Overall, Age of Conan is a complete MMORPG. The lore itself, while hardly outstanding, is functional enough to fit the requirements of things to kill, places to go, dungeons to chop your way through, and big, bad enemies to eviscerate. There are 80 levels with a curve that seems a bit tougher than World of Warcraft’s, rewarding both solo and group play fairly equally, even at the higher levels. There’s also a fair amount of support for guilds, with the ability to build cities and eventually have supposedly gigantic siege battles - though we have to question how an engine that has framerate drops when a few enemies get on screen can handle potential tens or even hundreds of players at once.
The player-versus-player side is also available, but this too still has great big holes in it, with no death penalties (you are resurrected in pretty much the same spot as you’re killed), heavy balancing issues, and high levels of griefing that make playing on one of the PvP servers an inadvisable experience - at least until Funcom delivers some much-needed method to the madness. When you’re in a balanced fight PvP combat is fun, but (much like any game in which arseholes are given free reign) higher level players love to wade into areas not built for them and stomp on newer players for giggles.
Finally, we have to touch upon how much AoC demands of the average PC. While (the admittedly far older) WoW will run on most PCs, to play AoC on any graphical setting above “A bit rubbish-looking” requires a dual core processor, at least 2GB of memory and a decent video card (with at least 512MB of RAM). AoC’s minimum specs resemble EQII and Vanguard’s preposterous system requirements, striving to become “future-proof,” but the game lacks payoff. At the higher-end AoC looks reasonably good but it still manages to judder on anything less powerful than Deep Blue. When you’re desperately trying to pull together that last combo, you’ll find yourself switching to lower settings in case your 3D card can’t take it. The much-touted DirectX 10 support won’t be available for a while either.
Overall, AoC isn’t a bad game, but it has been over-hyped. Once you pass by the initially impressive first 20 levels, you find yourself stuck in the same monotony that plagues lesser titles working with less-promising lore and it only gets more repetitive and generic as you level up. Even the class feats and progression feel dull, with classes gaining too few abilities to ensure that making that extra push through the last of an area’s unappetizing content feels worthwhile. The Hyboria lore itself doesn’t have the luster to make a convincing world, or (more likely) hasn’t been exploited well enough; no matter how many hours we ploughed into AoC post-Tortage, it was always hard to give a shit.
This is a genuine shame, because somewhere near the beginning AoC gives the feeling that it’s revolutionary. However, once you pass the infant stages of the game, play becomes all too familiar, all too repetitive and all too unpolished. We’re not saying avoid Age of Conan - feel free to give it a go and enjoy the early stages with your free 30 days of play. But when Funcom starts to demand the monthly subscription, AoC becomes harder to recommend. Some fixing and additions would improve Age of Conan, but at its core it lacks the fight and soul to evolve into a truly amazing MMO.
Jun 6, 2008