No Arnold Schwarzenegger in this game!
July 25, 2007 – First off, I would like to take this time to mention that the Conan mythos is rooted in a series of books written in the early 20th century by fantasy writer Robert E. Howard. This game is in no way based on the ultra-campy movie starring your favorite actor-turned-governor. Not even one little bit.
Now that we got that out of the way, let’s talk Conan! Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures has been in the works for some time and looks to be pretty promising, and we’re finally getting close to it’s October release date, let’s take a little refresher course, shall we?
Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures is going to be an MMO for the PC and the Xbox 360. You’ll start off in true MMO fashion and begin the game as the lowest of the low, a slave. But don’t worry, you won’t have to show your face to the online community until you’ve leveled up doing single-player campaigns to a suitable level. From this point on, you’ll experience the true MMO genre portion of the game. Now comparisons to World of Warcraft, the MMO demigod, will be inevitable, but for now, suffice to say that some of those expectations that were set by said demigod will be present in Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures. Take that for what you will.
So now that we know that Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures will be an MMO, what else is there? Well, there are quite a few distinguishing features for this title. First of all, there’s the underwritten matter of scrolling text. Now you may think that scrolling text is just another part of MMORPG gaming. But Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures wants to bring you a more cinematic experience. Instead of reading text about what’s going on in your Hyborian universe, you’ll actually be shown what happens. And that’s a big thing when you’re talking about the overall experience of a game.
One thing that’s very important to note about Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures is that it’s going to be gorgeous looking. Of course, you may be thinking to yourself that you’ve heard all this about “great graphics” before, but trust me, it’s really true in this case. Since there’s going to be so much focus on cinematic storytelling, it’s absolutely vital that the graphics be up to standard. And I’m happy to report that, judging by early footage, they more than exceed that standard.
Another big thing that’s going to set Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures apart is the graphic content. This is definitely not your Mama’s MMO. There will be some seriously gratuitous violence, not to mention some babes with barely-there bikinis. Although the rating has not officially been announced, I would be fairly shocked if this one didn’t get the ever popular ‘M.’
One thing that’s different about this game when it comes to MMOs is its control scheme, which is quite refreshing to see. Instead of an attack-based system, Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures’ system will be more combo-based. You’ll definitely need to work on those reflexes to succeed in this game because timing and button order will be everything. Each button will have a different type and direction of attack, and you’ll have to read your enemy fast to see where their weak spots are and where their attacks come from. So what I would label this game, in terms of control scheme, is an intelligent button masher.
Of course, the controls get much more complicated from there and involve all sorts of battle intricacies, but I wouldn’t want to spoil everything for you. You’ll just have to check this one out this October!
Release your inner barbarian
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.