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Experiences in the world of Age of Conan, part II

Experiences in the world of Age of Conan, part II

OPINION

My 7-day trial period of Age of Conan ended just a few moments ago and I thought this might be an opportune time to tell you how my thinking changed since I wrote my "first impressions" piece last week.

My 7-day trial period of Age of Conan ended just a few moments ago and I thought this might be an opportune time to tell you how my thinking changed since I wrote my "first impressions" piece last week. And, yes, my thinking really did change, although some of the first impressions still hold true - it is still silly that you cannot pick up the weapons that your enemies just used against you and it still annoys me that I cannot snipe my enemies from rooftops during some missions. And the bikinis are still silly as well.

However, I must say that I got over my first dismay with the graphics - especially after having been pointed it out to me that the graphics in practically every other MMO are much worse - and I actually got used to them and started to like them. They are certainly not as realistic as one might want to see, but they are still pretty good.

But, onto the things that I liked about Age of Conan:

First, I like the realistic elements in graphics design. You will not see idiotically designed sword handles or big 1000 pound armour on people. The armour and weapons in Age of Conan are more or less something that you might actually see in early medieval / Hyborean setting. I was especially pleased to see weapons such as the seax that are rarely remembered by game designers.

Second, the character design phase is much better than in any other RPG I remember seeing. Whereas in Oblivion, for example, you only had the chance to customise the head of your hero (even small, shifty-eyed heads were still attached to Herculean bodies), in Age of Conan you can adjust the body size in several ways and really achieve the results that you desire. Of course, you can only make relatively fit-bodied characters, but that's acceptable since they are meant to be, well, heroes. A bit more variety to the face basetypes would still be welcome, but things are pretty cool as they are now. My wife, who doesn't play games at all, really enjoyed designing characters with AoC and exploring its limits.

Third, and perhaps the most important: the fighting system. I've never seen a better fighting system in any RPG. Age of Conan combines the skills of the player perfectly with the advancing skills of the character, so that the fighting doesn't become a twitch-fest as you try to hit several buttons at once and as quickly as possible. Rather, you select from basic strikes and combos the ones that you want to use and the character then performs those actions as best (s)he can. The fighting really retains that tactical feel to the player and does not become too FPS-like, while it still introduces a variety of attacks and blocks and combos that you can use.

The fighting system only started to show its full potential towards the end of the trial period as my character - Cimmerian barbarian called Sheline - got up in levels and started doing some fancy finishing moves, such as decapitations. It's a very satisfying feeling when you overcome a horde of picts, decapitating some and skewering the others.

I had time to play one character all the way through the intro single-player story and another up 'till the 16th level while doing as many of the side quests as possible in the time remaining. And, I have to admit that I'm still hungry for more. When the summer holidays start, I think I know where I'll be spending most of my time... Swimming in crocodile-infested seas, chasing after fleeing hordes of picts and generally enjoying myself.
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