Monday, July 21, 2008

Age of Conan: Initial Impressions Part I

I played Age of Conan during the 'open' beta and did not really enjoy it that much, so I decided to give it some time to see if Funcom would end up crashing and burning or if they would manage to pull their act together and quickly take care of the major issues. So, here we are, 2 months later and I found myself purchasing and installing a copy of AoC.

I'm hoping to document my progression through the game on a regular basis, though it will be a bit sporadic since I am also participating in the WAR Beta at the same time. So here we go with Part One...

First off, installation. Both installation and the patching process went smoothly, though I was a bit annoyed to see it taking time to copy the movie files in several languages to my computer when I had selected the option to install the English version. Why even give me that choice at installation time?!

But once I was in-game, my experience was quite fun. Performance was much better than when I was in the beta. I only had to tone down a couple of fluff settings to get a decent 45-50 frames per second. However, this did drop noticeably once I started encountering other players.

I'm not really interested in doing a bunch of standard run-here collect that quests in Age of Conan, so I resolved to only pursue the destiny quest until I got away from Tortage. Unfortunately, that revealed a hole in the Destiny Quest line. Mainly, the requirement that you be a certain level to proceed past certain sections. Now keep in mind that I wasn't doing any side quests, but I also wasn't avoiding combat. I killed anything and everything along the way and I still came up about 2/3 of a level short when I reached the part that requires you to be level 10, and a little over 2 levels short at the step that required level 15! Kind of annoying. I can understand having level restrictions for later parts of the Quest, but this is the starter, newbie island. It should be easy to complete this initial part and move on to the larger world. I could see it being especially bothersome when having to run through the same exact content for every character you make!

And, I do have to again complain about the fact that while I'm in my own private instance, I have to zone in and out of the houses! And to make things worse, the main quest NPC that you talk to repeatedly is also in her own private zone! Come on Funcom! Give me a break, here!

Anyway, since I had two levels to go before I could continue on my annoying, but required Destiny Quest, I headed over the Acheronian Ruins and kill some Picts while gathering up a nice Pictish outfit. As I made my way through the instance (which is very breath-taking. Kudos to the level designers for this zone) I saw a number of other players around. Most noticeable were the Necromancers who seemed to always have a number of pets and who would simply wade into the middle of a group of 4-5 Picts and emerge victorious, grabbing loot before moving on to the next pack. Meanwhile, I was left skulking about the edges, trying to grab lone Picts, two at most, though I could sometimes defeat three at once if I was lucky. I'm guessing that Necromancers the current uber-powerful PvE class?

Ended up with a LOT of deaths while grinding away in the Ruins (since I didn't have a half-dozen pets around to help me out). But I could see where having a couple of buddies to group with would make it much easier, and more enjoyable. It also seems that the NPC Picts are very good at seeing through stealth (or maybe stealth just becomes a lot less useful after level 10). I have my stealth maxed and the only time I was able to sneak up on a Pict was when they had just spawned.

I found the button-smash combat more interesting this time around. Perhaps because I realized that timing can make a big difference. And I definitely appreciate the interactiveness of the system, though it forces you to rewire your reactions when coming to AoC from other MMOs.

I ran into an odd bug with setting up hotkeys for the left-bottom bar. After quitting the game and then logging back in, the bar no longer displayed text showing me which hotkey was bound to which slot, but the hotkeys still worked. Not a hug deal, but a little confusing if you aren't aware of the issue. Another UI issue is the fact that the Feats screen doesn't display how many feat points you have available. You just have to try and select a feat and see if it works or you get an error message. Seems like a simple enough thing to fix, so I'm not sure why this issue is even in the game at this point.

Overall, my first few hours were fun, though it 90% solo, and 90% of that in my own instance. Hopefully my next installment will include some time spent with the Shadowclan Picts!

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