Age of Conan has left me without much to write. Well, what I really mean is that I’d rather play AoC than write about it. Funny that, I was not even planning to give this game a try and I normally try all the MMOs after release at some point. For some reason, AoC just did not grab me at all when reading the previews. Honestly I expected it to be a disaster. But now that I have been playing it for a while, I’m having a hard time wanting to play anything else.
Lord of the Rings Online had been my main game for the past year and I was not expecting to stop playing it until Warhammer Online came out. After a few weeks of AoC, I can’t even bear to play LotRO at all. I love the lore of Middle-earth and I know next to nothing of the Conan world and yet, I find myself eagerly reading all the Hyborian quest text presented before me.
So why am I having so much fun? I expected bugs and poor design. Instead, the bugs encountered are hardly noticed as I run past swinging swords in a flurry of blood and guts. The visceral feel of the game really pulls me in. Instead of a sleepy auto-attack system, I feel like I’m right in the heat of battle trying to pull off intricate 3 and 4 maneuver combos dropping every foe before my feet. I rush into crowds and usually end up the only one standing. I *feel* powerful and I love it.
Admittedly, when I started playing I was put off by the heavily instanced areas and did not feel like it was a world I could happily explore in. All of that changed once I finished the first 20 levels of the new player experience and left the city of Tortage behind. As I emerged in the “real” lands of Hyboria, the instancing seemed just right. I could climb the mountains before me and travel to what is beyond. Still, I really feel the instancing is what allows each area to be so heavily landscaped and lush without breaking my computer. The world feels so real to me now. The fog rolling across the valley is exactly how I would expect it to look.
I’ve played most every class and they all feel wonderfully over-powered at some point in the early game. The mages are a bit tougher to play in the beginning but they get better as they level, which is not unusual. The melee classes are just super powerful from the start. Taking on groups of 3 or 4 mobs at once is a treat. Each swing of the sword damages all of them. Perhaps they will tune their power down in the future, but that would be too bad in my opinion because right now the combat is a blast. I hope to never see auto-attack again.
The attack combos of the melee classes and the Ranger are where the combat really shines for me. Using most skills will enable a follow up directional attack (or a chain of several directional attacks) which, if done properly, will cause a you to gain a buff or inflict more damage on the enemy. The casting classes are left behind in this area as they just have a spell to cast. There is no follow up attack you can use. Hopefully the “spellweaving” feature will make up for this. I am hoping to take a caster up high enough to try it and find out.
The quest text is fed out in a conversational style and I really enjoy it being done this way. All future MMOs need to use this method. AoC’s conversation options do not make a difference which is certainly a bad choice. I should be able to impact my quest by choosing how I respond to the quest giver but here all the choices appear to end up in the same place and that is a shame. Still, it is an improvement over the “page of text to read and click OK” of previous games’ design.
I am having great fun exploring the world before me. Just the other day I came across some rough steps in the mountains. I followed them up for a while and then came to a tunnel into the mountain. I passed through that and came out in what appeared to be a huge abandoned temple. I crossed a rope bridge into the temple and spotted a large statue a *long* ways off. I was really impressed with the size of this place and the level of detail provided for as far as my eye could see. I ran for a good while toward the statue and finally realized it was of a giant snake and I literally got frightened. I turned around and high-tailed it out of there. It has been a long time since my gut reaction overruled my brain rationalizing that it’s just a game. I really felt like I was going to get in trouble for walking on sacred lands or something.
So are there bugs? Yes there are. Does the game need work? Yes it does. Is it fun? Very fun. If this is the direction game design is going, focusing on fun even at the expense of some finishing touches, I’m all for it. It is weird for me to be so forgiving of issues with a game. I’ve got a pretty extensive experience playing most of the major MMOs going back to Asheron’s Call and it feels really good to be having fun at this high of a level again. It has been a while… I hope it lasts.