Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures Updated Hands-On - Early Experience Before Launch

This violent massively multiplayer game is launching in just days, and we take one final jaunt.

by

Massively multiplayer games are usually pretty abstract. You pretend to be some kind of elf who goes out and repeatedly whacks skeletons and giant rats with big swings of a rusty sword as your computer does a bunch of invisible math to determine whether or not you hit. If you survive, you gain experience points, and maybe some treasure. Eventually, you get to be a level 2 elf who can afford to purchase a slightly less rusty sword. In Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures, the combat isn't abstract; it takes place in real time, and you control every stroke of the sword (or arrow, or magical spell you fling at your foes) with individual key presses, and you can even perform various combo attacks by stringing them together. The game is finally set to launch very soon, and we took the opportunity to try it out one last time.

Let me tell you of a time of high adventure. And low necklines.

As we've mentioned in our extensive previous coverage, the game takes place in the lush and dark world of Conan the Barbarian, created decades ago by pulp-fiction author Robert E. Howard (and later immortalized by a certain California governor). You play the game as a recently emancipated slave from one of three nations: the northern realm of Aquilonia (which is currently ruled by Conan himself), the barbarian territory of Cimmeria (Conan's homeland), or the mysterious kingdom of Stygia, home of dusky-skinned sorcerers and snake cults.

In our session, we chose to play as a Cimmerian ranger, a character class that attacks primarily with a bow to hit enemies from a distance, though the game has numerous other character classes built around the classic fantasy archetypes of warrior, wizard, thief, and priest. As we've mentioned previously, the game offers extensive character-appearance customization options, from body tattoos, to default facial expressions, to different hairstyles, to scars, to just how bent you want your character's nose to be. We don't have any screenshots of our most recently created female character. And we'll take this opportunity to remind you that Age of Conan is a game that's rated "M" for mature. Given those two facts, we'll let you figure out for yourself why we don't have any screenshots of character creation (or any screenshots of our female character without any body armor equipped, either).

Like with our previous game sessions, we began our career washed up on the shore of Tortage, a city of freebooters who don't look kindly on recently emancipated slaves. We quickly ran through the jungle, freed a fellow slave, and then hunted down the slaver who would reveal our identity to the authorities. Eventually we made our way to the city, slaughtering a few dozen bandits, Pict savages, evil demons, and jungle apes along the way. Age of Conan's real-time combat system seems to work just fine on the eve of its upcoming launch, and it registers our keyboard inputs quite well. New characters begin their lives with only three directional attacks, but can later learn combos that deal devastating amounts of damage and have other effects, such as flinging enemies backward. We also put our low-level character's admittedly meager skills to the test against enemies that shifted their protections from one flank to the other; as we've covered previously, enemies may shift their protections to one of four sides, indicated onscreen by a stack of transparent white marks surrounding their bodies. Attacking a heavily armored side is futile, whereas attacking a flank that has no armor at all often deals much better damage.

Age of Conan launches in mere days. And pretty much everything seems to work OK so far.

From what we can tell, the early-game experience in Age of Conan seems to work just fine, which bodes well for a game that has been some years in development and has seen a lengthy beta test that has featured numerous patches and additions, practically daily, to resolve various issues and improve the game. Age of Conan launches next week.

Discussion

68 comments
elwood
elwood

Trigger, you definitely missed something. Scroll all the way in, and your ranger goes into "fps mode", so that particular class does, in fact, have that ability. However, I don't know where the game has been marketed as such, as I have not read that anywhere. And as for basing your opinion on a beta, well... seriously man, its a beta. This game's launch has been smoother than any MMO I have ever seen, including WoW. The game runs incredibly well for 99% of the people in my guild on a variety of machines. Don't base your impressions on the game from leveling to 13 in Tortage. You didn't even scratch the surface. This game, at launch runs smoother and has more stable servers than WoW did at launch. And items are being addressed, as I said below. Blizzard's devs never seemed to give WoW the attention that Funcom has been giving in the first 4 days of launch. I remember servers going down for days at a time, and not for scheduled maintenance. This has not happened with AoC so far. Seriously, a 1-2 year old PC will be fine. There have been patches that fixed pretty much all of the graphics and stability issues you experienced. There is no more load time problem. You say "so theres little excuse for this game to run as badly as it does unless the beta was running a debugger in the background or something.". But yes there is an excuse- IT WAS A BETA! They were testing it and fixed all of those problems! People in my guild who had problems running Vanguard have no issues with this game.

