Based on our latest look at Age of Conan, we can safely say it’s looking pretty damn great. The combat system has been changed in a number of very definite, deliberate ways, and it improves the feel of the game immensely.
The number of directions in which you can attack has been reduced, combos must now be activated instead of memorised and hopelessly recited, and enemies now display shield icons on either their front, left or right sides - a seemingly trivial inclusion but one that gives purpose and meaning to the ability to attack from one direction rather than another. It gives us hope that a live-combat MMORPG can actually, seriously work, and that Age of Conan could be the biggest trend-bucker the genre’s seen.
AoC’s game designer, Gaute Godager, explains what’s been happening these past six months. “Previously, we had a system of combat inputs much like an action game or a fighting game,” he begins, “where you do a sequence of moves like up-down-right to activate a combo. We found that when players had 15 combos that they knew, it was really hard for them to remember how to trigger a specific one.” This means there’ll be far fewer players mucking up when attempting the frantic keyboard gymnastics required to do their area-effect taunts and instead alt-tabbing to iTunes and falling off their chairs.
“That’s why we took a step back and realised we had to do it differently,” continues Godager, “and that’s why we implemented the combo starters and the follow-up system.” These combo starters sit on your action bar at the bottom of the screen, and are activated by clicking on them - this highlights directions in which you must attack in order to carry out the selected combo move. Kill an enemy with a combo move and you’ll carry out a fatality - anything from lopping off a head to butting your opponent to the floor and slowly, torturously piercing him with your sword. No other MMORPG comes close to this level of combat interaction - it really does feel like a single player adventure game.