Hey look, I'm not talking about anything controversial and boring! Well, maybe boring!
So I got into Age of Conan. At this point I join most MMOs the way a dog ends up eating bread that falls off the dining room table. I start off totally disinterested, because it's clearly not meat. I mean, sure, it's /edible/. But it's just not worth the effort. But by the time it actually falls off the table and hits the floor, I'm feeling kind of hungry, and the schipperke's acting like there may be meat INSIDE the bread, and so I wolf it up.
Age of Conan was the same way. The promotional stuff I saw leading up to the game left me more annoyed than anything - some paunchy producer making a video talking about the exciting 'minigames' in AoC. Minigames? Yes, like capture the flag. CAPTURE THE FLAG? When did Conan ever capture the flag? CTF may be a game played in the first-person shooter genre now, but it has its origins less in the bloody expanse of pre-history than 'what people played in grade school'. Keep in mind that, up until this point, AoC was being billed as a full-on PVP game, completely with open-world PVP, sieges, etc. So hearing about 'minigames' and 'arenas' was a letdown.
Still, some Scrunchie bastard ended up getting me interested in it at the last minute, and so I threw down the money.
Experiences so far.
1) I joined the RP-PVP world, and I don't regret it. If I had to do it over again in WoW, I'd have joined a PVP server outright. For all the ganking and camping, it just makes the game a lot more fun.
2) Graphically, the game does something that annoys me more and more nowadays: Uses some 'realistic' poser skin for human textures. Look: I don't play games to see realistic looking people, especially women. I play them to get away from that. Let's face it, most people - even attractive people - when you really, really look close at them (Like on a 46" monitor with a good graphics card), actually look kind of bad. Maybe you like freckles and pockmarks, but to me it looks like skin disease. You don't see the asian MMOs doing this!
3) Classwise, the game is fantastic. The individual classes, while needing balance tweaks, are able to be developed in pretty fun ways that make PVP (naturally, the centerpiece for me) more fun. Each class has 2 distinct talent trees, and a general tree for their class group. They also call them 'feats' instead of 'talents', but fuck it, they're talents and everyone knows it.
4) There's a ton of content in the game, as near as I can tell. Lots of quests, even raid areas are waiting for the level 80s. Maybe they're kind of bland tech-wise, but who cares? I sure don't. I don't even know the story with half the quests I do. I just click through to get to the objectives. Yes, I'm that kind of gamer.
5) It's buggy, but that 'acceptable for launch' kind of buggy. There's crashes here and there, some obvious bugs, but on the whole it's not a big issue. When you get to the outdoor zones out of newbieland (they really should make it an option to just start at level 20), you'll care more about the state of the content than the bugs, for the most part.
6) On the downside, the game relies heavily on instancing and zones. For outdoor zones that's not so bad (though frankly, this sort of thing always means that PVP will not be taken as seriously as it can be), but in dungeons it's downright atrocious. Who the hell makes a dungeon where you have to zone to other wings of the same dungeon? That's EQ technology.
7) While I'm looking forward to seeing what they do with the game, it's clear that they blinked on the promise of PVP. You lose nothing by dying in PVP (Hell, if you die in PVP, get someone to PK you and you clear your debuffs - it's beneficial to die!), and right now you gain nothing by winning, other than annoying people and possibly getting them out of your hair. I'm not sure they have the stones to change this.
8) There are tradeskills in the game, but they're poorly implemented. Why does it seem that every MMO aside from EVE-Online approaches tradeskills in this way: "Okay, the rest of the game is made and should appeal to the widest range of person. All that's left are tradeskills. Now, what would someone with latter-days Howard Hughes level OCDs enjoy doing?" The main advantage of tradeskills is that gathering resources is so frustrating that I can already smell the blood that will be shed over resource nodes.
9) The environments are beautiful, but the models leave a lot to be desired. Everyone looks very 'budget Renfaire' to me, but I suppose that's what they really looked like in 10kBC or whenever this takes place hypothetically. I don't really mind though, since gameplay is all that matters to me. Conan could look like Billy D Williams for all I care.
10) The most worrying part of the game thus far is the anemic rate of patching. It's only been out a few days but.. the developers aren't talking to anyone at all, as near as I can tell. What are they thinking? Their game just launched and was a major success. Now is the time to start talking about all the great plans for AoC and what they're working on now.
11) Oh, the combat. It's fresh, and fun. Simple to learn, hard to master, particularly when it comes to PVP. It's odd how something as simple as combo button presses, at a lazy pace, adds a whole lot to the game. I'm not sure anyone is going to copy this, but they should - it's the sort of 'small step, giant leap' thing that has a lot of potential in games of this type.
12) The fatalities, however, are annoying. See, there's a certain % chance that you'll perform a fatality if you kill a character with a combo finisher. The problem is that a fatality locks you into a prolonged, supposedly cool-looking animation of you brutally slaying your foe. It grants a nice buff and is fine in a way, but several seconds of unbreakable animation means that a hostile player can get free hits in quickly. They should really implement temporary invulnerability during that stuff.
All in all, 'lots of potential, here's hoping they don't fuck it up'.