trigger6
trigger6

I played the beta of AoC and can tell everyone that is wondering if their 1 - 2 year old pc will handle this game - no it most certainly wont. Not unless the beta was in a state that doesnt even closely resemble the v1.0 product. For those that want to compare machines, I have a 3.0ghz machine, 2gb 800fsb ram, 7900 gtx and 2x320gb hd in raid0. This machine has no real issues playing most games and even modern fps's will run fine, so theres little excuse for this game to run as badly as it does unless the beta was running a debugger in the background or something. The load times were atrocious (1+min to load something that should have zero load times) and the install footprint is bordering on insane (25 gigs installed!!!). The graphics while 'better' are only better because of higher resolution textures and higher poly counts. There is nothing superior about the level design in this game. I think both GuildWars and WoW have far superior level design. WoW does a much better job of making the world around you feel 'open' as in if you want to go and walk over a hill and check out whats on the other side, you can. In AoC its more like playing a single player RPG where there are clearly defined limits for you to explore. This could certainly have only been due to me exploring only the beginning areas of the game, but I think perhaps it will continue in this fashion. The adult factor wears off mighty fast, and the blood and gore are hardly convincing. This is still an MMO, so don't expect crysis or FPS level graphics. The biggest issue I have is that the marketing on this game states that the combat is 'FPS style' which means I should be able to target where I want to fire and hit or miss based on my level of skill. This is most certainly NOT the case. If you are a ranger, it works exactly like wow. You target someone, you press the attack button, and voila, you either hit or miss based on calculations and stats, not your skill at aiming. I either completely missed something, or the AoC marketing dept's are on false pretense patrol.

The_Flighty_Zoo
The_Flighty_Zoo

This game will be a great choice for those gamers who have finished with WoW, and are wanting something a little more say..............adult.

damicron
damicron

I dunno...the world and characters look very dull and boring. Very little cool factor at the moment.

elwood
elwood

The WoW fanbois are out in force..lol This game is solid, played open beta and early release. The combat system is not "revolutionary" but is much more involved than current MMOs. It is a lot of fun to play, and will only get better as the minor bugs get fixed. The devs are giving this game a HUGE amount of attention, and problems are getting fixed quick. This game is extremely immersive. Much more so than WoW. The graphics are great. The UI needs some work, and the chat system is pretty clunky right now. These are all things that will be fixed though. Overall this game is a lot of fun. Once the sieges begin with Guild Cities and resources, this is going to be a great guild-centric PvP game. I loved playing WoW for what it was, but there is something about real-time combat in an open battlefield. WoW's instanced PvP doesn't come close to this game's PvP potential. If you are looking for scripted battles with a bunch of bosses, hours upon hours of trash clearing, and hours upon hours of farming for materials to assist in the scripted battles, this game is not for you. Keep giving Blizzard your money instead. If you are a fan of the Conan series, enjoy bloody and harsh environments, and love the thrill of battling actual human opponents, give this a shot.

WitteKraai
WitteKraai

I'm excited about this game. I was going to buy it on XBox because of my HUGE TV OF DOOM, but I don't think I can wait that long. I'm pre-ordering this afternoon for the PC version. Heck, I might even buy both versions. :O

de_flanked
de_flanked

wow is multicoloured stupidity.. loads of weapons yeah, but the graphics are disgusting... i mean a mans lag going through a horse, pathetic, aoc? just to explore will be fantastic!

joe_ender
joe_ender

am going to buy a computer for this w00t

Kirky-
Kirky-

Those who are saying the "M" rating will stop kids from playing are a bit naive. Ratings have never stopped kids before.

Xerratul
Xerratul

Hope has come to me and my clan in the form of a severd head rolling down a hill shortly following a mass of enemys that i alone killed! I love the fact the i can take on more then one "pull" at a time... I love the world, the Dialogue options, the character creation, i cant compare this game to anything else MMO, For me and my mates, this game is catalyst to alot of accounts cancelled in other MMOs, we like it alot.

