Revisited: Age of Conan

Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures was originally planned as a cross-platform massively multiplayer game both for the PC as a showcase Windows Vista and DirectX 10 product, as well as an Xbox 360 game. Things didn't quite go according to plan after the game was launched in May of 2008. In short...

Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures was originally planned as a cross-platform massively multiplayer game both for the PC as a showcase Windows Vista and DirectX 10 product, as well as an Xbox 360 game. Things didn't quite go according to plan after the game was launched in May of 2008. In short order, the Xbox 360 version disappeared off the radar while the PC version launched without full support for DirectX 10, as well as other issues, such as stability problems; a lack of content outside of the early-game quest zone of Tortage; and strange, arcane itemization that made many items seem worthless (you'd defeat a mighty foe to pick up a magical sword that gave a "+0.002 attack bonus," whatever that meant).


Age of Conan didn't have as smooth a launch as some might have hoped.

However, time has passed, the original game director and Funcom cofounder left the company, and a new team of developers has been handed the reins to hammer out significant updates to address the game's issues. We took a look at the evolving game ourselves and got some insight from the game's new game director Craig Morrison and designer Joel Bylos.

We ran through the early game experience again on a midrange PC and noticed considerably fewer performance problems than at launch--aside from a few bouts of network lag, the game seemed to run quite smoothly with few to no hitches beyond some extremely minor clipping issues with characters that had long, flowing hair that clipped through their clothes.


The game has been re-itemized so that your magic weapons and armor give you bonuses that actually make sense.

Perhaps more importantly, we had an easier time of judging what loot was more valuable and what wasn't because the game's revamped itemization is much clearer about what your character should and shouldn't pick up (a magical cutlass grants a +5 to strength and +25 health points, rather than some strange decimal amount). This makes outfitting your character a snap because Age of Conan continues to have comparison windows that float over your items when you mouse over them, comparing the statistics of your new item against what you currently have equipped. Though recent updates have also tweaked the combat system to make more sense and be in line with the game's documentation, melee combat remains based on using hotkeyed "combo starter" abilities followed by hotkeyed directional attack swings and still seems to work just fine.

In terms of addressing the game's major issues, Funcom feels that it has worked through most of the player feedback, which the game's staff assured us is extremely important. In addition, the studio uses "data mining" (crunching actual statistic numbers of how many players are at which level, how many have completed this or that quest, and so on) to get a sense of what players seem to like and don't like. (Incidentally, based on the data and the feedback, Funcom feels that Age of Conan's current population offers pretty much an even split between player-versus-player fans and player-versus environment quest lovers.) To address specific issues, the development team has continued to optimize the game from a technical standpoint (and the game does seem to run much better), has revamped itemization as mentioned, and has also tackled issues like a lack of content after level 20, when the starter missions around the city of Tortage come to an end.


New content updates have added things for mid-level players to do.

The strongest content update to combat this lack of mid-level content was Ymir's Pass, which went out in November of 2008 and offered many new areas to explore, many new quests, dungeons, and bosses, and also an epic, overarching quest line based on author Robert E. Howard's classic Conan story The Frost Giant's Daughter, in which the frost giant in question is abducted, resulting in chaos in the surrounding areas. The overarching quest, in case you're curious, culminates in exploring a volcanic temple complex that belongs to angry demon worshippers. You must destroy demonic portals and their guardians along the way to the final encounter, a sizzling lava demon that guards the titular frost giant in chains. Your eventual goal is to free the frost giant by using the power of the lava demon in your favor; and let's just say that should you succeed, the frost giant isn't too grateful.

Regardless, the unusual mechanics of the frost giant boss encounter (which actually doesn't just boil down to killing the boss and then clicking on the chains) were a key inspiration to the development team, which has steadily been becoming more accustomed to the game's technology and what can and can't be done with it. Since then, there has been more content added to the game that offers what current game director Craig Morrison describes as standard massively multiplayer gameplay (such as hunting bosses and exploring dungeons), "but done in a different and interesting way." One example the director cited was the most recent content update, Tarantia Commons--a contested area where guards and rioters are constantly at odds. This zone acts a bit like a gigantic "public quest," a system that has been done in other such games as Warhammer Online, but rather than requiring players to buy into it, the Tarantia riots happen continuously (refreshed every hour or so), regardless of player participation, so even if you're all by yourself and happen to swing by, you can still participate. In the Commons zone, you can side either with the rioters by pounding on doors to incite more of the locals to riot, or you can side with the guards to put down the uprising. And because riots also happen ever hour or so and don't always happen in the exact same way (sometimes the guards win, sometimes the hooligans win), Funcom hopes that players will play through such encounters multiple times.


