Thanks to Age of Conan traffic, yesterday was another record-setting day for this blog. Furthermore, this week is the record-setting week, and this month is the record setting month… this last by a decent margin, and neither the week nor the month is over yet. So again, many thanks for all the visits and comments.
Last night I picked up my preorder from Best Buy and came home to settle in for a couple hours of playing, expecting issues because of very high launch volumes. The manual is rather more slender than I’d expected, but that’s not really a bad thing, because most people will give it one quick look-through, put it back in the box, and never touch it again because online guides are going to pop up which will be both more current and far more comprehensive. I’m going to try to stay clear of that kind of thing with AoC, but no doubt I will get stuck at some point and break down.
Now, at level 19, you can get the last of the destiny quests, and I wanted to get off of Tortage. During the cutscene to get the quest (these are not cutscenes, technically speaking, but everyone’s calling them that,) I had a weird crash where the whole screen went light orange and the system locked up. I resolved not to go apoplectic over it, since I’ve gotten about 18 hours in up to now with no significant issues. Vanguard (which was guaranteed to crash at least one an hour back in the early days,) has made me pretty forgiving in this respect.
Logging back in after the reboot, there was a server queue of about 3 minutes. Apparently Cimmeria is among the more popular servers. I had the quest when I got back into the game. One of the things I’m liking is that while there are minimap pointers and the like, the entire quest and exactly how you do it is not necessarily explained to you – and because the game is so new, there’s no equivalent of Thottbot yet to tell you how to do everything. I’m finding it refreshing to have the occasional quest in which I have to figure out how to complete it.
The last destiny quest puts you up against the Tyrant of Tortage himself, and it’s a bit anticlimactic – he’s a bit of a chump next to the horde of mobs you have to fight to get to him. Once you’ve completed the quest, you talk to Kalanthes – the same Kalanthes that spoke to you when you washed up on the beach. He explains a bit about what’s going on, then sends you on to your racial hub – Conach Village for Cimmerians, Tarantia for Aquilonians, and Khemi for Stygians. You don’t seem to be especially tied to your own hub, though – as a Cimmerian I found myself able to go down to Aquilonia and run quests there. Considering the freebooting nature of the original Conan stories, I think this is appropriate.
The method by which you travel from racial hub to racial hub is not the same as the type of zoning used to get from the racial hubs to the adjoining adventuring areas. There are Wagoneer NPCs in each racial hub that will take you elsewhere, and each hub kind of cleverly gives you a couple of quests in other hubs so you’ll have to learn how to get from place to place. It’s rather nicely done, and as today’s screenshots show, I used this to do a little bit of sightseeing.
I’ve joined a guild which is as yet very small, and I was the only one to get into Early Access, so I was assigned the task of setting up the guild. This was actually the first thing I looked up in the printed manual, and I was rather astonished by how easy it is: once you hit level 20, you can open the guild window and create a guild. You can join a guild at any level, but you have to be 20 to start one. I rather like the way this works; why does creating a guild need to be any more difficult, as it is in most other MMOs? In EQ2, for example, it’s kind of a hassle, and let’s not even talk about what guild management was like in EQ.
The Guild Management panel itself is rather primitive, and lacks the ability to perform pretty much any important function directly from it. You can set your “government type,” which controls the names of your guild ranks, and change whether or when the guild will show up as recruiting, and you can reserve guild city spots, but not much else. Invites also cannot be done through the right-click context menu unless the character in question is within a fairly short range, although you can use /guild invite [name] from anywhere. You promote and kick via the context menu from your friends list, and there’s no separate tab for guildmates, which I find rather disappointing. Overall, the guild management tools in Age of Conan get a C from me – I like that you can just create a guild with no fuss, but the tools you get after that point are both awkward and inadequate, especially considering that guild management is going to be very important in a game with player-built cities and guild-on-guild warfare.
I visited Old Tarantia, heart of Aquilonia, and poked around there a bit. At one point I climbed up a vine-covered wall to sneak into the Temple of Mitra to find Temple maidens frolicking within, which I thought was pure Hyborian gold. And the city itself is very striking, although framerates took a hit there due to the largish number of players around. I also visited Khemi but didn’t have time to poke around there aside from taking a few screenshots; it’s an area that I would very much like to explore thoroughly, but that’ll probably have to wait until I put some hours into a Stygian alt (who will almost certainly be a Tempest of Set.)
Overall, Age of Conan seems to be launching fairly smoothly. Not as smoothly as LotRO’s launch (which I was around for,) but smoother than WoW’s from what I hear, and I think it’s safe to pronounce comparisons with Anarchy Online and Vanguard laughable at this point. If demand for the game is as high as some indications imply, I expect more servers to be added, possibly a lot more. But in three logins last night, I only had to wait once, and then only for three minutes, which isn’t too bad. There were no server crashes as far as I’m aware, and no downtime after the (again slightly delayed) launch time. Traders continue to be disabled, which is somewhat annoying as I used my /claim last night and now have three bag slots containing things I can’t use and can’t bank for later (yes, /claim worked fine for me.)
Beyond the Tortage starting area, you’re in straight MMO multiplayer mode – with all that implies if you’re on a PvP server, although the hub areas are safe zones. I’m hearing (and my own experience bears out) that the gank factor really isn’t that high, at least on Cimmeria. You have to be careful, but between sprint and hide and the ultra-detailed, naturalistic terrain it’s also very possible to elude a would-be griefer. (Oh, and I killed another one of those last night, bringing my PvP kills up to a whopping three.)
Questing in the racial hubs (you can continue the Destiny questline, but not until level 30,) is fairly run-of-the-mill kill, courier and collect quests, but they all seem well-done. It is something of a disappointment that quests with voiceovers during the cutscenes mostly go away once you get out of Tortage – I was enjoying that very much. Still, the game is continuing (so far) to provide me with a high-quality and very satisfying MMO experience.