Release Date: Q2 2006
Games like EverQuest, EverQuest II, Dark Age of Camelot, and especially World of Warcraft have all carved out loyal audiences for themselves. So how can a new online game make a name for itself? Age of Conan's approach is apparently to go big on ambition by attempting to model a huge, highly detailed world based on author Robert E. Howard's classic fantasy hero--a huge world that will be single-player as well as multiplayer. That's right, in addition to being a massively multiplayer online game, it will also feature a sizable 20-hour single-player game that will get you started in the world. You'll actually advance your character from levels 1 through 20 with the single-player game, and if you're satisfied with it, you can call it quits (or restart the single-player game with a different character).
However, once you get to level 20, you'll just be hitting your character's stride, and you'll be able to venture into the massively multiplayer portion of the game. We had a chance to see how the world will look. For instance, towns will be highly detailed zones populated by characters with realistic behavior and their own personal agendas. Characters will actually walk up to you as you walk past and loudly try to foist their wares on you. Children at play will chase you through the streets until they grow bored and return to their games. And should you get bored in town, you'll be able to stop by the local tavern and do some brawling. (That's fighting without your armor, weapons, or battle skills and only using your fists and any bar stools or table legs you can find lying around.)
And once you leave the safe haven of your local town, you'll be able to participate in real-time, hack-and-slash combat that you'll enter manually with your mouse so you can swing your sword. Battles won't just be one-on-one against slightly larger-than-normal rats; they'll actually be skirmishes that can be fairly large to enormous. The game is planned to support huge sieges and huge field battles between mounted troops, like tribes of savages hanging from the tusks of wooly mammoths, as well as trained infantry soldiers marching in formation. Age of Conan's ambitious approach will hopefully result in gameplay that will have plenty to offer to fans of all kinds of role-playing games, online or otherwise.
FinalistsAuto Assault (PC)
Dungeons & Dragons Online: Stormreach (PC)
The Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar (PC)