Tomorrow is the 5th anniversary for Age of Conan, on May 23rd.
It is a game that certainly has seen some ups and downs. The launch was far from perfect, there were various issues and some game systems may not have worked out as well as the developers may have hoped. But it was and still is a great fantasy setting and not your cookie cutter fantasy MMO.
For me this is currently my 4th visit into the game, each time have so far lasted 2-3 months. Similar to Guild Wars it took me a few visits for me to embrace it, but I quite enjoy it now.
The anniversary, starting tomorrow, promises a few interesting things:
In-game events with big monsters attacking, everyone can participate to fight them. Sound like this could be fun (and makes me think about some City of Heroes events, with the everyone-can-participate part)
Changes & improvements to membership/premium accounts (permanent, not just during the anniversary):
- Alternate advancement points will now be earned every time a character level. This will help close the gap somewhat between fresh max levels and old veterans, in terms of abilities
- An item which gives double XP for one hour, per day. This sounds quite similar to what membership/premium accounts get in The Secret World
- Additional bonus points per month (200) to use in item shop
Various gifts and items are promised to be available. Members also get additional discounts in the in-game store. During the celebrations access is also opened for everyone to Khitai, i.e. the areas in the Rise of the Godslayer expansion.
Between May 19th and May 30th anyone who buys a 3, 6 or 12 months also gets 50% extra game time.
When Age of Conan originally went into its hybrid business model (would not quite all it “free to play”) it was a somewhat restrictive model. Since then it has opened up more and essentially the whole original game is available without requiring the player to pay. It was even perhaps to the point that there was not much reason to go premium/member unless you wanted to play end-game content. Some of the changes announced here will probably give more incentives to people to pay the membership/subscription fee, if they like the game.
Tonight Zelmira, my Herald of Xotli, got her final ding and reached level 80 in Age of Conan. This was while starting to do a few of the first missions in Khitai. It is really nice to have reached this point and I am still continuing to gain appreciation for the game – I am curious on the faction gameplay in Khitai and what other things to try out at this point.
I still have the level 80 part of the Destiny missions to do also, so I will head back to Kheshatta later to do that.
I have mostly enjoyed the ride to 80, although some parts were better than others and for other characters I may use some of the offline levels that have been piling up to speed up things a little bit from time to time. Many of the missions towards the end were team-oriented missions and I still have a bunch of those to complete, which I hope to do later.
This is my 3rd fantasy MMO where I have reached max level, the other two being World of Warcraft (at level 60) and Guild Wars (at level 20). Most likely there will be more characters reaching max level in this game.
In two days the 5 year anniversary of Age of Conan will start also, so it feels nice to finally reach the max level at this time just before celebrations stat.
A bit over a week ago City of Steam, a steampunk-inspired, browser-based dungeon crawler/MMO-type game went into open beta. So it is kind of launched, but not quite.
I November/December of 2012 the game had 4 closed beta weekends, which I played a bit in. So now it has been time to see what the state of the game is, what has changed and if it is worth playing. And my answer to that last part is – yes, it could be worth playing. But it is a bit bumpy ride.
Today was the day of the April Game Director’s letter for three of the MMOs I subscribe to/pay for – Anarchy Online, Age of Conan and The Secret World. The reason for that is of course that the Game Directory is the very same person for all three of these games, Joel Bylos.
I like Joel. He has a mix of enthusiasm combined with a no-frills this-is-the-way-it-is approach in his writing, the latter in particular visible when he is replying to comments in the forums. For all three games he has been fairly quick to provide replies to comments and questions people have asked after reading the letter. This is a welcome approach and helps to clarify matters where needed (and possible).
I have read through all three letters and the forum comments made so far; I am going to make a few brief notes about this, going from the most negative to the most positive in terms of player response.
Recently I visited two of soloable “dungeons” reachable from Gateway to Khitai – The Breach and The Forgotten City. I put the world dungeons in quotes, because I would prefer to call them instanced areas – but the game terminology is dungeon.
These “dungeons” scale to your level and according to the map they are available for level 40-80. Zelmira, my Herald of Xotli, had only done a couple of missions in Gatewai to Khitai before. Both of them are actually mostly outdoor areas visually, albeit small. Each one has a couple of missions and at least for The Breach, one needs to pick up missions before being able to enter the area.
For the Breach one needs to pick up missions from Menudsjin in hos camp; if you have done level 30+ missions in Gateway to Khitai you are very likely to have run into him before. And if you read mission texts, you would most likely remember him as well. There is another fellow in Menudsjin’s camp that gives a mission to The Breach as well, but that was not available to me until I had completed the initial run.
The Breach has 3 bosses – the first part of the area is a camp where this boss is located. One has to defeat him to get a mission from a nearby NPC to open up access to the next part of the map. The boss fight was straightforward, nothing special. The second boss is a Kang Zai creature which should be roped in on behalf of the NPC from the previous area – when completed he will also open up access to the third and last area.