BUMFIRE3
BUMFIRE3

Maybe this game will be a good mmo. But equal to wow, I think not. Even if this game was 100 times better than wow it would take years to get a fan base like wow. The problem with beating wow is that they release a patch like every month that makes the game content expand. They look at what other mmos do well and they do it better. Blizzard spends the most time and the most effort on games. More than any other company. Warhammer seems to be they bast chance of even coming close to challenging wow, simply because it is made my EA. Age of Conan will probably just be like pirates of the burning sea or matrix online, that a few thousand play. Then again maybe not. It's for xbox too haha. Thats a bad sign.

Zee666
Zee666

Why is everyone so obsessed with different mmorpgs being better than others. It's understandable to enjoy one more than another but why do people feel so incredibly strongly about one and abhor all others. They each have their own pros and cons and, when it comes down to it, theyr'e all mmorpgs! They take obscene amounts money in the long run to 'join a massive online commmunity'. People play good single player games, i can guarantee there will be less hate in your soul if you do. ...Oh wait, now you've got to choose which console to buy. Yet another reason why humanity is epiphany of corruption and evil. DAMN MASTERS OF THE CORPORATE WORLD!

cowelliny
cowelliny

My friends... this is the shining moment of a new game called Conan.. and i do hope to see some of you there as i have just bought this game.. and i please request .. a big request to all of you.. to show respect to this much awaited game .. in which most of us like me waited for 3 years.. RESPECT THIS GAME BY AT LEAST NOT MENTIONING WOW in this forums nor compare it to that garbage game. wow is like a piece of ant compare to this Gigantic mammoth Conan game. Alas! May fortune smile on us all Conan players!!!!!! BONA FORTUNA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

mkraush
mkraush

WoW stinks, and if I have to read juan more D-bag's comment about KIDDIES ARE OUT OF SKOOL UR MAWM WONT LET U PLAY! I'm gonna straight up poop my pants.

Scrubsftwofc
Scrubsftwofc

I think the best thing about this game is that it's rated M. So then we won't get all the kids who can't talk english, like in WoW.

kenjou
kenjou

lol look at the rank up the top right of this page rank 1 of 6060 games on PC.. owned much? for all the people that say it's not gonna be wow, fair enough it's your opinion but an important thing in life to remember is that no matter how good you are or how good some thing is.. there will always be someone/something that's better... WoW has had it's share of glory..

kozzy1234
kozzy1234

God i cant wait to play this game next week, looks and sounds fantastic, and from what i near the latest beta was alot better then the previous one. Cant wait!!!!!!

Cj87144
Cj87144

no one way is of playing games is gay for instance between a keyboard and a controller. It's just a matter of opinion, not to mention, dont get so up tight about the subject either, they are called "games" for a reason man.

jameswwrigley
jameswwrigley

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

killfest
killfest

How can you judge this game from its beta? Ive been playing the Early Access and it is SOO much better than Closed/Open Betas. This game is the best MMO I have ever played. It completely kills WoW in almost every aspect... unless you're like a 10 year old kid or something. The combat makes the game fun and the huge spurt of blood is extremely satisfying. It is a little graphic intensive but any newer comp w/ a decent graphics card will be fine. Graphics on all settings look amazing. Story is fantastic and extremely immersive. The game is super addicting as well. Leveling isnt too difficult at first but progresses nicely. Very few glitches. The only complaint I have is that the social UI is a little confusing to get used to, although I believe Funcom is doing an overhall and making it much better.

wyeta
wyeta

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

valsu1
valsu1

I've played AoC and it ROCKS. It's an absolute wonder. Yeah, I also felt this article a little too mediocre about AoC. Maybe Game Spot has deep ties with Blizzard / WoW ..?

Andre23
Andre23

I didnt like the Beta and wont be buying. WOW is till a better game.

bigelf72
bigelf72

No DX10 in BETA Yes DX10 in RELEASE.

calanorn
calanorn

toek what are you on about there was no dx10 in the beta version none in the final release either

xd3usx
xd3usx

Does anyone proof read these articles before they're posted? Seriously, retake English.

rdc501
rdc501

I'm not too keen on referring to the game as "just fine" 3 times throughout the whole preview... I thought these guys were writers...and for a game that has broken many of the typical laws of MMOs, I thought there'd be a much more intense response...

iamsthedogfood
iamsthedogfood

Kentisc That's possibly my favorite book in the series. The Frost giants daughter is awesome. I wonder how much story line the designers are going to take from the books and the movies?

icepetro
icepetro

Kooken is not completely accurate and is likely basing his comment on the open beta which was limited to lvl 13. The beginning 20 levels take place in tortage which is instanced as he describes, but there is very little pvp at this point anyway. There are plenty of areas beyond lvl 20 that are open to all and not instanced. This game is nothing like guild wars.