The Tarantia Commons zone offers new adventures for high-level players, including scurvy pirates who will give you the shirts off their backs. After you kill them.

In addition, the Commons zone extends outward to include other quest-heavy zones, such as an infected leper colony (where you can try to quest for a cure, but may also contract a deadly disease if you remain long enough) and a guild of prostitutes (diseases aren't modeled for this guild, fortunately), where you can take on related quests, earn signature prostitute items (such as the red mask that the prostitutes and their hired guards wear), and have what Morrison describes as a "tasteful, fade-to-black" encounter of your own if you care to do so. In addition, the riot area has enemies with distinctive gear and clothing, like a band of seafaring brigands that wears blue and white clothing that your character can loot from their corpses and wear--new apparel is something that Age of Conan's player base has clamored for, and the team seems intent on delivering.

In addition to new content areas already added, the team is now simultaneously working toward full implementation of DirectX 10 support, toward the game's next update House of Crom, and on a full retail expansion pack, which will be revealed in August. DirectX 10 support is currently in a beta state and a portion of the game's active players are already using and testing the game, but Funcom is continuing to test the game and accept player feedback--according to Morrison, the inability to have broader testing among a range of systems to make sure DX 10 works OK is what has delayed the full implementation. However, Morrison suggests that the team is "getting close" and hopes to have full DX 10 support in the game in the next month or two. In the meantime, the studio is working on the next content update, which is targeted for high-level players (the majority of the active population) and will offer a two-part dungeon that starts with a public area and various linked boss encounters, sort of as a primer to raiding that will hopefully encourage different groups of players to sequentially trigger the bosses to appear in sequence as they complete various requirements and finish off earlier bosses. House of Crom will also feature "tier 3" raid content--the highest level of raid content in the game, in the form of Thoth-Amon's stronghold, the home turf of the fabled evil sorcerer.


If you've left but are interested in coming back, you can use the reevaluation offer to play again for a free week or two.

While Age of Conan had a rocky start, it seems like the game has made several turns for the better and continues to have a devoted team of about 100 people hammering away at both improving and expanding the game. This new team really seems to have tried to address the major concerns of its fans, as well as the concerns of the people who tried the game at launch and left. For players that have left, Funcom has recently opened a 14-day "reevaluation" trial to reactivate their accounts for free, so if you're interested, visit the reevaluation site for more details.

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Discussion

184 comments
burn6
burn6

i also want to try this one, but im revisting WAR soon.

JakeYourself
JakeYourself

i love this game, something about it just does it for me, this is the one MMO that i have not un-installed from my comp since i started playing at release, i always told myself i would check it out later down the road and see how they have improved, and it looks like that time is tonight.

jimmy2shoes
jimmy2shoes

Iv'e played this game since release, i have five lvl80's and am bored. If you never played the game or if you played it for a short time after release i would highly recommened it, the higher spec pc the better it looks, and if you can run it on high settings theres not a mmo out there with eye candy like it.

Sibleyhaley
Sibleyhaley

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CarlitosWay
CarlitosWay

Havent played this game in over a year, because of the very much lack of content midway. Got stuck at 40 with way too hard quests, and nothing to do. Maybe ill try this out.

Vidar08
Vidar08

Read again rann89. They're *revealing* an expansion pack in August. Just like with Burning Crusade, Lich King, and Mines of Moria on there respective games, their is the reveal of what the expansion actually is (content, title, etc) followed by the "hype" period. Will be a while before it's actually released for retail.

Viking_1298
Viking_1298

I'm going to download this game to my computer once I get a laptop.

