GC 2008: Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures Updates Impressions

We pay a visit to Funcom's lively Games Convention booth and head behind closed doors for a look at some upcoming content and DirectX 10 features for Age of Conan.

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Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures has been live for just more than four months right now, and though it's undoubtedly a great game, its players have been very vocal as far as complaints and suggestions are concerned. Funcom has always thought of itself as a company driven by its community, and if you're a fan, it'll probably come as no surprise to you that the Age of Conan team is currently working on implementing a number of fixes and new gameplay features. There's also an expansion pack in the works, by the way, but all we know about it is that it's scheduled for release sometime in 2009. Judging by a piece of teaser art that we were shown today, the expansion pack will feature masked Asian warriors who look a lot like the immortals that the Spartans go up against in the movie 300.

One of the more damning criticisms being leveled at Age of Conan since its release is the fact that, at certain character levels, there's simply a dearth of content to play through. There are a number of new content areas in development that will be appearing in the live game soon, and today we had an opportunity to check out a few of them.

First up was Tarantia Commons, a slum district that's part of the existing Tarantia City but which players are currently kept out of by a locked gate. Given that it's home to two warring gangs, Tarantia Commons is a dangerous area to frequent at night. As a hero in the Age of Conan world, you'll be able to undertake missions for either or both of the gangs in question, and though there will undoubtedly be plenty of violence involved, we're told that Funcom is aiming to incorporate more puzzle elements in the game via future updates. Tarantia Commons is a locale designed for players of level 40 and above, which, if you've ever played a character at that level, you'll know is definitely an area in need of new content.

Another all-new area that we had an opportunity to take a look at was a mountainous zone known as The Dolmen that's designed for level 50 to 55 characters. Bandit forces are a constant threat in the area, and one of the sample quests that we were shown will task you with lighting signal fires dotted around the region in an attempt to call reinforcements to the aid of a settlement under attack. We were told that this zone will add "dozens of hours of content" on its own, and it also appears to be a great example of how Funcom is starting to incorporate Conan influences from a variety of different sources. For example, we saw the "wheel of pain" structure that appeared in the 1982 Conan movie, and later we encountered a beautiful frost giant's daughter lifted from a story by Robert E Howard. The beautiful, scantily clad girl was clearly beckoning the player to follow her up into to the mountains, and we're told that, sometimes, she'll reward those who oblige her with some kind of reward. It was a trap on this occasion, though, and within moments of reaching a spot where we could be alone with her, two angry giants (her brothers) showed up.

Still exploring the same mountains, we were surprised when the entire zone started to shake as if there was an earthquake. As it turned out, there was, but it wasn't being caused by shifting tectonic plates or anything like that. Rather, a giant named Frost Father was to blame. Currently bound in chains deep inside an evil-looking, amphitheater-themed prison, this giant is the son of a god and, as we later discovered, he's much larger than the giants that we encountered earlier.

In addition to new quest zones, Funcom is working on the construction of new dungeons as well as the revamping of existing ones. One of the new dungeons that we were afforded a brief look at is the aforementioned Frost Father's place of imprisonment, a gigantic structure populated by all manner of demons and the like that will be suitable for characters at level 65 and above. Your goal in this dungeon, other than killing bosses to collect new-and-improved loot, will be to free the Frost Father, though we should warn you that it's not yet clear if he'll be appreciative or resentful of your efforts on his behalf.

One of the dungeons benefiting from a significant makeover right now is the Black Castle, which has been in Age of Conan since the game launched. After receiving negative feedback from players who thought that the dungeon needed to be made "more interesting and entertaining" Funcom has set about attempting to do just that. The new Black Castle, which we had an opportunity to see a great deal of during our meeting, is filled with traps, puzzles, and boss encounters that promise to be far more interesting than anything that has appeared in Age of Conan to date. Traps that we saw on this occasion included a huge Raiders of the Lost Ark-style boulder rolling down a staircase, and a series of flamethrowers that could be deactivated only by a team of players working together to stand on pressure pads. Another trap involved a searchlight being pointed at the floor by a huge stone eye on the wall of a room. Stepping into the light summoned a large snake that, we're told, is impossible to kill using conventional means. Of course, there is a way to beat it, and we saw the method, but we'll let you figure it out for yourself rather than spoil it.

