It’s often been said, by myself and others, that Age of Conan has the best starting experience in MMOs – and unless they’ve messed it up, this is still true. But in the big picture, the greatness of Tortage is a double-edged sword.
For one, it’s so detailed that there’s only one starting area as a result, which makes replayability an issue in short order. And for another, a (justified) criticism that was commonly leveled against the game when it launched was that once you got out of Tortage and into the “real game,” it wasn’t nearly as good.
My modus operandi right now is “don’t spend any money,” not just because I’m broke (I am,) but also because the other demands on my time severely limit my ability to put in the kind of hours that make a game worth $15 a month. In this respect DDO and AoC’s unlimited trial are pretty appealing – I’ve more or less given up on Allods Online, having no desire to navigate all the bullshit, and on Runes of Magic for being generally shallow and unappealing.
I’m having a whale of a time in DDO, as I’ve mentioned, and the night or two a week that it costs me is what I can afford. My intention with AoC is to take my time with the content, playing here and there on a couple of different characters, and (honestly) getting into some therapeutic ganking in the PvP areas (I rolled on Cimmeria, the RP/PvP server.) This latter may or may not work out.
Last night I played through the instanced starter quests on a Stygian Assassin, a class I haven’t tried before. Offhand, it hasn’t changed very much so far, although the initial jungle area is a little more filled out with mobs than it was when last I played.
AoC’s combat system bears some resemblance to DDO’s, in the sense that attacks are aimed rather than using locked targets. I like this – it gives combat a more dynamic feel – as well as the fact that melee attacks in AoC are short-ranged AoEs rather than single-target attacks. DDO has this as well but relies on it much less, and as a result positioning is more important in AoC, although the system in DDO is generally deeper.
As far as I’m concerned, the best combat system among fantasy MMOs are found in AoC, DDO and Champions Online in that order, with Champions coming in last because of target locking. All three games, however, give the impression of righteous ass-kicking while still retaining some level of challenge. I think (based on prior experience,) that AoC strikes the best balance here, thanks to combats generally including larger numbers of opponents.
One of my personal MMO idiosyncrasies is that I like to move with the mouse rather than with the WASD keys – a bad habit I got into while playing WoW. It’s one reason why I tend to dislike both Korean games and Guild Wars, which employ a click-on-destination mouse movement scheme that I simply don’t have the hang of.
But this is a habit that I’m finally managing to break thanks to DDO, which favors keyboard movement and mouselook steering – and to go back to Age of Conan, which favors mouse movements and keyboard-triggered attacks (my traditional method,) is something I’m finding jarring. Nevertheless, I had fun in AoC last night and plan to continue to play here and there… and hopefully blog about as I find the time.v