Raffix
Raffix

Deathsangel: yeah right about the expansion pack WoW has 2.... to be honest this game is AMAZING before.. okay not so good, but they have really done a fantastic job with this!

deathsangel34
deathsangel34

I'm still a wow player, but mostly because I have a ton of time invested in wow, quite a few RL friends that i managed to drag into it, and an extreme addiction to loot-lust. Conan is enough of a game to tear me away from it, but unfortunately i can't afford to make payments to two games monthly being an intern and all, so i have to stick with wow. what the AoC team is doing is great and i hope they keep it up, but that expansion pack has to go. release about 2/3rds of it free, keep the rest and add more to it as time goes by.. then when you have a bigger customer base with more people that trust your decisions, release a retail expansion.

HeavyMetalBard
HeavyMetalBard

How is '-Does taunting (forced targeting) work in pvp?', a silly question? Without the ability to force agro or deagro in pvp, where is the strategy? Without that the game boils down to zerging the healer, kill everyone else. Boring, mindless, and trite. Everquest 2 is the only MMO ive played with that core pvp mechanic.

djwood84
djwood84

Hey there trolls! Just STFU, try the re-evaluation period, and decide for yourself. The game has gotten a lot better in my opinion, but go see for yourself! So many haters on this game its just absurd. Calling this game a failure is also laughable, because before WoW, 300,000 subscribers was considered amazing. $4,500,000 a month is enough to run a very good MMO, and so go see if Funcom is offering up something you'll like. If you're complaining about the graphics, sorry, your computer sucks.

Killingspree303
Killingspree303

Good game, but playing on PvP servers can be extremely frustrating. There's too much slaughtering and spawn camping.

scottwilkins
scottwilkins

Sorry, I just can't play a MMO where the grass spins as you move your camera around. That's just stupid. I'll stick with LoTRO. Plays 100 times better, and has more real content. Plus they add free content all the time.

steveuww
steveuww

they should just dump it on open market and sell allow people to play single player or coop wtih freinds lan and be done wtih it.

rann89
rann89

Funcom is still failing. A retail expansion pack in August? Wtf are they thinking? There's still a billion issues wrong with the game and lack of content with the game people bought in the first place, and these people have the nerve to sell an expansion pack? The people who worked on the expansion shouldn't have been paid for that. They should have been paid for making content for the current game, so the poor saps who actually bought it would have a complete game. This expansion pack thing is mind-blowing. I can't believe after such a big failure they're still stooping to this kind of thing. It's insane. The current player base is the only thing keeping Funcom employed, and they're getting slapped in the face. And to think I was considering trying it out after all the fixes.

rann89
rann89

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

ISuperSaiyan
ISuperSaiyan

Good potential but not something i would play.

SniperFire17
SniperFire17

Mangeo21 To say you had 0 fun in the game no one is going to take you seriously. you sound like an angry wow fanboy. especially when you spend this much time stating how useless the game is and how it sucks...

Hammershock6
Hammershock6

Ive been trying the so called new age of conan, but im dissapointed that they give dx10 with all that lag, i have a comp that laughs at crysis yet it cant handle this game? but then again im still glad they fixed the crashes, last time i played before i came back on i crashed every hour almost which was rediculous giving me dx10 errors when you couldent even us dx10 bck then, in all id say they did a good job though fixing it before id give the game 3/10 now i give it 7/10 just cause they fixed the stability of the game.

mangeo21
mangeo21

@ 9michael6 i did played for more than 40 hours m8 in my re revaluation time.. and my opinion is that they only fixed the memory leaks in a great degree. Do you have fun with that game? im glad!! im different.. i had 0 fun with AoC, after like 1 year the game is still unbalanced in a strange degree.. i cant have fun in PvP game where is no balance between classes.. imo the game is the biggest crap in the MMO history.. ty. p.s. i cant argue with fanboys so pls just accept my opinion as i accept yours, dont make conclusion of how much i played etc etc

kidd04
kidd04

Glad they r fixing the bugs the game has a lot of potential, but I'm going to stick to LOTRO.

dcook42
dcook42

Too little, too late - half of my guildies (100+) moved straight from AoC to LOTRO, where there is alot of content, and DX10 graphics. We're all much happier now than we were 4 months after the release of AoC, where bugs were plentiful and content was lacking. A shame, I really wanted to like that game...

twillfast
twillfast

@zoeyleft Obviously the graphics are technically better, but that doesn't mean it looks better. Look at the last image in the article. The textures on the player are definitly high-res, but the wood planks he's standing on? The graphics are sketchy and certainly broke the immersion for me.

