PC age-of-conan-rise-of-the-godslayer-preview

Published on March 15th, 2010 | by prime

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Age of Conan: Rise of the Godslayer – Beta

Funcom’s second MMOG packed a lot of promise. Before launch, it won multiple awards at E3, and from the world’s top gaming sites. It won Best Original Score at the IFMCA awards (surely you remember?) and the game’s composer was nominated for Best Original Score at the Hollywood Music Awards. Weeks before launch it sold out both pre-order copies, and knocked Grand Theft Auto IV off the charts as the number-one selling game in Germany and Sweden.

Despite the fact that AoC sold hundreds of thousands of copies, many of the players who bought the game couldn’t even run it. Others who managed to meet minimum requirements could at least log in, but with slideshow-like frame-rates, it was unplayable. To make matters worse, the game had a severe memory leak that caused constant crashing for players who could play.

Funcom also misjudged the way that the ‘WoW generation’ played games. Developers estimated that it would take 250 hours to reach level 80, yet players were doing it in 48. Gamers had been trained to race to end-game, but Conan had none. The first 30 levels were fun and well designed, but high-level quest content was lacking, end-game content was sparse, and players were bored. Shortly after launch, there was a mass exodus of players and the game was labeled a failure.

Nearly two years have passed now, and the game is maturing nicely. Developers have been focusing on improving the original game, solving existing issues and beefing up content. According to the game’s Director, Craig Morrison, the first year was spent solely on addressing existing issues, and an expansion wasn’t even considered until those issues were resolved.

Now that they have their house in order, the first expansion, Rise of the Godslayer, has been announced. Funcom is known for thinking outside of the box, and this expansion is a solid example of their atypical perspective. Unlike normal expansions which add more levels and leave old content in the dust, Funcom is thinking laterally. The new content is intended to flesh out the existing game and give players more to do with the characters they have.

Players complained that the instanced content ruined immersion. Funcom addressed this issue in its new landmass, Khitai. The Asian-themed continent contains zones that are interconnected. Travel NPCs have been removed and players cannot only see the surroundings zones from their current location but they can also move through the border lines from place to place.

They also recognize that the mature, time-limited audience they’re aiming for doesn’t want to spend hours waiting for other people so that they can play. Most of the new content is intended to be solo-friendly. While the focus is on increasing content for high-level players, there is also added content for lower levels as well. The new race, Khitan, will level 1-20 in Tortage, but from there they move to Khitai to pursue their own destiny quests in content developed for leveling up the characters.

As further encouragements for solo players, new factions are being introduced, each with their own ranks and rewards. These include some amazing armor sets and very interesting mounts. The mounts are obtained through special quest chains and must be caught, tamed, raised and trained by the player before they can be ridden. Instead of giving the typical speed increase, the mounts have special abilities such as enabling the player to stealth while riding. The already remarkable combat system is also being enhanced with some fantastic new fighting moves with martial arts flair.

They’ve also declined to add new classes and instead have introduced an ‘Alternate Advancement System’. This system uses experience that players gain from normal activities (questing, raiding, or hunting) and opens up new feat trees, giving players access to a lot of new spells, abilities and combos for their existing characters.

Rise of the Godslayer has the potential to make Age of Conan one of the best MMO games on the market

Age of Conan has always displayed the potential to be something different from other fantasy MMOGs. Funcom seems to have spent a great deal of effort attempting to make that potential a reality. With their new project – The Secret Life – receiving so much hype, much will ride on the success of the Rise of the Godslayer expansion. With the ill-fated Hyborian Adventures launch, more of the trouble was due to unrealistic expectations than the poor design. Developers simply underestimated their players leveling methods and simply overestimated their computer systems.

As it sits, the game is good, but Rise of the Godslayer has the potential to make Age of Conan one of the best MMO games on the market. The expansion will directly target the mature gamer who has a solid gaming system and who is tired of entry-level MMOGs. People who don’t want to stray too far off of the beaten path, but who are looking for new twists on old ideas will likely enjoy it.

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