Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures
A meview of the game.
This game had everything going for it. A well known backstory, a "year" for itself (LOTRO came out in 2007 and WAR is delayed), a lot of guilds waiting for it who have grown tired of WoW/LOTRO/EQ2, a release many months ahead of Wrath of the Liche King and most importantly Arnold being the barbarian (and probably a ganker in order to protect tinseltown against movie pirates).
So how did it fail to capture so many (that I have talked to, including myself. Not that I talk to myself, very often anyway) after the initial spitshine fell away? Where did it all go wrong, and what were the mistakes Funcom made in Age of Conan (AoC henceforth)?
Before I go into the main part of this meview, I will present a few bullet points with the positive (and negative) features this game has.
- Great looking graphics (No DirectX10 despite advertised, requires a real beast of a computer to run due to areas not being optimized (shaders, some were patched in a recent patch) as well as configuration options (Low, Medium, High not "optimized" enough for speed (or quality for that matter))
- Great Audio and Music (But often you end up in a "deadzone" with no sound or very little - including ambience sounds missing. Lacking or bad tradeskill sounds. Anarchy Online had more "audio" at all times than AoC.)
- Lots of configuration options in character creation, including facial features (including makeup for all your females and metrosexuals out there) and body properties (anime fans rejoice - Double D cups for everyone). (No way to colour clothing to make characters even more unique, lots of characters on screen destroy framerate meaning you have to lower details and thus you cant see much of the anyone, most tatoos are hidden by clothing, players "pop" into view as you run past them so you hardly see anyone anyway)
- Voice actored quests (That many people skip just to get quests done faster, only voice actored up to level 20 to impress reviewers and prospective subscribers)
- PVP system allowing players to fight each other "anywhere", including guild combat and city sieges and battlegrounds. (Which means ganking, People running around and jumping defeating the games combo-combat system, Ranged classes can easily kill melee/close ranged classes, Battlegrounds only allow a very limited number of players, only 2 types of battleground (CTF and Totem-Destruction) with long queues not being multi-server (like in WoW) -- and the system is to be rewamped to appease whiners (Introducing Dread Lords who can be looted, but noone else can be looted).)
- Singleplayer quests (Only up to level 20)
So there you have it. The game has a lot of other features, but I only listed the "unique" ones for this game.
Despite the negative aura around this little article I should point out that I do subscribe to the game, and that I play it almost every day. The major reason for this is that I have made a lot of alts that I can play and level with (without having to grind mobs post level 50) and that I am part of a fairly large guild meaning that I can sometimes do group instances/quests or pvp with them. And the game is still "new" enough to make me stick around, if only to 'beat' it and reach level 80.
And now for the complete rundown of this (potential) failure.
AoC has all the normal quests you are used to find in every major MMO (Except for WAR hopefully). You will be thrilled to find out that you have to run to a battlefield and collect 30 arrows from frozen corpses (only to find out the arrows take a long time to respawn and the battlefield only has about 20 at one time, with other players also collecting doing the same quest).
The Quest Journal is divided into 3 main regions (Aequillonia, Cimmeria and Stygia) which represent the 3 races in the game. It is further divided into subzones which makes it fairly easy to find out where you have to go to get your quests done (and collect those missing rat tails). There is also a Quest Helper/Minion which is a small window you will see in your top right corner detailing the quest progress for the quest you are currently on.
Unfortunately you can only track one quest at one time, but luckily you can double-click quest "markers" on your map to quickly track another quest. Alternatively you can open the quest journal and select another quest.
A good feature with the map related to quests is that the areas you have to go to in order to complete your quests is usually marked with a "X" or a grayed area. This makes it fairly easy to get to the correct spot.
A major downside to the quest system in AoC is this. After you complete the best part of the game (the starting island Tortage) you will quickly discover that your quest journal is not big enough for you to accept all the quests made available to you.
This means you have to micro manage your quest journal as well as remember where quests are available -- because when you "outlevel" a quest it will no longer appear with a "?" over the NPCs offering it, nor will it appear on your minimap -- despite the fact that the quest will still give you money, experience and an item which might be quite good.
For example, at level 50 I was still waring a level 10 quest item because nothing I had received since was any better. This is also because of the way loot is handled in the game -- most of the stuff you get is crap.
In addition to the quest journal being small, it will also put all your quests in the same "listing", including your destiny quests and tradeskill quests -- which take up a LOT of room. This further diminishes the enjoyment from doing quests since you cant pick up all the quests you want as you move through an area, meaning you will miss out on a lot of them and get less experience and "adventure" than what you should have.
You will also unfortunately discover that certain quests rely on instances, and that these instances may or may not be "tested" for your specific class. If you remember the game Oblivion you might remember that a lot of the content "Scaled" in level with you. The same happens in Conan, if you do a quest at level 25 in an instance, the mobs you meet inside are usually around the same level. If you do the same quest at level 30 -- the mobs will be level 30 as well. This may or may not make the specific instance easier (or harder) but it all depends on your character class.
Certain quests instances are also plagued with a very fast respawn, meaning that after your inevitable death at the hands of 2-3 mobs, you will respawn at the start of the zone, and find out that you have to clear your way again. On the other hands, certain instances do not have a respawn at all -- nor will they allow themselves to be reset -- meaning that if you are one of the unfortunate ones to experience that a quest instance requiring you to pickup multiple quest items, and only 4 of the 5 dropped, you are unable to complete the quest.
And now for the funnies part. At the early part of the game (Level 20-50) you will probably have more quests than your journal can handle, and a lot of game zones to experience those quests in. But once you reach around level 50-52 you will discover that there is almost NO quests available to you, and that many of them are either too hard or are of the repeatable (go kill 20 zombies) kind with very low XP reward. These repeatable quests are basically a disguise for just grinding mobs to level up, so you can get the few quests that will be made available at 53, 54 and higher.
What this all means is that, you will have a mostly enjoyable journey up to level 50 and then be forced to grind your way further. Or do "forced" grouping in instances to farm gear and experience.
[Part 2 to follow..]