Age of Conan - hands-on

Our playtest raised other uncertainties, too. Your first hour, for instance, is closer to a singleplayer adventure. Every gamer awakes alone after their own personal shipwreck on the afore-mentioned pirate island, with no other players to interact with. Everyone's higher story arc is also exactly the same - what is the meaning of the mark on your chest?

Even with Conan's amazingly deep character customization - which the developers promise will make it the first game where you can recognize a friend just byhis avatar - the lack of variation in each player's background could mean Age of Conan struggles to maintain World of Warcraft -levels of interest.

Above: There's almost no limit to the size of your enemies, allowing imposing battles against city-dwarfing monsters

But we still haven't seen Conan 's bigger ideas in practice. An area dedicated to siege warfare is promised, complete with player-owned fortresses, battering rams and the clashing of giant armies. And mounted combat is another intriguing prospect, adding yet more depth to the fighting already on offer.

As with any multiplayer game, Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures will live or die by the dedication of its player population. But it's already obvious that Age of Conan possesses enough appeal, personality and potential to raise an army of gamers to the cause. And with downloadable expansions adding to an already huge world after release, those dreams of living the life of a furry-pant wearing Schwarzeneggerish hero are sure to be fulfilled.

Ben Richardson is a former Staff Writer for Official PlayStation 2 magazine and a former Content Editor of GamesRadar+. In the years since Ben left GR, he has worked as a columnist, communications officer, charity coach, and podcast host – but we still look back to his news stories from time to time, they are a window into a different era of video games.