The boss that we saw toward the end of our Black Castle demo looked like a regular guy initially, but it soon became apparent that beating him was going to require a lot of teamwork from the raid group. The room that you fight this guy in has a huge, bottomless well in the middle of it and, as the fight ensues, the boss's followers come into the room from a number of different entrances and attempt to throw themselves into it. Every time a follower sacrifices himself successfully, the boss's health is replenished, so you're definitely going to need some guys on follower detail during the fight.

A third dungeon, titled House of Crom, is also in development, and was described to us as a "gigantic, social group dungeon" designed for players who have already reached the level 80 cap. Multiple groups will be able to explore the dungeon simultaneously, and we suspect that they will when some of the best loot in the game inevitably starts dropping there.

New epic armor sets for every class in the game will be finding their way into Age of Conan at some point, and we had an opportunity to see several of them today. As a response to feedback from players, the new armor sets are much more distinctive-looking than anything that the game shipped with, but they don't look nearly as over the top as the gear in World of Warcraft. For example, the necromancer's headpiece was a huge, tusked mask that suggested Asian and tribal influences, and the assassin's set was in all black and ninja-like, except that it was intricately adorned with silver patterns.

Armor-set rewards for player-versus-player achievements are also coming to Age of Conan at some point, along with a new "consequences" system that aims to prevent high-level players from picking on relative newcomers. The idea is that if you kill a significantly lower-level player or two, then you'll be labeled a criminal and, if you continue to act that way, you'll be branded a murderer. At this point, town guards will attack you on sight, non-player characters may refuse to talk to you, and other players will have an opportunity to earn rewards by hunting you down.

That about does it for the upcoming content that we were shown today, but before our meeting finished, we were afforded a quick look at some of the visual improvements that Age of Conan will benefit from when DirectX 10 features are patched in later this year. In short, the game is going to look a lot better. More specifically, it'll take advantage of techniques that allow for even more realistic water, lighting effects that accurately re-create sun bleed, volumetric fog and lights, trees and foliage that move in the wind, more detailed textures, and even a cool radial-blur effect when you perform a fatality move. The thing that impressed us most was definitely the physics being used to let trees blow in the wind and tall grasses be brushed aside as a character walked through a field. Those same grasses rippled as if there was a helicopter preparing to take off when the character in question charged up a magic spell, which looked great and made the subsequent spell feel somehow more powerful.

Look for all of these changes and more in future Age of Conan updates coming soon. We'll bring you more information on the currently unnamed expansion pack as soon as it becomes available.

Discussion

82 comments
IncipitOmega
IncipitOmega

And in response on Shiftfallout's comment I just read...If u played that long to have a maxed out character,a guild with 200 members and a guild city,how can u say the game sucs ? Pffff,as I see it,u don't understand ****.

IncipitOmega
IncipitOmega

Allready a great game..with all these improvements it's only getting better...

angusmandude
angusmandude

This game rocks but people go "errrrrrr....it not complete like fallout 3 or wow...errrrrrr" DER it isent i played wow in its 1st month and IT WREAKED LIKE CRAP AoC IT WAY BETTER THEN WHEN WOW was in its first 6 months WHEN WILL PEOPLE UNDERSTAND GAMES DO NOT COME COMPLETE (MAINLY MMO)

ACougar
ACougar

This game had such great potential, FunCom did a lot of things right that most games out there have done wrong... but that's not enough when your world is simply too small and it doesn't live and breathe as it should, especially in the lvl 50+ zones. They should have held the game back another 2-3 months and just now released it. They weren't ready for prime time when the game was released and now their losing too much of their customer base. Unless FunCom can work a miracle and fast, this game is dead.

philby00
philby00

maybe they couldn't talk about memory leaks and crashes and stuff because of a non disclosure agreement when they did the review?

