Gordo’s Gaming Blog

My adventures in the many worlds of gaming.

Posts Tagged ‘Hyboria

Age of Conan, Part 2

with one comment

OK, so I’ve been playing Age of Conan for 5 days now. As I’m sure you’re well aware, a lot of things can change in 5 days. However, I’m still feeling pretty positive about AoC now, even 5 days on, and after many hours more in the game.

What do I still like about it?

  1. The combat – it’s not gotten old yet, and it doesn’t look like doing so for a good while either; it’s really refreshing. What I think is the best thing about the combat is you’re always involved. You have to make the character move, make it attack, and as a result, when you kill your enemy, it feels all the more satisfying – especially if you get lucky and pull off a fatality.
  2. The sound – I didn’t really talk about the sound in my original post, but the sound is fantastic. The music fits each area perfectly, from the greek sounding background music in Aquilonia, to the chanting and tribal songs of Africa-esque Stygia. The combat sounds are great too – if you listen carefully you can even hear your enemy’s skull crack as you bring the sledgehammer down on their head. Tortage really was amazing though, with every quest and every NPC voice acted. Sadly, that is only carried on as you carry out your destiny quest – but there are rumours that more is being recorded as we speak and will come in future patches. Which would be great.
  3. The graphics – each zone is designed well, and looks beautiful. Even on my moderate PC, the areas feel alive, and look it too. I’m more of a fan of realised graphics, and therefore it suits me perfectly. Stylised fans may not like it so much, but personally I can’t see how anyone could think it ugly.

Although there are a lot of good things about Age of Conan, I’m starting to find areas which I don’t like so much:

  1. Quests. Quests in Age of Conan are highly variable – I’ve done some really good ones, some absolute beauties, requiring not much running between places, just lots of action and great storylines (an example of this – the quests in Border Range in Aquilonia – they were fantastic). I’ve also done some awful quests – quests taking me halfway across the zone to talk to an NPC, who then wants me to go back to the original quest giver. Also, it needs me to run through mobs 5 or 6 levels above me! Another problem I find with the quests in Age of Conan, is that, often, there aren’t enough quests for me to level up sufficiently. I had to grind 1/3 of a level earlier to get some quests within my level range again. This is poor design – nowadays, in pay to play MMOs, where questing is the main mechanic for levelling, I expect more quests than I need – I expect to be able to drop quests too easy for me, not have to do them for pitiful rewards just to get the next level up. On the topic of quests, each zone seems to have just 1 quest hub!? It seems like in the zones which are intended for a wide range of levels (e.g. Wild Lands of Zelata), I could be running huge distances to do a quest for me at level 36 or 37, because all quests can only be picked up or handed in at the very beginning of the zone where you join at level 20. Running disrupts immersion, and ruins the fun value of the quest.
  2. Zones. The zones in Age of Conan are meant to be small areas of a massive map. As such, you only play a fragment of the world at a time, and the zones are not connected – you need to travel through load screens to get to other areas, via fast travel NPCs. This also means that you can travel many many miles in seconds, resulting in a huge break in immersion, as you were in a sandy desert with tropical beasts, and now you’re in the mountains being attacked by wolves. Personally, I loved WoW in this regard – the whole area was one massive area where you could run from one end to the other uninterrupted if you wanted to. And the fast trave of riding a wyvern, eagle or bat was awesome, you got to see the whole zone and landscape; even if it did take several minutes to travel from one zone to another at times! As for the instancing matter – it doesn’t bother me too much, as in the larger zones, instancing only seems to be used to prevent congestion – I like that – I mean, what’s more frustrating than waiting around a quest mob spawn with 10 other people?
  3. Monotony – this comes from the requirement of many boring quests, I’m afraid. Sometimes, I find myself playing for a couple hours and getting bored – it stems from lack of immersion I guess, as I don’t feel ‘in’ the game, so my mind wanders to other things. What compounds it is the daunting task of levelling – there are so many levels to achieve, I feel as though I’m only just on the tip of the iceberg. That should be a good thing, but I’m worried that as I level up, the quest grinding will only get more boring, and the rewards will get lower.

Overall, I’m still happy in Age of Conan. I am, on the whole, enjoying the levelling process, though sometimes the lack of (good) quests can get to me. I don’t mind it, and every MMO I’ve played before has been the same; MMO developers concentrate on keeping players playing for many hours, and they do that by creating a bucketful of quests to do; sadly, this often results in monotony for the player, which in turns ruins immersion, and makes the player go away and do something else for a while.

Verdict? Age of Conan is a good game, and probably my favourite MMO of all those out at the moment. It doesn’t do anything worse than any game that’s come before, and it brings some really nice innovations to the genre. But, it’s far from perfect – the Holy Grail of MMOs it is not. It’s quite difficult to get immersed in it, but if you can cope with taking breaks occasionally between levelling, you’ll be fine. I know from my post it looks like I think there are a lot more bad things in the game than good, but in actual fact, that’s not how I feel. It simply hasn’t corrected all the errors in previous MMOs – I can live with them, and if you enjoyed a previous MMO, you probably can too.


Written by Gordo

May 28, 2008 at 6:48 pm

Age of Conan

with 5 comments

As I mentioned earlier, I’ve recently started playing Age of Conan. This game has been anticipated for a long time, and has been delayed many times over recent months. All of this, I think has compounded people’s interests for it, and it has been described as the ‘first next-gen MMO’.

So far, I’ve got to level 26, and I must say, I’ve really enjoyed it. The first 20 levels took place in ‘Tortage’ – a dank and corrupt harbour town full of pirates, prostitutes and political intrigue. Ruled by the tyrant Strom, who you aim to eventually overthrow, you meet many characters from the ‘Resistance’ a movement put together to fell Strom, and put an end to his dictatorial ways. I won’t spoil the storyline for you, but needless to say, it’s a very satisfying way of being thrown into a game, it’s a small story that your actions affect the outcome of, and your decisions lead to the climax of the storyline.

However, it’s not just a pretty storyline that makes Tortage such a bundle of fun; the comabt system in Age of Conan has been a major selling point for many people – it’s not based on the traditional ‘auto-attack’ system seen in countless MMOs previously; instead, you control your characters swings of their weapon – you find the weaknesses in your enemies’ defense, and you exploit them. It really means you get involved in the combat much more – I remember in WoW, I could set a fight going, go afk, get a drink, and come back to see my character standing over the corpse of my enemy. Well – that’s not the case in Conan. To put it bluntly, if you did that in Conan, you’d find a ressurection screen when you came back, or if you ran, you might have a few points of health left.

The graphics in Age of Conan, truly are spectacular, providing you have the PC to run it – not everybody does; and I can only afford to put it onto high ocassionally. However Funcom promise in the patches to come in the upcoming weeks that they will optimise the game even further, leading to better performance for players.

So, you might be asking; where does Age of Conan fall short? I was thinking that too… until I read some posts about the game on different blogs, when I realised that, in truth, it is nothing new, apart from a) Realised graphics as opposed to stylised which many MMO developers have preferred and b) The faster paced, action RPG style melee combat. Questing, NPCs, party dynamics, I think every other game mechanic is the same. Well; does that make it bad? You might well ask, and, upon reflection, I’m undecided. While it doesn’t reinvent the wheel, it gives it pretty alloys and tyres.

If I had to sum up Age of Conan in a sentence, it would be this:

Fast paced fun, with great graphics (if you can run them), evolutionary combat, but in general, it’s just the ‘EveryMMO’ with with eye candy.

Written by Gordo

May 27, 2008 at 2:08 pm

Posted in Age of Conan, MMO

Tagged with , , , ,