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.
I quite enjoy reading the mission texts in Age of Conan. They are a mix of serious and brutal stories, with some whimsical and kind of awkward moments (for the mission NPC mostly). Many times you can also choose your responses, to reflect a bit of your character’s character. It probably does not matter at all for the missions themselves, but at least there are different flavours to the dialogue.
The tone is often a bit brutal, there is a lot of revenge, hunter & warrior honour etc. That makes it even more fun then to see bits of humour slipped in; e.g. an NPC asks to help for vengeful activities, only to say “oops, you actually did that…? We are friends now…”. There are other missions who in various ways make fun of themselves, to send out players on these “kill ten rats” missions.
Most sessions there are at least a few pieces of mission dialogue that can make you smile – or perhaps groan a bit…
In general it seems that the bits and pieces in missions that gets voice acting post-Tortage seems to be some of the more serious dialogue, the ones with an element that is key to the overall story for the region you are in at the moment. There are some characters though that do deliver a bit of humour through voice acting, such as Fenella in Eiglophian Mountains. Her dry way of describing all the ways that may get you killed in the area becomes a bit fun to hear.
While I certainly do not remember all NPC names that I meet and not all of them are as memorable characters as one may find in The Secret World, there are still a number of them that sticks – either because of the general good story, or simply because of the humour.
Recently Zelmira, my Herald of Xotli, continued her travels into the Eiglophian Mountains. As with most of Cimmeria so far, it is a quite scenic area – tall mountains, forest areas, roaring wildlife – and of course some evildoers and general trouble.
In the Eiglophian Mountains the local Cimmerians seem to hunt elk and bear for meat and fur, with some snow leopards and bobcats thrown in as well. Business is reasonably ok and there there is a fairly constant demand to assist with the hunting. All is not well though, life is disrupted by local tribes of cannibals. The cannibals are rather uncivilized, not much better than at stone age level – normally they would not be a match for the Cimmerians to deal with.
However, the various tribes seems to have become significantly more organized and the sheer number of these cannibal tribesmen are causing significant problems and are causing much trouble among the Cimmerians. There are some indications that there may be some Evil Sorcery behind all of this. (Is there a time where Evil Sorcery is not behind major trouble in this world?)
I do very much enjoy the setting and the scenery here – perhaps is it this combined with real life longing for spring and heading out more into the local nature that has caused an increased time for me with this game. We do not have the mountains here in real life, but one does not need to go away far to enjoy forests, lakes etc away from the bustling city life.
In Eiglophian Mountains Zelmira kind of reached a milestone, as she passed level 50. My first character ever to reach that level in the game. This triggered a feature which has been in the game for a few years and which I was reminded of when reading the forums – all acounts that have or get a character to 50+ can create a new character, starting directly at level 50. This is a one-time offer only, so only one such character can be created.
While I decided to use this opportunity, it was not actually not something that I was looking forward using. I enjoy leveling characters, so that we can get to know each other and figure out how he/she can evolve in their abilities. Starting with a level 50 character right away is perhaps a bit like meeting a person you have not met for several years, trying to figure you each of you are how and how you can relate to each other. I decided to go with a Guardian, as I saw this as a more team-oriented role to play (tank) and possibly something that would be time consuming to level all the way.
I created a level 50 Guardian thus, but I will not be playing him now – content-wise he would be doing the same things as Zelmira pretty much, so her will wait for a time when I have fewer character around 50 probably, or if I want to put more focus into tanking – which may be after I get some more team play in this game under my belt.
Senmei, my Demonologist, have also received a bit more of time and love recently. After doing most of the missions in the Tarantia Noble District, she has also headed off to Cimmeria and the Field of the Dead. In her mid-40s level-wise, starting to play in this area was quite easy – it also helped a bit to have done the missions before. It is pretty fun, although I think I will play some lower level characters a bit more now also instead – there is not a huge selection of various zones at this level. It could get a bit repetitive.
