As many others I picked up a key from Fileplanet for the open beta. I had not planned to play anything here until perhaps after the game was released. But some friends mentioned they were going to play the game, so I decided to take a brief look at it.
First of all, I am not a Conan aficionado. I have read a comic book once I think and I have seen one of the movies with Arnold, all many years ago. I have not followed the game other than seeing some blurbs and news that are hard to avoid. So I have not really any idea of how it is “supposed” to be.
It seems pretty much apparent to me that this Fileplanet open beta event is very much separate from their regular beta, which is still closed. The servers are separate, installer indicates that this is the “IGN Open beta event” and there is a separate login before the actual login to get patches, welcome message is specific for the IGN beta etc.
Which means that this may have taken some time and effort to set up and coordinate and thus likely also an older build of the game. My guess is that marketing at Funcom are not entirely happy with the situation, but likely some business decision a long time ago that they could not change at this stage.
Why do I say that? Well, there have been some technical issues. Not a lot of them and the game has not crashed on me entirely – the only crashes for me have been when exiting the game actually. Other comments I have seen from people in the real beta indicates that it is in a better stage there. And some issues are things they likely want to try out and test with a large scale beta run such as this. So let’s not dwell on that – whatever I say here may or may not be valid at release, so better wait with that until it is actually released.
The game has a pretty neat intro for the character creation where it zooms in on a slave on a ship – you. From there a couple of origins (all human) can be picked and there are 12 different classes to pick from, from 4 major groups (soldier, priest, rogue and mage). Not all origins can pick all classes, as the background information indicates.
There is not a whole lot to customize on the character in terms of looks – but given that the character is a slave the outfit options should probably not be that high. And thankfully none of these slider things to detail the face and body, but rather a few select choices which all seem to look ok.
After that one is washed ashore on a beach and a story arc starts. The very first task is to rescue a fair lady captured by some bad guys (yay, no kill 10 rats as a first quest) and escort her to the nearby town/village (Tortage) – after applying some vengeance on the bad guys of course.
From there a number of quests can be obtained to do various deeds in the neighbourhood evolving around the dire situation for Tortage, being in the hand of a less friendly group called the Red Hand (which seemed to have a Red Head as their marker… Perhaps it sounded similar in the local langauge)
The combat interface seems to be pretty similar to many other MMORPGs, press a button to do something. Thankfully no auto-attack, instead 3 keys (1,2,3) are used to strike at the enemies from various angles, at least assuming it is a melee fight. There is also an option to parry and have shields in different positions to protect from corresponding blows at you.
I have not tried any shields yet (my character can’t use them), but the the rest of the combat mechnics are simple enough to work well. At first it was a bit of just mashing the buttons, but felt better after a while. And then I also discovered that there was “combo moves” and that you should press some of the directional buttons after activating it to make best use of the move.
It seems to work fairly well, so I’ll give that a thumbs up. Although I think it will need more pratice to make better use of, which is good – easy enough to work reasonably well at start, but with option to improve on it later.
The game interface do need a bit improvement I think, hopefully that will be there for release. The ingame minimap is a bit confusing and seems to show quests that are both eligeble and those that may be elieble later int he same way. I did not see any icons for system options and settings, exiting the game etc, only through key commands – which I could only find when I logged back in later and saw a hint on how to get the options view.
The story and setting is pretty nice and the environment looks nice, even on a medium setting – but perhaps not spectacular. Some of the quests are played in single player mode, advancing the major story arc (Destiny quests I think it was called) for the area.
There is one story that does not seem to be covered or dealt with though, which is the inbreeding in Tortage. When talking to the various NPCs with the dialog view that pops this is an apparent problem. But probably too sensitive to talk about for the local populace.
For one that has been generally a bit tired of fantasy MMORPG titles, Age of Conan feels different enough that it may be worth getting back into fantasy a bit – there are no elves, orcs or dwarves with beards or anyone called Legolass running around. Hopefully it stays that way later also.
It has a bit of down-to-earth-with-darkness-looming feeling, although some quests are still pretty standard type fight-X-of-this, collect-Y-of-that.
Over the sessions I played with the games so far my opinions have varied from Great! to This Sucks! and seems to end up at some opinion equilibrium somewhere in the middle.
It has made a good enough impression that I will probably end up buying it to try it out more properly, hoping that some technical issues are less of a concern at release.
Hopefully it will also be a game that does not require a lot of time investment, since I will still be blasting aliens in Tabula Rasa and putting on my spandex suits in City of Villains/Heroes.