GDC 07: Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures Updated Impressions

Funcom shows off group combat in its upcoming Conan-based massively multiplayer role-playing game, as well as the game running in DirectX 10.

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Funcom and Eidos continue to work on Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures, the upcoming massively multiplayer role-playing game for the Xbox 360 and PC set in Robert E. Howard's famous fantasy universe of Conan the Barbarian. With Age of Conan set to launch in late October, the company plans to reveal more and more of the game in the coming months. To that end, Funcom's Jorgen Tharaldsen was on hand at the Game Developers Conference to show off the latest progress on the game, specifically group gameplay.

You can create and develop a formidable character in Age of Conan, one capable of mowing down most opponents with ease, just like the titular character. You won't be able to play as Conan himself, but the big guy will play a significant role in the story. You will play as a former galley slave who, after escaping captivity, sets out on the road to fame and glory. One of the more unique aspects of Age of Conan is that it blends single-player and multiplayer gameplay together. You can play the game by yourself, but you can also jump into the massively multiplayer aspects of the game and play with others.

Tharaldsen showed off the character-customization options briefly, illustrating the power of the character editor. After that, he dived straight into the game with a high-level character. Enlisting the aid of employees at Funcom's US offices, he then showed off what a group of characters is capable of. With a flurry of sword strikes, the group mowed through waves of enemies easily. It's not just hack-and-slash gameplay, though, as the composition of the group highlighted how tactics can play a role in the game. The real-time combat system in Age of Conan means that each battle can be a tactical dance to the death. Multiply that further with group combat, and there's a rush as players race to aid one another.

One of the things that Funcom wants to emphasize in Age of Conan is that this is a game that captures the gory nature of the Conan universe. To that end, you can decapitate and dismember someone in combat with a sword swing, or you'll encounter human sacrifices and more. The quest system can get pretty dark, as well. For instance, one quest will have you retrieve the half-eaten body of a woman from a giant crocodile so that her husband can move on.

This was the first time that we saw the DirectX 10 version of the game running, although it was very much in the early stages of development. Still, it clearly looked sharper and better than the DirectX 9 version of the game. In particular, the longer draw distances stood out, as well as the abundant shadowing and self-shadowing effects everywhere. With that said, it was still evident that it was a work in progress, though Funcom plans to spend the coming months polishing and optimizing the game. The company still has a fair amount of time, as Age of Conan is scheduled to launch in late October.

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