Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures (2008)
Platform: Personal Computer
Purchase Date: 07/19/2008
Who hasn't heard of the mighty Conan the Barbarian? Well, I have certainly heard of some of his exploits, though mostly from that one interesting Schwarzenegger film. I am of course, not familiar with his deeper mythos as first envisioned by Robert E. Howard and then later built upon by his followers. AoC is a massively multiplayer online game set within the Conan universe and the passionate intro in the game's manual indicates that those who follow along the Conan story closely will find a great representation of Hyboria within: A wild place dominated by violence, muscular men, and rampant sexism. To enter the world, you have to choose between 3 unique races, each with a limitation to the selectable amount of character classes. Having to choose between human characters is a fresh change from the game's competitors. The next time I am presented with the option to play as an elf, I think I am going to puke.
AoC is one of the most mind-blowing, beautiful games I have ever played. I just can't say that enough. And no, I am not just comparing its splendor to the other MMOs out there: This game looks better in both its artistic and technical merits than the majority of games found on the PC or the gaming consoles. If you have a powerful enough PC for it, you will be in for a treat. On mine, the game runs an average of 30-40 frames-per-second with the graphical options set to "High" and a lot of the advanced set up sliders moved all the way to the right. Even when a lot of detailed character models crowd the screen, the game remains a creamy and smooth experience. The animations are flawless too, a blessing after seeing how robotic things get in Everquest II and Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar. This game makes World of Warcraft looks like a bad drawing from a toddler.
I am currently a level 15 Stygian Necromancer. I made a decision to roll with that character after first tasting about 5-6 levels of a Cimmerian Dark Templar and a Stygian Herald of Xolti. There seems to be some twists done to some of the character types to distinguish the game further from the others. Though the Dark Templar translated perfectly as a sort of "Shadowknight/Death Knight" in other games, the Herald of Xolti is a mage that doubles as a melee fighter and the Necromancer's pets don't agro unless a spell is placed upon them. It's all very confusing yet intriguing at the same time. Playing as a mage, I don't get to use the combo system that much: For melee special moves, a set of directional arrows must be triggered in sequence to execute the attack. The enemies also have an active weak points shown by brackets around their bodies and each melee attack will hit the different areas based on the directional commands used. New abilities are granted automatically, which is nice after trying to upgrade my spells repeatedly while playing EQII or buying them in most of the others. There is no crafting system to worry about at the moment - it's only available at higher levels - so the focus is purely on the adventuring.
The Demonologist's great looking pet. An envy of WoW's warlocks.
I have read a lot of people complaining about the severe lack of fun and content after leaving the first quest hub for level 5-20, the city of Tortage. I look forward to seeing what is in store, hopefully soon enough before the subscription fee starts to kick in. The game definitely has a lot of potential. I am enjoying it more than EQII and a million more times than WoW. The main draw is definitely the exquisite graphics that is very stable. The fact that I can run this monster so well on my PC while EQII's graphics still stutter and glitch much is a good indication that the latter is still not elevated to support newer and more powerful PCs. The other attraction that AoC has is the dark, brooding, and mature atmosphere and gameplay that is definitely a first in the MMO world. There is a lot of blood and gore though the fatalities are a bit disappointing, the ones I have seen so far anyway, and I am not sure if it's going to get better later on in the game. A great start to what is shaping up to be an epic and powerful gaming experience.
FIRST IMPRESSION: 4 out of 5