As a premium player there is also the off-line leveling option and I have 30+ levels in the buffer to use. However, this is not something I want to make any big jumps with – I see this as an option to speed up leveling slightly from time to time, if I do content that I have done a couple of times before. So this will probably get used a bit more at some point, but not yet.
The situation in the picture above is one of the reasons I like to play the game more now; every now and then there is a situation where there are multiple players with the same objective, typically a boss encounter. Often that leads to some kind of team – sometimes that only lasts for the boss fight, sometimes it lasts longer. Bosses can take a bit of time to re-spawn sometimes, which increases the incentive to team up with each other – even if the boss fight would be possible to solo, it is more courteous to share the effort rather than compete for it. It is a bit “old school” compared to public events/quests in some other games, but still gives a similar effect – and also still manage to retain the feel of a virtual world rather than a game.
About two weeks ago I wrote that I had started to play Age of Conan as a side MMO, to complement my gaming in The Secret World. Well, it turned out that I actually spent the majority of my game time in Age of Conan instead. The Secret World got its fair share, but definitely less than my time in a setting a bit closer to nature.
I have 6 different characters in Age of Conan; at this point I have pretty much decided to put more focus on three of them. Jotunheimer is a Cimmerian barbarian who has been quite happy with swinging both axes and swords. Starting with big, two-handed weapons he has switched to do more dual-wielding sword action. At the time of the previous Age of Conan post he was just about to pick up his destiny question for level 30. In the old ages when I played the game this mission was fairly easy. I noticed last year and learned now also that the difficulty had increased a bit – the Blood Defiler Guardian runs back and heals himself a couple of times to full health.
Still, compared to the other characters that I have ran through this mission, my barbarian handled it better than most of the others. Part of that is of course lessons learned from previous fights with the guardian. I started to pick up some more missions in Khopshef Province, but decided it was time to see some new views – and headed off to the Wild Lands of Zelata. I quite enjoyed my time there. Compared to Khopshef Province I thought the story going through the missions were a bit more solid and coherent, most of it fit together quite well I think.
Each of my three characters that I have been playing have been going through different areas in the 30-40 level range; Jotunheimer (barbarian) in Wild Lands, Senmei (demonologist) in Gateway to Khitai and Zelmira (Herald of Xotli) in Khopshef Province. I have enjoyed all these areas – Wild Lands is probably my favourite from a story perspective, followed by Gateway to Khitai. Despite the quest hub design to give out missions I think the game does a pretty good job in providing story material with their missions. It is not at the same level as in The Secret World, but certainly above average in the MMO themepark space. It is a bit of a shame with the quest hub design that it sort of encourages people to skip through the mission texts.
As this is written, Jotunheimer has just reached level 40 and has now been eligible to pick up a horse. He is a poor Cimmerian though and the prices at the Stable Masters are out of his league still. However, I noticed that both riding training and horses can be picked up for a few veteran reward tokens. It seems I have well over 200 of these tokens and with Basic riding training priced at 1 token and a basic horse at 3 tokens, it felt like a quite easy choice. So now Jotunheimer has a Mahogany Bay horse for travelling.
Zelmira, my Herald of Xotli, has been mowing her way through the Field of the Dead, which is a level 40-50 zone. At level 47 she has done most of the missions there with a handful remaining. Lots of Vanir to beat up, but also werewolves as well as some more natural wild life has been on the menu.
At one point here it felt that there may be a bit of a gap levelwise, the remaining missions were coloured red. It was at this point that I discovered that there also were another 40+ zone, the Tarantia Noble District. I had seen that there had been mentions of repeatable “dungeons” there (the villas), but I did not actually realize it seemed to be a proper leveling zone as well. Aside from the villas it seems the missions there were for the low 40s range primarily. Zelmira has done 2-3 villa visits, but will then be heading back to Field of the Dead. I really like playing Herald of Xotli, it is a fun mix of melee and magic. Also, since she swings a fairly big weapon it is also easier to hit multiple enemies at once, plus switching to demon form and charging the enemies it certainly feels like going into overdrive. Really fun!