Kooken58
Kooken58

Just an FYI, Every zone is instanced, like atm torgage has 10 seperate mirrior zones with a cap of 50 players in each zone. This is totally lame and a total letdown, no true World pvp, and gankers are free to run away hit a zone and be gone forever unless you somehow figure out which of the 20 or more instances he is in for that zone. This i pretty much Guild Wars which wasnt that great other than the free part.

Meghmeth
Meghmeth

This article really says nothing new. Please try to keep these things informative as it really is no fun to waste time reading things that have already been said over and over... Both in gamespot and other places.

kiranrajd
kiranrajd

Just waiting for the game release.. hope it should be a good game

Toek
Toek

Playing in the early release. The game is sweeet! Nice and smooth. Big difference in performance since the open beta. And a noticable difference between DX9 and DX10 versions. DX9 looks great, DX10 looks even better. See you all in Hyboria!

Kentisc
Kentisc

I just can't wait till release, I'm reading the book Conan the Cimmerian to kill the time.

clou45
clou45

there is no lag or its minimal, lets hope it stays that way after the launch on the 20th I got a 8800 gt and play on high details 1080p with antialiasing 4x and get 22 fps average, lowest i saw was around 15, directx9 for now as the directx10 client is not out, if it is there is no difference in both visual and performance

Kooken58
Kooken58

In general it should run fine for most. But when you have alot of people around all fighting each other that is where you are going to get some major issues in terms of frames and lag.

S2Ghost
S2Ghost

Problems with an mmo launch are to be expected. If anyone was expecting this to be perfection, especially a few days before the actual launch, its a pretty noob move.

amauris75
amauris75

Is anyone else here having problems connecting to a server on the game? I just bought the game but I can't log in to a server to play it and the forums website is down, which freaking blows!

Kez1984
Kez1984

We need benchmarks, some people are saying "oh it will be ok with so and so" and others making out that you need specs far exceeding those tha min to even get it playable.

houtx1836
houtx1836

Performance is not the issue some are making it out to be - it's no Crysis

Skullcandy
Skullcandy

Performance is going to be an issue with this game. I already have it ordered and will be online at release, but I'm worried this is the Crysis of MMORPG's.

amauris75
amauris75

Is it just me or did anyone else already buy this game? I went to GameStop today to get Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion and they had this game available already. Granted that I haven't had the chance to play the game yet because I'm having issues logging in and the forums website is no longer open for registration, but at least the patching software that comes with the game has aleady patched the game so once the servers are up I'll be ready to play :) This will be the first MMO that I played so I hope it's as good as it looked on the videos.

robowarriorx
robowarriorx

I personally hope this keeps the kids away..they are one of the reasons I'm tired of WoW, that, and the fact that it's still just the same thing, over and over and over...It's a well done game, but this is supposed to cater to a more mature audience, people who at the least have a full high school education. Now, I mean no disrespect to any of the kids out there, but as you may well know, most kids are, well, immature...and that immaturity makes for a God-awful gaming experience for anyone who isn't immature as well. So, for all the kids, and the great fans of WoW who hate the way this looks, and don't want anything to do with it, well, keep playing WoW. It's an awesome game, and if you enjoy, keep on going! After 3 years, multiple tiers of armor, and the same BG's over and over, I personally need something new, something more in the fantasy genre. I'm just hoping to find more actual adults, as I know plenty of us are playing mmo's, and this seems to be the perfect universe. Granted, i may get halfway through the game and decide I hate it, but at that point, Lich King should be out, and I can always go back home again ;)

Kooken58
Kooken58

Prolly going to try this game out over the summer then move on to WAR. Its what alot of people are doing, because this is the first fresh big online game in a while.

Kez1984
Kez1984

The article seemed to sidestep performance.

PieCrusher
PieCrusher

Then don't buy it because it is monthly.