Thursday, 11 April 2013

Age of Conan: the Single Player MMORPG

My brother was toying with the idea of trying out this game since it is free to play now and just for the hell of it, I decided to download it for myself to check it out and put my findings here. You start out as an amnesiac slave/prisoner (just like all the Elder Scrolls games eh?) and the opening cutscene is basically your character drowning to their death. Sort of. I won't spoil anymore but the story seems to be pretty solid from what I've seen so far anyway and you will be bombarded with quests of a non-repeating variety through mostly voiced conversation (no wonder the download is huge). I've read that after the first zone not everything is voiced as per MMO standard but even so it's very well done in that you don't actually -feel- like you are grinding for EXP. Better yet, if you need to collect bits from foes you don't have to kill 10 frogs to get 1 frog eye for example (damn you Wizardry Online :P). Provided you have a relevant quest, each (and every) critter will drop exactly what you need until you get your quota.

I don't need friends!

Some quests are even single player specific, taking you into the nighttime instances of an area which is basically solo mode. Daytime is the default multiplayer sandbox, but from what I've seen there has not been a good reason to team up with anyone else (possibly because it is not grindy). Sure it helps when other people are in a zone killing stuff that would get in your way but given the quest structure it would be rare that they would have the same goals you do. This is perhaps the biggest question mark for me as basically Age of Conan feels like a single player game that happens to have other people running about.

The graphics aren't as crisp as GW2 but they are pretty good, and the draw radius for the expansive zones is awesome - they just blur as they get farther. When you get to the Acheronian Ruins valley and are told "you have to get to the top of the temple", you can actually see where that is from the very distant opposite side which I find very cool. The mechanics of climbing and sneaking about are also passable with a little "light" gem ala the Thief Series to indicate how stealthy you are. Climbing is also fun (and mandatory later on) though my character doesn't actually use the hand and foot holds provided, instead preferring to climb the air 1 foot away from the wall. It looks silly but it's minor and is preferable to clipping inside the wall.

But it's an MMO? Looking for Party!

Combat is a bit clumsy with button mashing to the max (it is about a barbarian after all), wherein you are trying to attack your opponent on their least defended side (indicated by shield arrows) to do more damage. There are evasive sideward hops like in Wizardry Online but so far I've found it to be a it's a useless mechanic in this game. Death penalizes you with stacking gravestones that make you weaker for a penalty time, unless you can get back to it and tap it. A nice feature for me is once you are a set number of levels over the local monsters they become "white", meaning they give you only 1 EXP when slain but that they will also not bother attacking you anymore (at least not without aggressive friends) as they know they will lose. It also pushes players into harder areas since they can't grind the popcorn mobs.

I think the main multiplayer aspect is meant to come in the form of guilds in the end game (max level 80), wherein groups fight for territory, gold, fame and probably most of all out of boredom. I could be wrong, but if the story is as good as I think it is then it should have a proper end. Still, it looks like a nice ride to get there though - and apparently the titular character himself is in the game somewhere. Afterall, this is the age where he is King.

I will governate you.

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