Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures
Many MMORPG players have kept an eye on Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures. Reasons for this were beautiful graphics, an adult setting and tons of blood. Hard facts or simple PR talk that is meant to hide another weak World of Warcraft clone?
If you hear the name Conan, most people think about movies with Arnold Schwarzenegger and a mediocre game on the previous gen consoles. Not something that makes you jump out for joy as an MMORPG fan. Luckily Funcom based their newest MMORPG on the original Conan-material, created by Robert E. Howard. In this world there is no space for weakness or stupid jokes. Hacking someone’s head off because you didn’t like the way he looked is quite normal!
To let the novice players get a good grip on the game, Funcom added a singleplayer experience to their game. The first twenty levels, you will mostly play in this mode. You begin your adventure on a slave galley and after it gets shipwrecked you wash upon the shores of a beautiful beach. From that moment you can choose out of three factions, namely the Cimmerians, Aquilonians or Stygians. The choice of your allegiance has influence on the number of classes that will be accessible, since none of the factions have complete access to all of them. Later on you will be able to specify your class even more.
After completing several quests and rescuing scarsely clothed women, you come across the town of Tortuga, a city full of scum. The perfect place to start a new life and get your first taste of the online experience. You will be able to switch between night and day. If you choose for the first, you will continue to explore the Conan history all by yourself and later on have some very nice exceptions. If you choose the latter, you will be able to encounter other players and slaughter enemies together.
To have some sort of order in this world, players are able to form guilds. That these are an important part of the world is noticeable real soon. As a guild you’re able to build and own two cities. The first one is a Player City and besides a castle, you’re able to build shops, walls and gates. The defensive structures are needed to protect your city, because from the moment that you build your town, a hostile computer controlled town is being built nearby. They will lay siege to your city from time to time, but nothing stops you from attacking them first before they can become a threat by using catapults and other warmachines.
The second town that you can build is located in the Border Kingdoms and will be primarily used for fighting with other guilds. Players are able to charge your walls and try to conquer your fortress. Each town and fortress has a strategic location and can for example be located near important resources or a road.
Is this all what Age of Conan has to offer? Of course not! Besides building towns and going at each other’s throats, you will also be able to chop off some other heads. In the landscape there are lots of dungeons and outposts loaded with gold and waiting for some adventurous player. The inhabitants of these locations aren’t really happy with these strangers and will gladly try and make you change your mind. A part of these dungeons you can explore in private with your group, while others you can go through with several independent groups.
As i said, the inhabitants aren’t really keen on handing over their treasure to you, so if they aren’t going to give it willingly, then the only option is to persuade them by force. With this we come to a new feature of the game, namely the new combat system.
Current MMORPGs usually have a system where you need to select your enemy first and then press some skills on a bar, but this is different in Age of Conan. You still need to select your enemies, but instead of pressing some skills, you need to direct the swings of your weapon. You can add specific combos which might add status effects or do some brutal fatalities which end your enemy’s life in a not so pleasant way. Besides a weapon you can also carry a shield to defend yourself. You can alter the position to deflect enemy attacks while dealing damage yourself.
Magic users don’t need to despair, since they have a similar system called Spellweaving. Through combos they can add more damage to their spells, but if they do it wrong, they can get a nasty feedback. Because of this new combat system, they make sure that players needs to pay attention every second that they are playing. When a character reaches level 40 they can learn crafting, but this itself is not that special. Still it’s handy to know that your guild can build specific shops which gives the crafter extra options.
With all these gameplay elements, we would almost forget that many gamers still like to get some pretty visuals. Not a lot of negative criticism will be heard as Age of Conan is currently the most beautiful MMORPG that can be played. The creation of your character is without a doubt one of the most impressive of this moment, you can even adjust your eye brows or put scars on your body. One moment you’ll be wandering around in the beautiful deserts of Stygia, the next you’ll see your breath freeze in the northern parts of Cimmeria. All these zones are filled with detail and the same can be said about the cities that are built with the necessary craftmanship. Still it’s sad that the DirectX10 version isn’t standard in the game while this was one of the features that were pushed towards the public. Now we’ll have to wait until August before this is implemented.
People that want great audio in their games should definitely not be disappointed. Most of the characters have beautiful voices going from tough mercenary to the attractive bar maid. The sound effects are also quite alright, you’ll immediately hear that you’re in a busy town or chopping off limbs in a very dense forest. The same can be said about the soundtrack which makes you feel immediately at home in any area.
Sadly enough the game is certainly not perfect. On launch there were still several bugs which lead to abuse in the game. Luckily Funcom managed to release several patches that have gotten rid of most of these.
Another disadvantage is that while the start of the game is filled with content, you get less to do as you progress. It can happen that there’s nothing else to do than numblessly slay some monsters and enemies in order to book progress.
For many Age of Conan will be the MMORPG they’ve been looking forward to for months or even years. The game offers an innovative combat system, beautiful graphics and a PVP experience that ranks with the best. Still it remains sad that at launch you seemed to be paying for a beta instead of a complete game. If you can accept that you’ll have a lot of fun with one of the most popular MMORPGs of the moment!