My demonologist is a bit more traditional mage type, mostly nuking things with electricity and fire – lots of fire. She has spent all of her time since leaving Tortage in the Gateway to Khitai area. After defeating the Sand Demon there it felt like it was time to move on and the other parts of the world. At the time she had arrived in Khemi, I had also figured out that Tarantia Noble District was a proper zone to play in.
She also needed a horse to move around, so she got herself a white stallion and jumped in to help the poor soldiers with the Nemedians and other problems in the area. Some of the missions quickly moved into places with enemies a few levels higher, but that worked still fine, most of the time. The times it did not work so well it was still possible to run off near some of the level 80 guards, which swiftly killed the bad guys then. That leads to the thought, if they can defeat the enemies so easily – why don’t they sort out the problems themselves? Probably not politically correct, so it is preferable to bring in outsiders to do the dirty work.
I have quite enjoyed playing all three characters. As I mentioned before, one reason the game is more fun now than last year it that there are more people around. There is almost always some other players nearby. In fact, most of the game sessions I have had in the game since the return a few weeks ago have also involved teaming with others. In many cases this was triggered by a boss to be defeated; either to get some help or simply to avoid competing for the same boss, forcing someone of us to wait for a respawn. In some cases these teams also led to continued teaming doing some other missions as well.
In the past few weeks I have been thinking about about complementing my time in The Secret World with another MMO on the side, to add a bit more variation – as an altoholic variation is my bread and butter. I have looked at a couple of different MMOs, even instealled and tried some – only to uninstall them again quite soon. That is, until I decided to try out another Funcom game again – Age of Conan.
Last time I played the game was late spring/early summer 2012 – right before The Secret World launched. I enjoyed it back then, but ended up focusing on the TSW instead – plus that Age of Conan at that time felt quite empty to me, as a far-below-level-80 player. It seemed that most activity happened at the max level.
I was pleasantly surprised when I recently returned to the game to see that it was definitely more populated now – this probably has to do with that the game now is available through Steam. Last year when I played the game I barely saw anyone while adventuring and teamed up maybe once in two months. In the past 2-3 days I have teamed up a number of times and I see people all over the place.
While I am not a huge fan of fantasy settings, I think Age of Conan has a number of things going for it:
- Great setting and beautiful environments, with great music in the game
- Fun melee combat, where positioning matters. In most games I find melee combat to be so-and-so, but two MMOs where I really enjoy it are Age of Conan and The Secret World.
- No fellows that are pointy-eared, slender and arrogant that can be thousands of years old
- Fairly sensible outfits, nothing of those incredibly over-sized armor pieces that in particular some Asian MMOs seem to be found of
- Mission NPCs that at least has a bit more motivation for missions than get-me-boar-meat-to-feed-a-village-for-a-week-I-am-a-lazy-villager. NPCs may be bleeding, they have been poisoned, they are simply scared – or they want to cheat you. Or you will try to cheat them, sometimes. Or they are simply insane and tell you anything.
- No fellows that are short, bearded and talk with a Scottish accent
- Some enjoyable class options, e.g. a melee mage that swings big two-handed swords or axes, spews fire and can turn into a deamon – what is not to love about that?
- Just plain fun
I reactivated some of my old characters to more or less continue where I left off. My lineup consists of a number of characters in the 20s and 30s ranges when I started now again. Leveling is fairly quick it seems and my highest character has gone from 39 to 43 without too much effort. At level 40 there are a few options opening up – crafting becomes available and one can also start to use regular mounts.
Not everything is explained clearly in the tutorials and help text in the game. Searching for information on certain aspects of the game through Google does not always turn up useful results, since the game has been revamped in a few areas over the years. So some old information may no longer be correct. This probably happens with other MMOs also after a couple of years also.
I have been somewhat disillusioned when it comes to fantasy MMOs, perhaps there has been a bit too much of the same on many of them. For me, Age of Conan feels different enough, with higher immersion factor than many other fantasy MMOs. Try it out!