Koal_Jadian
Koal_Jadian

people should stop paying monthly subscription fees for MMOs where you get less content and gameplay value than in regular games. You shouldn't have to pay for an online community when its free elsewhere.

redscorpion78
redscorpion78

Some of you dont know what you talking about.. This game was ok in the beginning, when i reached level 50 and got my horse, the game turned out to be horrible, the world is just not as living as wow and it lacks the feeling and depths, unbalanced not exciting character leveling. its a dissapointment people will all leave soon. WAR will be the game everyone have waited for it will a more living and interesting world period.

Pedalhead
Pedalhead

Unfortunately this will be too late for many people (myself included), who have already cancelled. The nail in the coffin for me was that Funcom knew about the gem duping exploit & did nothing about it, meaning some guilds have a massive advantage with a T3 keep etc early on.

Nokols
Nokols

Seriously, i'm gonna wait till DX10 comes out to re-subscribe, I really didn't feel like a valued player, bugs, memory leaks (most under 32-bit, but my new comp is now 64-bit...) unbalanced classes, immature community, chat interface is just plain weird, graphical errors, optimization, and I have fallen through the world...

gfile
gfile

Well, thats a lot of great news from Funcom ...as a fan of R. Howard, i simply can`t wait for new addons and DX10 feature ...finally!!! I recently bought a 4870 to fully enjoy this masterpiece and i dont have any major complains except a few bugged quests and lack of "non elite" quests on the lvl 76-80 range.

Shiftfallout
Shiftfallout

Skopas, i dont know what you are talking about. As a guild leader with over 200 members, a guild city and max level, AoC turned out sucking, bad. The whole guild wanted to quit. The problem is, funcom makes it look better than it really is, and they will not be reliable, their GMs have been caught helping players cheat, mass bannings for no reason, no QA team, dead servers, every fix brings 100 new broken bugs, and lies upon lies by funcom. Im not overexagerating, which is the sad thing.

skopas
skopas

Well, I'm getting mine any day now and I'm playing it. I bet I will think that it rocks!!...:) I cant believe how much complaints go to this. Usually it's from freaks who deserve to stay with WOW. Filtered minds=Filtered play. Wait for Wrath of Geeky Litchi...and take cartoon network with u.

kindreadth1
kindreadth1

Great game, however: Lag with more than 20 people on the screen. Lucky to get 20 people on the screen. If you aren't 80, then you're dead to single hits from level 80s. If you don't dupe your gem suits at 80 then you're gimped. At 80, it's all about who can one shot who first (except casters since stacking dmg gems on these guys doesn't do squat). Bugs bugs bugs Memory leaks Entire feat trees and balancing need to be revisited yet they feel the need to continually push out patches that deal with cut scenes from Quest givers. Fyi, there's an option to bypass these but it doesn't work. They just continually break more stuff with each patch and don't fix anything that is considered by most "game breaking"....

swordaxe
swordaxe

Maybe another year, two tops, this game will follow Hellgate London. The only difference being it would have surpssed Hellgate on hype by about 100%.

xDj1nn
xDj1nn

Have you ever played WoW in a private server? I'm feeling the same way playing on Official Funcom's servers... It's desert, I'm stuck on lvl 31 cuz there are so few ppl on my lvl, that I can't complete de Group Quests. We don't have a full access on what the AoC should have(promises and promises...), They have too many servers for just a few ppl. The last step to be completely a Private AoC Funcom's Server is to ask for donations to keep up and giving godly items as trade for the donation. They need to fund all server's as possible into just a few... My suggestion is to make the players free from paying the monthly price until they fix all the issues... I've just received mine and I'm in the 30 free days, probably I'll not renew my subscription after these 30 days...

buckizard
buckizard

What a disappointment this game was. After playing several MMOs (WoW for way too long, LoTRo)I was excited at all of the new things this game had to offer. Bugs, limited content, instancing everywhere, horrible crafting, etc, I just couldn't take anymore. And yet they are already working on an expansion as well as the 360 version?!! Joke.