Medkips
Medkips

ronnieo54: Of course they are :D. Aren't they always?

ronnieo54
ronnieo54

ahhh what class should I play now! are healers needed in the endgame?

Diernes
Diernes

I'm trying the trial. I'm actually pleasantly surprised FUNCOM might actually get a subscription out of this, this game has potential to be very good

Medkips
Medkips

Reply to Daword: It's called hand eye coordination... It really isn't hard to press 1,2,3,q,e without looking.

chaos20
chaos20

i also tried the 14-day returner, glad i did, im hooked the community is alot better than the WoW servers i was on, can always find groups etc, and if an argument arises its normally because someones goin on about WoW, other than that help with questions was very forthcoming. the other good thing about this game is there isnt a million quests asking to kill a million rabbits/pigs/pidgeons etc alot of the quests actually have a decent reason or story, all in all alot more immersive

infinity_
infinity_

last night I just cancelled my wow account (on/off the last year, but hardcore player just until wotlk came out). I simply cant stand the same gfx, same world and same boring content. Same story happened pretty much for AOC along with the horrible start of an alpha game that was far from finished (and still isnt) The game itself is far from what I had hoped for both gameplaywise and immersion/"feel&look"wise - so cancelled my account in aoc too, and Ill never retrun. Waiting for Dragon Age (non-mmo) and Star Wars: The Old Republic - if my good old Bioware fails, its probably time to stop playing games at all!

szwierzy
szwierzy

I keep noting the complaint about casters being OP. I started playing AoC on Day 1, and when I quit, a stealthed assassin or barb (not all that many levels above you) could pop out and nearly one-hit a caster (namely mine) who was running/riding past. Am I to assume this imbalance was addressed a long time ago, and the scale skewed the other way? I really wanted AoC to be THE game for me for years to come. I loved the class I rolled (some evil healer chick that wielded lightning-- can't remember the name,) and WoW has been played out. I am currently settled on Warhammer, but maybe this deserves another look. I do cringe at having to download ~12 Gigs worth of patches though.

SniperFire17
SniperFire17

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

e1337prodigy
e1337prodigy

I'm loving AoC at the moment. The free level 50 character is great, I'm experiencing something new in the game with a different type of character. Graphics are still awesome. The only thing I think this game is missing is a Random name generator for creating characters, took me nearly 1hr trying to get a name. Also some more options on character creation.

SuccaMC
SuccaMC

Well, I'm sick of WoW. Should I get this? or should I wait for one of the next-gen mmo's? (ie. blizzard mmo or Old Repiblic)

9michael6
9michael6

@mangeo21 Still Sucks? Did you go back for 10 minutes? I can admit its not the most popular game in the world but, its your fault your getting ganked if you hate getting killed why roll on a PvP server, if you re-evaluated you get a free server transfer, And if you re-evaluated how are you new? I suggest transfering to a PvE server if you're going to cry about dying on a "PVP" server.

ollism
ollism

Just cant bring myself to keep paying for a game after the initial purchase price. Yes i get DLC once in a while, but monthly? Cant do it.

mangeo21
mangeo21

armors are almost the same as they were b4 , dungeons are instanced as they were , your 3rd questions is silly :P

HeavyMetalBard
HeavyMetalBard

Here are more questions I would like answered: -Do all visual armor appearances still consist of skirts? -Are all the dungeons still instanced? -Does taunting (forced targeting) work in pvp?

mangeo21
mangeo21

ok i RE- evaluated the game.. stil sucks.. now its even worst.. performance is much much better (like 20 fps up) but the game isnt friendly with new players.. you wont like the pointless ganking all over the place and the stupid minigames where Overpowered premades owning your butt in every minigame.. its almost impossible to lvl up your PvP lvls.. believe me.. i played like 40 hours in the last 4 days :) i also wanted to state that the games community is one of the worst i ve ever see,, there is not a single question in the public chanel that it wont be followed by curses , sarcastic comments etc etc.

shinyhalo
shinyhalo

I haven't heard a damn thing in these reviews about PvP fight duration and that is why I left. It's no fun to get pwned in 5 seconds at level 80 in 1 vs 1. Even if they "balanced" it so that it takes 10 seconds to kill someone it wouldn't win me over. At this point, if I am even going to go through the hassle of re-installing this game, I want funcom to f-ing guarantee me that I can just stand there and it will take another level 80, at least 30 seconds to kill me WITHOUT a dam healing potion either. If I actively defend I want an epic 1 minute long fight 1 vs 1.

