiently in line, but more often than not I was asked if I needed help on any other quests.
All in all, the community in Age of Conan is probably a bit better than it may seem from the general chat. Of course, this is going to vary from server to server and from rule set to rule set. If you’re playing on a PvP server, for example, you can probably expect to get ganked. I don’t think that there’s any avoiding that, but it might be helpful to remember that while you may see direct evidence of immaturity in the community, there are lots of other great players on the server that aren’t ganking lowbies or spamming the general chat with clearly over-inflated sex stories.