There are a number of smaller Kang Zai’s in the area fairly near the boss, I picked them all off before engaging the boss to be sure. In the boss fight there are additional adds spawned as well, so that is one thing to be prepared for. After defeating boss 2 in it time to get into the 3rd area, which is the largest part of the map. Prior to facing the 3rd and last boss, this is also the place to do the collection mission picked up at Menudsjin’s camp from Menudsjin.
The last boss is in an arena and a small cutscene is triggered when you enter. The first stage is to defeat some contenders in the arena in a few waves, starting with 1 enemy, then 2 and then 3. During the fights with these the boss is untouchable, but there are spells thrown causing spiky rock circles, which cause knockback and some damage – try to avoid these may be good.
Directly after the contender fights there is another small cutscene and the boss now takes action into his own hands and attacks. This fellow throws some spells that causes fire and rocks to drop; these seems to be targeted at a certain area, so move out of the area when they happen seems to be a good approach here. After the boss is defeated the remaining mission can be completed; the exit is just next to the boss fight location, so there is no need to run back to get out.
I liked this “dungeon” – not much trash mobs between the bosses and it did not take that much time to complete it. This is similar to the approach of The Secret World “dungeons” – no doubt that idea started off here in Age of Conan. There was at least a little bit more than spank-the-boss in terms of boss fight gameplay. I think the “dungeon” is on a 20 hour timer, so it can be repeated every so often.
The Forgotten City
The other “dungeon” in the area is The Forgotten City. It is pretty obvious where that one is. Akana, a Stygian lady just outside Menudsjin’s camp provides a mission to the “dungeon”, to explore what she thinks may be an area with an ancient race, the Lemurians. Just outside the entrance there is also another mission NPC, Jiuling – a graverobber who sees a business opportunity.
This dungeon also has 3 bosses, although there is a few more mobs in between the bosses compared to The Breach – still not that much though. The first part of the area provides opportunity to collect stuff the graverobber NPC was asking for and leads up to the first boss, who is standing outside the entrance to the city itself.
This boss was straightforward, although he had a big attack which I failed to avoid and that took out a large chunk of my health. After that it is time to enter the city itself, or rather the ruins of the city. This leads to a quite scenic spot, where one can find the second boss, far out on a ledge. This boss sends out some smaller tornados and occasionally a bit thunderstorm/tornado attack, which covers the whole ledge he stands on. There is plenty of warning before he triggers that attack and one can run away to a safe spot from the attack (it will just go straight ahead).
The third and final boss is up in the damaged building area to the upper left in the picture above. There are a number of palace guards and similar enemies to go through before getting there. When finally arriving to the room with the 3rd boss one will find him walking around in the room. There seems to be some kind of healing aura in the area. The boss itself is pretty straightforward as well here, although he runs one of the altars that is scattered around the room during multiple occasions in the fight. He heals up at these altars. The altars are possible to interact with though and doing so interrupts the healing.
Same as with The Breach, one can get out of the area directly from the final boss room, no need to run back all the way. This was also pretty quick and fun to go through. It will probably not be something I would do very often again, but at least it is more fun than the villas in Tarantia Noble District, which are more about mowing through a number of trash mobs really.
Thumbs up for these two “dungeons”. As I understand it there is supposed to be a group oriented version of these “dungeons” as well, with more challenging mechanics. Sounds like a good opportunity for some quick fun if in a team.
Many of the MMOs that used to be subscription-based games, but at some point switched to a hybrid och free-to-play model have added various pieces to their names to indicate that they are really free, such as “Freedom”, “Free for all”, “Free forever”, “Unchained” etc. In an era where most MMOs were subscription-based, this perhaps made sense, to indicate that you really can try this game for free.
Nowadays, the subscription-only games are the minority and it is perhaps rather they who need to find some added description to their names – although I hope not. I would rather see that there is a perceived value in the product itself rather than trying to entice people with an added twist to the name of the product.
If one looks at the different subscription-to-hybrid conversions, one can see that they have struggled a bit to find a balance with what people pay for, either through the shop and/or a subscription fee. Some games which use to be somewhat restrictive have loosened their restrictions in order to get more players (and perhaps even paying players).
But perhaps is it a bit too much – reading some forums and commentary on a few sites there is a fair amount of people talking about how much of the game you can play without paying – but not always so much what is worth paying for. When I read questions like “what do I get for the subscription/premium fee” I see fairly often comments along the line of “you do not need to pay to do X, or you need to pay to do Y”. If the arguments is along the lines of “need” and “not need” then the company have really failed to display value to the customers in a good way.
If customers in general rather enjoy the game because they do not have to pay anything, or barely anything, then the game company have failed to show the value of the product. A successful model is where people get hooked and want to give the company money because they like what they see and they want to get additional value. But if companies focus on the “free” part rather than the value they provide when you actually pay, they will have difficulties in a market where almost everything is “free” to some extent.
One feature which I think some games are not handling well is the community aspect – the “free” player typically have a number of restrictions when it comes to chat, forming guilds etc. I can understand that from a perspective to avoid too much gold seller spam and similar, but it also takes away a key element that can make people attached to an MMO. I would prefer to see a bit more freedom in the community aspects of a game and perhaps less when it comes to content.
