Age of Conan’s combat system: The next step in mmorpg combat evolution? Possibly. I was browsing their official site for more information on the specific systems and I came across the latest Dev Diary (#5) that laid out the basics of their combat system. I’ve been following AoC at a distance because I’ve naturally been gravitating towards Warhammer. I still believe strongly that Age of Conan will have a lot to offer players looking for something fresh and now after studying up on the combat system I believe it might be the next evolutionary step in how developers will design their games.
The various sub systems that make up AoC’s combat system are somewhat intricate and far more twitch than a standard combat system. The first drastic difference is the complete removal of the auto attack system. This places every swing, every attack, every skill use in the hands of the player. When to use them and how to use them become far more important than simply being able to use them. The developers have set out to make a more involved and real time melee system; essentially a more fast paced and dynamic system requiring more skill from the player than ever before.
Weapon choice and how you use that weapon play a big part in combat. Mobs and player characters will dodge and react based on exactly where you attack them. All weapons can hit more than one target giving the game a more realistic and almost crude and unpredictable style truly fitting of the barbaric setting. Each weapon appears to have pros and cons such as knockback or arc which determines how many enemies you can strike with one blow. In a recent video from GenCon a video was shown with players fighting on mounts and how reach obviously played a part in the system.
I was surprised when I discovered how deeply the systems involve the player. It’s more than choosing at who and where you swing your weapon and more than knockbacks and arcs. Combat in Age of Conan is comprised of the offense, which looks fantastic on its own, and a very dynamic defensive system which plays an equally important role. They have broken their Defense system into two categories: Active and Passive. The passive defense is all the standard armor, resistances, buffs, etc and thankfully something players won’t have to bother much with. The active category is broken up into several parts making it an integral part in combat. AoC will have collision detecting and active dodging. Collision detection is well known, but the active dodging system is where more of that twitch play comes in. If a projectile or big enemy swing is coming at you, tapping a certain direction will allow for short quick movements out of the way. Extremely interesting in theory, but hopefully more than another excuse to run around like crazy.
Lastly, the defensive system that shows the most ingenuity is the Shield system. This plays in-part with choosing where to attack your enemy but also where you know your enemy will strike you. Customizable and capable of being fit to your own ‘style’, the shield system is a very dynamic means of protecting yourself from incoming damage. If you’re opponent favors the right side then shifting your defense to counter will matter. As a constantly changing variable in combat, and something your enemy will also surely be doing, this could be the biggest implementation of micromanagement a mmorpg has ever seen.
Combining all the variables from offensive and defensive play, in theory, really paints a picture true to what the development team has set out to make: A very fast paced real-time and dynamic system that is sure to be anything but another boring mmo combat system. I’m looking forward to experimenting with all that AoC’s combat system has to offer. I think Funcom, despite what most people are thinking, will have a great game full of fresh ideas.