NeilVaage
NeilVaage

I have to say that when I returned to Age of Conan on the 8th of June (pre-RPG revamp of items) I found the game to be a far more enjoyable experience than when I initially started out in Early Access and the following few weeks after it being released. Content is filled and I never really had to stop to grind for the next quest to open up, quests feels related spread over the various zones, where you might get some dialogue that refers to your heroic acts (or not so heroic) from one area of the game, in other areas of the game. The balance of the classes has now in 1.05.3 become far better than before as well, and it makes PvP a much more enjoyable experience (although be warned, Hyboria is a brutal place, and you should not be surprised if you find yourself out numbered 5 to 1). With the new stats system for equipment, it makes more sense on what to keep and what to vendor/toss. End-game is far from lacking content (if you are starting out now) and I assume they have plans for new 80 content around the corner. Overall, this game has redeemed itself in my eyes, and while I enjoyed the initial areas up until around Lv.40 upon release, now it was a blast all the way from Lv.1 to Lv.80. And one of the best parts for me.. I started a new character at Lv.1, went through the quests, and actually discover new ones I hadn't found on my first playthrough, so there is definately content to be had while leveling. Age of Conan is one of the better (MMO) games on the market per date imo.

Talgen
Talgen

People are calling this a mature game, why? 'cause you can see boobies? That a mature game does not make. All this game is (in the mature aspect) is a playground for kids to constantly insult, curse and generally be ignorant troglodites in global. The community is the downfall of Conan, not the late patching.

sifter132
sifter132

Totally agree with Humorguy_basic. Empire is a classic example of a game reviewed too early. And many games like AoC and most MMOs really are constantly changing, gaining/losing players, rebalancing. It would be great to see these reviews revisited after 6-12 months. Games like Demigod too, slammed for multiplayer issues a week after coming out are very misleading now after those problems have been patched out.

Humorguy_basic
Humorguy_basic

@ Kevin-V: I badly mis-worded my post. What I meant was, in the same vein as you looking at this 'updated' MMO, maybe you could re-review games that you gave, for example, 6.5 to, that are now patched up and working perfectly and great games! Not a total re-review, just a bi-annual re-look at review scores with a little update box. We all know, for example how big ebay and the budget label market is, so we know people are coming to these games 6 months to a year on. I just don't think it fair that 9.0+ games that turn out to have all sorts of problems (Empire Total War anyone?!) never get marked down and equally buggy games,like say Boiling Point never get marked up when the patches fix 99% of the problems. The legacy that is left for many games is very inaccurate and doesn't show many games in a truthful light. Although, to be fair, it is a minority of games, a sizeable minority, but a minority.

dalhaug
dalhaug

I returned to Hyboria after almost a year. Wow! All my former complaints about this game has now vanished. Full DX10 running gives stunning graphics, character building, spells, crafting and you name it, is now flawless! I will recommend this game to all lovers of Conan, critics of Conan, former and new players. See you in Hyboria! "divinus"

Kevin-V
Kevin-V moderator staff

@Humorguy_basic - 6.5? We gave the game an 8.5.

welroon
welroon

I am also revisiting AoC with the free 14 day reevaluation and I am enjoying it. I can see they have added a lot of stuff but there does seem to be a low population playing, at least on the server I am on. And as much has been said that they have improved the game performance I am not seeing it that much. I thought they fixed the Ati incompatibility problem. I can still only run it on medium settings if I want anything above 25-30 fps and I have an hd 3850 gpu plus a amd athlon dual core 5000+. And I have 2 gigs of onboard ram. I guess unless you have a 4-500 dollar video card you can't run this at highest settings and get 60 fps or higher?

Humorguy_basic
Humorguy_basic

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