Age of Conan

promise, delivery, carrots, donkeys.

AoC deserves a closer look because it differs from other MMOs in some respects, eg. most obviously the fighting system, or a incredibly selfdestructive community. Oh, and I like it.

My interest in this game was quite some up and down. When it got announced and first infos were spread I really got eager to play it. It was taged  as”Action-MMORPG”, refering to the fightingsystem, and meant to be released for 360, nice.

Then the fightingsystem got revealed, and gameplay was shown through vids with the worst dev-talk I`ve ever witnessed. So, what was initially said to be action turned out to be a constant quicktime event. Great, other games use that as small distraction for the real action, here it is the heart of the game.

First reviews gave stunningly high scores, but not without mentioning those scores would be kinda “what if”-based… IF everything would work like it should it`d be a great game.

Anyway, at this point i had lost interest in both, the PC and the 360 version.

Now, four month after release, I finally got to play it, typically because a friend asked to join him.

And I got surprised, it`s not only way better than expected, it`s in my opinion the only MMO worth playing right now. Personal taste though.

Let`s start with the fighting. What seemed rediculous on paper actually turns out to be quite entertaining. Sure, it`s not what I had hoped for years ago, but it manages to involve the player into his fights way better than the common skill-clicking boredom. Plus it adds enough playerskill to make out for relatively huge gaps in levels, a really good player might be able to kill someone way over his own level. While it breaks your fingers at times it is still great, and there is absolutely no way for me to get back to the old “click the one winning series of skill-icons”-system. No way.

On to the donkeys. Almost all MMOs (except for GuildWars, if you wanna call that a MMO) go for the donkey and carrot gameplay. Always promise, never fully deliver. Basicly they put you into a miserable position, but ask you to endure it because the carrot waits behind the next corner. You are slow until you get your mount, you are weak until you level up, you are underpowered until you grind the next uber-item. The time required to get to the point where it`s meant to be fun is insane, and once there chances are good you are already sick of the game. Of course stopping it would mean to admit you wasted weeks and month. Honestly, it`s a sad system, hardly worth being called gaming, let alone entertainment.

Now AoC of course isn`t 100% free of this crap, but it`s way more calm on it.

Most important factor there is the mentioned fighting system. You actually have something to play, and it`s fun from the start. PVP is possible very early on, possible again means it`s entertaining, and doesnt leave you thinking how much better it`d be if you had a level80 character.

Items (although subject to upcoming changes) are pleasingly unimportant. The differences are minor, and at times the boots you got at level 20 are still sufficient at level 40. As a result you are pleased to find better equipment, but it`s not the mad rush you find on most other MMOs.

However, diversity is a problem, there are by far not enough skins, it`s hard to stand out from other players visually, and if you dislike the look of your current armour set you might have to bother with it the next 10 levels.

PVP is the next big topic on AoC, open world PVP to be exact.

And a tough topic it is. On one hand it can be really great fun, and succeeding against the odds is extremely satisfying. On the other hand, it`s pure anarchy, better known as ganking by the crowd.

Most PVP servers feel more like survival training. If you start your session with a “I just want to do this quest”-mindset, you are in for a healthy depression. This can be seen in two ways: Either as a constant annoyment ruining the whole game, or as a game in itself. While I can`t say I wouldn`t care about getting ganked for no reason by some high level idiots, I somehow choosed the second option after a while. And going for revenge can be awesome, if it doesn`t end up in a humiliating defeat. Sure, sometimes there is no way fight back alone, but well, it`s a MMO, you can try to find fellows.

Fellows, nice bridge to the community.  Downright, I`ve never seen worse.

Forementioned ganking is nothing you experience now and then, it`s a constant threat. Watch every single step you do. Does a good job stressing the hostile, bloody setting, but in the end you wonder how many morons find fun in this kind of activity. Just to get it clear, we are not talking about anything worthy to be called PVP. It`s just giving defenseless players a bad time. Looking at it in a positive way, to me it makes for a massive good-guy-minority vs. the evil masses feeling.

Anyway, as you would expect this kind of playerbase doesn`t always fill the chat with hippie talk. And it carries over to the forums. Pick any class forum, and you will instantly be convinced not to play this particular class because it`s underpowered and just sucks. It`s kinda depressing if you just want to check what your class-mates do, and the first line to read says “give it up, we suck”. Try escaping to the general forums, and chances are good to find the same line about the whole game. Or Funcom. Running these forums has to be a pain in the ass, Kudos to those who do it, and Kudos for not just shutting the complains down.

However, the darker the sky the brighter the stars shine, and if you have the guts to bear with the morons you stand good chances to find a few very nice and helpful people.

Last thing to mention, everyone complains about missing content, especially for max level.

I can not judge that, my characters are all in their mid levels.

But the important point to me is, that the way to max level is actually fun. Should I ever hit 80 and run out of possible activities (I doubt that anyway), I`ll just care about another character/class. To me that`s essentially what distinguishs AoC from other MMOs, I enjoy the time I spend there rather than working towards the promised better times lingering in the dark.

I suppose it strongly depends on the kind of player weather he will like it or not, but at least it`s not the same copy of any other MMO.