|System: X360, PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Funcom||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Eidos Interactive||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Q1 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: Online (MMOG)||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Pending||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by D'Marcus Beatty
Feb. 19, 2007 - Times were much simpler hundreds of years ago before convoluted politics, Jack Thompson, console wars, and etiquette. Way back then, everyone listened to the man with the crown on his head and avoided the mean, muscular looking guy with the big sword. Funcom intends to allow us to visit that time period and experience the joys of simple, barbaric pleasures and dangers in the MMOG Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures.
Age of Conan sets the player in the medieval ages in the titular Age of Conan. Although it is disappointing, the player will not be able to play as Conan, who is the king during the period that the game takes place. Because the game is partially an MMO, it wouldn't be possible or viable for a person to play as Conan, or there would be hundreds of different versions of the barbarian hero running around on the servers. Instead, the player creates an adventurer from scratch, a practice that is common and familiar to MMO gamers. At that point, the player will begin adventuring, taking the character on different quests in the single player portion of the game. The player won't even be allowed to join in multiplayer quests until they've reached a suitable level, which forces the player to develop their character and become familiar with the game before venturing out with others. No newbs here.
Each character starts out as a lowly slave without skills, money, or ability. The character then escapes the ship they were enslaved on and begins the game with the stolen oar as their only weapon. After gaining a few levels, the player then chooses a class from the RPG standards of warrior, rogue, mage, or priest. These professions and the accompanying skills become deeper in specialization as the player grows in levels. Some of the higher level prestige professions include lord, architect, crafter, and commander, all of which fit into the game's city building elements.
The option to build and maintain a city is an unique element in AoC. At higher levels, the player can choose to build up a plot of land as a city, and, using certain skills like architecture or crafting, ensure the city's survival. Of course, a rival city can spring up and regularly challenge the player's city, resulting in regular raids on the town or pre-emptive raids from the player's side to attack the other rival city. The player can also create castles, which can be challenged by other actual players in a PvP battle.
Another area where the game is vastly different from other online RPGs is in the combat. The battles in AoC are much more action-oriented and much bloodier than games like World of Warcraft or Final Fantasy XI. The battles consist of choosing arrows to create melee combos in battles. Following certain arrow prompts have different results, such as decapitations, mutilations, and dismembering foes, which definitely sets it apart from tamer MMORPGs and makes the game feel truer to the source material.
Another non-lethal combat comes in the form of drunken bar brawling. This is a PvP battle system that allows the player to go into a bar and get into friendly fights with other players. The character chooses a type of alcohol, all of which confer different abilities and stats to the player. Some forms of alcohol may make the player stronger, while others make them faster. The player then engages another drunken bar patron and begins to fight. There aren't any lethal weapons used in these fights, since they're mainly for fun, but the player can grab non-lethal weapons, presumably like barstools or wine bottles, to smash over opponents' heads. There is even a ranking system that lets players keep track of the best brawlers.
Magic in the game is also different from standard MMORPGs. Some of the magics, like the healing spells, are purely beneficial. However, some of the darker magics require the player to call upon aid from demons, which in turn corrupts their own souls. Each time the player uses dark magic, a little more of their soul is darkened and corrupted. There are points in each area that allow the player to purge their soul of darkness and repeat the cycle anew. However, if the player doesn't reach one of these purifying areas in time and accrues enough corruption, they are sent to Hell, where they must fight their way back to the overworld. This is a darkly appealing application of the magic system, and should create some interesting choices for players.
Currently, Age of Conan is slated to be released on the PC and the Xbox 360. The PC version is running on DirectX 10, which is creating beautiful visuals. The foliage looks incredible as well as the lighting and water effects, and the game looks stunning. Hopefully, these visual effects will be replicated on the Xbox 360 as well.
Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures is a highly anticipated title for PC and Xbox 360 owners and for good reason. With its unique approach to the MMORPG, its dynamic fighting system, gorgeous visuals, and its adherence to its violent, mature-themed source material, AoC might be a title to watch for. While a release date isn't set yet, hopefully we'll see it sometime this year.
CCC Co-Site Director