Quite recently I completed two Destiny quests with Zelmira, my Herald of Xotli. After the first post-Tortage destiny quest at level 30 there is a gap until level 50 for the next one. As Zelmira did the level 30 quest almost a year ago during my previous venture into Age of Conan, I had almost forgotten that there were other destiny quests.
(Note: This post contains some spoilers to the level 50 and 60 Destiny missions. If you are still blissfully ignorant about these and do not want to know – just skip reading and just look at the pictures, or something…)
So it was not actually until the mid-50s that I realized that there actually was another of those Destiny quests that Zelmira could do. Heading back to Khemi all the way from Eiglophian Mountains to pick it up (not a short trip) it of course turned out that the next phase was right there in the Eiglophian Mountains also. For the Destiny 50 mission it was time to say hello again to everyone’s favourite Stygian in Tortage – the lovely lady Mithrelle.
Mithrelle had taken residence in an icy cave; in addition to some Acheronian slaves nearby she had picked up some of the local fauna – Ice worms. The encounter itself with Mithrelle started off with a couple of waves of ice worm minions, which she summoned. Pretty easy to deal with – at this point it is not possible to attack Mithrelle herself.
After these waves (might have been 6 waves of 3 minion worms) a big Ice worm appeared, a boss. At the same time Mithrelle also became possible to attack. Initially I started to fight the big worm, but then thought maybe she will just summon new worms if I defeat this one? So I decided instead strike a conversation (without the conversation part) with Mithrelle directly.
Most of the time it turned out that Mithrelle was pretty much invulnerable – she was shielded, although there were moments when she seemed to loos control a bit. These were also the times where Zelmira also lost control and could not attack, due to an attack from Mithrelle. After a little while I realized that it was predictable when this was going to happen. It then became fairly easy to avoid and attack Mithrelle directly after that.
Mithrelle lost control of the Ice Worm somewhat early in this process of discovery and it attacked her instead. Once this mechanic was figured out it did not take long to defeat her. The Phoenic Medallion part of the north could be picked up and mission was accomplished.
After rounding up this mission back in Khemi again it turned out that the next Destiny quest was at level 60 – I had half expected the next one to be 20 levels after this one at 70, so it was a nice surprise for me. Since I was already in my mid-50s it did not take that many days until I was eligible for the next one.
In the level 60 Destiny mission the next area to go to was Thunder River, in Aquilonia – a level 60-70 zone. The zone itself probably has been mentioned somewhere, but it was completely new to me. As with many other places in the game, Thunder River looked like a pretty beautiful area, although it is supposedly a prison island of some kind, with a lot of wicked people of course…
This mission was about to defeat a fellow named Har-Shebes, which is a Really Bad Guy. If you are an Acheronian demon of sorts, that is the kind of title you tend to earn. Mr Har-Shebes dwelled in a cave in Thunder River area, but obviously valued his privacy a bit – he was not actually found in the caves one entered, only various ghouls, dead dogs and some bloody critters were hanging around something that looked like pools of blood. Except in one room, where a boss (lets call him K) was hanging.
The fight to defeat K has some similarities with the Blood Defiler fight in the level 30 destiny mission – at certain points he ran away to some recovery/protection areas at which point he was not possible to hurt. He did not heal himself though, but there was a DoT running during this time also, eating up some health. Maybe it is possible to stop this prematurely, but I did not figure that out. Instead I used some potions during his recovery periods, which was enough to keep me alive.
After defeating K he dropped a tunnel key. So that means there was a tunnel somewhere to be found. Not very far from K:s location was one of these blood pools. This one was a bit different from the other blood pools – there were more critters around it and there were marking of bloody hands on the walls near it. Looking into the pool a cave area was noticeable. So into the pool I went and then could dive and swim through some caves. Up through another pool was a metal gate, where the key fit of course.
Next after that was another pool with caves to dive and swim to – this one led to the area where Har-Shebes was located. As any decent Evil Being should have, Har-Shebes was surrounded by a couple of minions (I think it was 8 of them).
The minions surrounded Har-Shebes, with some kind of force field it seemed. It was very easy to kill a minion, but he/she/it immediately respawned and Zelmira was switching and hurting each time. Attacking Har-Shebes did not seem to help either. There was of course also attacks/DoT running during this. In this room there were though two “corridors” whuich where safe from the attack/DoT effects, so it was possible to recover and think what to try next.
After a number of unsuccessful attempts I did notice that there was a moment were a minion got a bit larger and there was a ball of fire circling around them, for a few seconds. An attempt to attack them during this phase turned out to be quite successful – they vanished and did not respawn. Instead the ball of fire appeared above another minion. Same procedure with that one. After 4 minions have been defeated in this way things changed and the force field kind of vanished. Thus it semeed to be a good time to start beating up Har-Shebes directly.
This worked quite well, but after a while it changed again with the force field coming back online. The same procedure was applied though to the remaining minions at this point. With all the minions gone, it was not too difficult to defeat poor old Har-Shebes.
At this point I have all the pieces of the medallion and all my memory should be recovered now. I still have the Mark of Acheron, but have received a mission to get rid of that as well. It will be interesting to see how the story evolves after this and when any further destiny missions will be available to play.