Age of Conan - Hyborian strongholds

Conan's palace - your exclusive peek inside the barbarian king’s throne room

You’ve risen from the ranks of lowly slave to mighty warrior, slain hundreds of bloodthirsty Picts, and babysat more Hyborian peasants than Supernanny the Barbarian. So, when will the world’s newest hero be invited inside the lustrous doors of the royal palace to rub elbow plates with the legendary King Conan himself?

While you’ll be able to visit Tarantia, the capital of the country of Aquilonia - and the seat of Conan’s power - once you reach level 20, you’ll have to prove yourself further before being summoned by the main man. In fact, you’ll have 40 more levels of adventuring before being judged worthy of a one-on-one audience - a level of 60 or higher is required to meet his Highness. Any subject can enter the palace, however. Once inside, you’ll be able to wander through its opulent halls, encounter Conan’s closest advisors and ambassadors from almost every race, and eavesdrop on petitioners as they gossip about current events in the kingdom (including, possibly, your own adventures). Finally, you’ll come across a pair of Black Dragon guards blocking the entryway to Conan’s throne room. If they see that you still carry the Mark of Thoth-amon, a tattoo borne of one of Conan’s most fearsome enemies, then you’ll be turned away.

As you get closer to level 60, you’ll ultimately discover the mark’s meaning and how to remove it. (The cutscene in which it is removed is very poignant, said one designer, who admitted to tearing up a little just thinking about it.) Once mark-free, the guards will welcome you with a salute and allow you to enter Conan’s inner sanctum. This first visit is a major event in the game. As the cutscene begins, the chorus goes into overdrive and Conan’s booming voice greets you as you hike the imposing distance to the foot of his throne. “In this late hour, hither comes the conqueror…” Conan intones solemnly, in turn praising your past deeds and then enlisting you in his personal service.

The bulk of your level progression from that point forward (up to the game’s cap of 80) will be spent serving at the pleasure of Conan, completing his quests entrusted to you. While he’ll never fight alongside you in person, Conan’s presence will be a powerful reward for high-level players.

May 16, 2008