TheGreenMonkey
TheGreenMonkey

I have a lot of fun playing AoC, and while I experience some issues, I don't feel they are near to what some of the other players have. I've also experienced many of the same issues in other games as well, from LotRO to WoW to Vanguard(I was really hopeful for that one, but meh, talk about a broken game) to many others. I really enjoy the combat system AoC has, although I do find myself using the same combos repeatedly, but that is not any different than other games. And the graphics are just amazing, and as soon as DX10 support is added I will be among the first to switch over. The quest content for the most part is decent, not exceptional but decent, although more often than not I find myself clicking through dialog unless I find a story that really catches my eye. I did run through Onyx Chambers for the first time the other day and that was very exciting, and I even won the roll for a very nice helmet. They could use more content across all level ranges though. The crafting system could stand to use a huge revamp and I feel like it is a huge grind sometimes. The biggest problem I have is that some resources are extremely hard to gather, especially for the Alchemy profession, and buying them can be a pain because the prices for some items are just outrageous. Other than an occasional disconnect, although I do not know if that is AoC or my ISP, I don't find many problems overall with the game. I think if they fix the existing issues they are having with memory leaks and crashes, the new content will be a huge addition to what I think is already a great game.

vheffner
vheffner

You all seem to forget how messed up WoW was for at least the First 6 months this game is barely 4 months in and runs better then wow did from the start, I have also had way more fun in AoC then the 2 years I waisted on WoW, this is a great game, great battle system, great graphics, if it doesnt run smooth for you its YOUR machine not the game. runs great for me and most the people playing, im really glad to see the upcoming content and look forward to it. I also find it funny that people complain about the PvE content (seeing as there are not that many guilds much further past Yarehmka(second boss of tier 2 raiding)), sure PvE is fun but this game is hevily based on PvP, so sorry you chose the wrong game now take your butt back to WoW, AoC is to hard and gritty for your young baby eyes.

jubal3
jubal3

Your continued shilling for FunCom is really getting tiresome. They released a game with terrible bugs, no itemization and a severe lack of content, but you didn't catch that because you only played the 1st 20 levels when you initially reviewed the game. Funcom's failure to respond to these issues in a timely way, their utter neglect for the PVE side and their continued empty promises make this game a loser. And yet you fail to adequately cover those problems, instead choosing act as a mere surrogate for the FC PR staff. Why don't you stop wasting our time and just re-print the FC press-releases. At least that would be honest.

HeavyMetalBard
HeavyMetalBard

-Too many skirts -Lack of itemization -Stat mechanics -Too much instancing (raid/group zones?..lame) All factors which made me cancel. Im going to Vanguard

SvZurich
SvZurich

Too late to keep my dollars. I am moving on to WAR and sticking with Eve.

jonford
jonford

Too little, too late.

seregul
seregul

8.5 game rating? Seriously? How can a game so broken get above a 6?

pedershk
pedershk

ratavaquera : WOW is in a class of it's own because it successfully broke into the "non-MMO-player" playerbase. AoC is probably the second biggest Western MMO out there at the moment.

robertnas99
robertnas99

erm.... hope they are not expecting people to pay for an expansion pack when the game itself isn't ready yet. Btw they really need to work on the fluency in the game (character movement, battle system etc). Good to see tho that they are taking the content part seriously. Stopped playing when I levelled two toons to about lvl60 due to lack of content. Will probably check back with this game in about half a year or so...

Nishua
Nishua

I enjoy the game personally. It has a lot to offer and in the end will bring more to the table then any other MMO out.

ratavaquera
ratavaquera

WoW: 10.7 millions players and growing... AoC: less than 600 thousand players and going down...

