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    dkirschner's Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures (PC)

    [October 17, 2010 03:57:09 AM]
    Just finished the AoC trial, which is the first 20 levels and is contained on the starter island with a great cohesive story arc. The city is ruled by the oppressive Strom and his Red Hand guards who are brutal to the commoners. There's a prosperous and deadly slave trade. You wash up on the island mysteriously, with no knowledge of who you are. You've got to try and remember. Through completing the 20-level story arc, you get bits and pieces of information about your past and your future.

    I used to laugh when I'd read about AoC being, according to the devs, "the most savage, sexy, and brutal MMO ever" because the claims sound ridiculous. They certainly did make an adult game, and you can tell they tried to make it savage and sexy and brutal, and some of it comes across as convincing, and some of it really is laughable. One thing I liked about this is that it's not high fantasy for a change. Like 90+% of MMOs are high fantasy. This one was more about bad people and wild beasts. Sure, there's magic and curses and gods and stuff, but the Conan universe was well done and made the game feel relatively realistic. I am surprised I liked it so much. The realism helped their savage and brutal claims, but the sexy claim is not cool. This is a male's game. The male characters are all idealized versions of masculinity, and the attitude of the game is as well. Everyone's got sharp tongues, there's a lot of cursing and threats tossed around. The females all have huge breasts and it seemed like about half the female NPCs are involved with a brothel or flirt with you anyway. And your character (if male at least, I'd be interested to see how playing a female works here) always has some remark to make to female NPCs about sleeping with them, and they always show interest. In dialogue, males always refer to females they don't like as bitches and whores, and refer to some they do like as whores too. Males call each other bastards and sons of whores, or my favorite, "whoreson." While I understand what they were trying to do with the language, I think it takes away from the game because it's just unnecessary and ends up being quite sexist. It's almost misogynistic.

    Speaking of dialogue, all of it is voiced. It's well done too. The dialogue flows like a single-player RPG with several response choices and ability to ask for extra information. The quest are generally very relevant to the story line, which I liked a lot, and the NPCs' presentations are quite good. In fact, the whole game so far (20 levels) feels closer to a single-player RPG than an MMO. Besides the fact that the server was barren of other players, the feel of the action, the personalized story, the quests and NPCs, all made the game feel like it was just for me. I rather enjoyed it. There's a daytime/nighttime mode for actually playing the single-player storyline. Day time is for doing normal quests and is where players coexist in space. You can switch to nighttime for your personalized training, which is the single-player only stuff. You begin helping the Resistance against Strom, and you become more aligned with their goals as events happen and he goes mad and blockades the island so no one can leave. Since your character is on a personal journey, you need to leave, so Strom is a problem. Nighttime is for subversive quests that move the story of finding out about yourself along. Along the way to level 20, you'll infiltrate a volcano fortress to prevent a ritual that leads to the volcano exploding, which is an awesome, awesome action escape sequence with burning rocks raining down as you run for it. You'll help various resistance members do various things that couldn't be done during the day under the watch of guards. It all leads up to the end, another amazing, amazing sequence where the Resistance and you are finally prepared and ready to kill Strom and end his tyranny. You run through the city at night liberating sections of it, with Resistance members helping, and finally confront Strom on his ship and kill him. All these action parts are in the single-player nighttime, so it feels like people are just there to help you grind quests during the daytime. I grouped up once because we were in the same area trying to do the same quests. That was it. Supposedly the game is all about large-scale PvP later on with castle sieges and all kinds of massive battles, but I never saw any PvP nor could I join a battleground of sorts or anything.

    Visually, the game is fantastic. There were a lot of little graphical glitches, but it really didn't take away from the total look. On this high-end machine, the water, the trees, the views, the characters, shadows, lighting, was all just gorgeous to look at. One negative are all the load times. Every time you go in a building it has to load. When you begin a session, it has to scan all your files for some reason, so I would have to turn it on, wait 5 or 10 minutes, and then play.

    The level, gear, and skill progression is quite nice. There's a sweet spot I like and AoC about hit it. Games bug me when you get really powerful feeling gear very quickly. I personally enjoy beginning in rags and really feeling like I'm working my way up to nicer rewards. I'm only level 20 and should not look like a badass yet. I should feel like one relative to my level 5 or 10 character, but it should be clear that I'm wearing junk. Skills also increased at a good pace. I didn't have 50 spells by level 20. I recently played EQ2 a bit and it seemed like every level I got 2 new skills, which was way more than I needed. With AoC, it was more like 1 every 2 levels, so I used most of what I had and it was all more manageable.

    One final note is the death system, which does nothing to prevent one from dying. In most MMOs I've played you're penalized with XP loss or a resurrection sickness of some sort, or at the very least, you go back to get your corpse. In AoC, all that happens is when you die you leave a tombstone and then you're resurrected at the nearest spawn point, which was usually not far away and pretty convenient. The tombstone gives you a debuff that is -1% damage dealt and +1% damage taken. Find your tombstone to remove the debuff. It stacks up to 3 times (3 death and 3 stones), so at worst, you can have -3% damage dealt and +3% damage received. This is nothing. Death does not matter, and I often died on purpose to get closer to where I wanted to go. In contrast, EQ2 gives you an XP deficit to repay that can be annoying and WoW gives you -75% stats for 10 minutes, which makes doing anything but traveling after you resurrect a bad idea. If you go get your corpse, nothing bad happens, but you've still got to run and you're still where you died. AoC does not deter risky play.

    All in all, I quite enjoyed the game. It felt more single-player than multi, and I feel pretty much like I just played a short RPG since the whole 20 levels is integrated in a nice story arc and location. I'm not interested in playing it further, maybe because it's supposed to be PvP heavy and I didn't even see any PvP, or maybe because it was good enough, but nothing I'd want to subject myself to for another however many levels. Glad I tried it out and got the experience.
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    dkirschner's Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures (PC)

    Current Status: Finished playing

    GameLog started on: Sunday 20 June, 2010

    GameLog closed on: Sunday 17 October, 2010

    dkirschner's opinion and rating for this game

    Fun game, nice break from high fantasy, feels very single-player, which is fine unless you actually want a populated world. PvP focus is nonexistent in first 20 levels, but story arc is pretty good.

    Rating (out of 5):starstarstarstar

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