Gigas_Yuu
Gigas_Yuu

WoW was hurt a little bit by AoC but barely. I consider it a small yet significant impact enough for Blizzard to take action. Take a look at their new refer a friend feature. Why wasn't this in WoW earlier? Because they didn't need you to take in referalls. Sure, there has always been one free month if you refer a friend to WoW however I am talking about the Triple XP and get a free Zhevra mount for successfully bringing a friend in. Interesting timing that Blizzard introduced that feature right when Age of Conan started to take off with its apprenticeship system and before WAR online launched. Age of Conan is but a spider bite on the big arm of World of Warcraft, but we have yet to see the potency of the venom.

Lord_Cylamus
Lord_Cylamus

The concepts of this game were brilliant. A different company (Blizzard?) may create a new mmog with the same combat and with the other features that the players liked. The only problem with that is WoW is still working quite well for Blizzard; I wonder if WoW was hurt at all by AoC.

nsjames
nsjames

AOC IS DIEING LET IT DIE

nsjames
nsjames

AOC IS DIEING LET IT DIE

oflow
oflow

this game epically failed. Its primarily the developers' at funcom's fault. It could have been a good game but it its current state it is still broken beyond reprieve. Dont waste your money, you will be very very disappointed. and yes, I got a character to lvl 80 before I quit the game. If you want to know the truth about it read my review.

JFL1969
JFL1969

They we're so happy too announce that 1 million games had been sold the first month. Weird that they haven't mentioned that 400 thousand players have already canceled there accounts.

dippy88
dippy88

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

dippy88
dippy88

AoC was absolutely terrible game, no offence to anyone, but I felt extremely disappointed when I brought it.

Targzissian
Targzissian

I'm looking forward to the DX 10 features. Once they add those maybe I'll consider buying the game.

maximaxi4eva2
maximaxi4eva2

I was gonna get this game but once i saw how demanding it was on the computer, i scrapped it. They're still making it on the 360 rnt they????

Tialian
Tialian

luke2721 I think you're missing the point. AoC was release in an unfinished "beta" state. Its like releasing half a movie and expecting people to pay full price, then saying you will release the other half in a year while you work on a sequel.

psycho_spaceman
psycho_spaceman

is this game still making it's way to the xbox?..... er what?

soulcalibur7
soulcalibur7

I took a break from AOC due to work getting heavy, but I went back this weekend, and it's still fun. Granted, I have a really beefy system and can't run it at 2560x1600 max smooth. But overall, it's still a fun game. Still waiting on that DX10 patch though, thought that was suppose to be coming out this month?

dslyderink
dslyderink

too little too late, poo covered in shiney paint is still poo underneath. however having said that, the DX10 stuff, once the glitches are sorted out (ie 6 months after they release it) - will warrant a second visit from me.

luke2721
luke2721

everyone who keeps complaining about content is right... but what else can you expect. it takes at least a year before any mmo gets its feet under itsself and can start to reach its peak. yea the sever crashes suck and theres not much to do once you get to 80 but just wait once funcom fixes all thier problems AoC will dominate.

Nolan16
Nolan16

You know im not a big MMO fan AoC looked kinda intresting at one point or another but i gotta say i didn't see it lasting too long or having too many players. There first mistake was making it a game that you need at least 2 gigs of ram 7900GTX and a 2.4GHz duo processor to run it 30+ fps on low - meduim settings. How many MMos do we see out there that requires that much to play the game with a stable framerate. Not every one has a awesome PC like me or alot of the PC hermits on gamespot. And secondly no end game content and lvl 80? this is america not korea or japan or any asia country we are lazy i wouldn't lvl up to 80 haha WoW was even too much for me before i got bored and thats saying somthing. Warhammer Online is the way to go thats the first mmo i know for a fact i'll play for years. Lvl 40 max cap thats my game alot of PvP and RvR sign me up.

sheira1
sheira1

Video link doesnt work.

BikerPunk
BikerPunk

expanstion = waste of thier time. community has died. its over. I loved it, now i hate it. Warhammer Beta already offers WAY more in a Beta version....thats impressive!