This is Part 2 of my Age of Conan Gamespot PvP Weekend impressions. In this part I want to talk about a few specifics that I left out of yesterday’s post and also revisit a few details that I was either too vague about or that I didn’t explore well enough. I also want to go into detail about the game’s performance because several questions were raised about whether or not it’s the game or my system.
Time to jump right in!
The interface in Age of Conan is very, very simple. The default UI has a single hotbar built into the UI with keys 1-3 automatically designated as left, forward/overhead, and right attacks (These can be changed). In addition to this single hotbar there are 6 additional slots that I have yet to discover a true purpose. For now I have just used them to place skills that I do not actively use (such as auras, hotkeys for turning off combat, etc). Continueing with the theme of simplicity, the UI has your health on the left and your enemies on the right of the main UI at the bottom center of the screen. Directly above your vitals you will see the actions that you or your enemy are performing while you are performing them.
The top of the screen consists of three options on the top left that allow you to look for a group, queue for mini-games pvp, access a help manual, and other social functions. In the top center there are 5 small tabs that act as quick reference buttons for your inventory, persona sheet (standard), quest journal (standard mmo style) ,etc, but I find them completely useless because as a veteran player in the mmorpg genre I’m used to pressing i, p, b, n, etc to open these windows. And lastly for the top there is a mini-map that offers the standard mini-map functions. On the topic of maps I want to mention that the maps in AoC are fantastic. I really like how they appear to be satellite maps of the area and can be zoomed in, moved around, and manipulated more than a normal map.
It’s streamlined and efficient. When you press i to open your inventory it appears to slide in from the sides and when you close it it retracts. To open the spellbook/combo list you press B and this acts much the same. N brings up your feats which are skill trees (more on this to come). There are options to turn on more hotbars and there are customizations that will meet the needs of the average user. I expect Funcom will eventually allow for custom UI’s.
Combat Rose – *more to come on this later*
The UI may appear simple but it gets the job done. Isn’t that all we can ask for in a UI?
Balance Issues and comparisons
Specific Classes that need a more in depth analysis:
Ranger – Funcom’s first Nerf! And wow were they ever nerfed. I guess calling it a nerf isn’t fair since they say it was a “bug” in itemization, but it’s definitely got them hurting. On my Ranger (you’ll see this in the ranger post-nerf video) I was dealing 1/4 the damage that I used to deal to tanks and 1/3 the damage to cloth. My crits are no longer in the hundreds of damage. The highest crit I landed was for 126 damage… when I used to crit for 700+ that’s a big change. Unfortunately for Rangers I feel they may have been overly nerfed. I feel like a caster now because by myself I can’t kill anyone — well, I did snipe this one necromancer but that was luck. Compared to the Barbarian and Assassin my damage is negligible as a ranger. It should still sting when I shoot people, not tickle! For more commentary see my Post-nerf ranger video.
Tempest of Set – What an AMAZING class. This class is really the template of what all healers and other classes should feel like. It has great heals, extremely powerful nukes, and decent buffs. In many ways the ToS plays like an offensive Druid from EQ days. Snares, nature magic, heal over times, etc. I think they need a nerf to their spell damage slightly or the other classes need a boost. As it stands now this class out nukes the casters from what I’ve seen. See the crazy damage in action in the Tempest of Set Video.
Guardian – I was asked to look into the Guardian closer to determine if their DPS was lacking. Upon a closer look and further testing of other classes I have decided that the guardian is definitely the lowest damage dealing class out there. He’s also the class that can take the most damage though. I think the biggest problem facing this class is that in PvP there really is no need for a class that can take the damage because there is no taunting. The guardian has a few debuffs from their combos but even specialized with a polearm I was unable to kill anyone alone. See the Guardian in action.
Archetypes in general: My closer look at their balance and role.
Soldiers (Guardian, Dark Templar, Conqueror): These classes feel very sturdy. The Guardian deals very little damage but manages to survive well when specialized in defense. The Dark Templar is the middle road acting almost like a Shadow Knight or very offensive Paladin with auras and helpful buffs. The Conqueror is less sturdy but provides a drastic increase in damage. Overall the Soldier archetype is solid and these characters all perform well in lvl 20 PvP. All of them have offensive and defensive stances and all could be expected to tank in PvE because they all have taunts.
Rogues (Barbarian, Ranger, Assassin): These classes deal the most damage by far. The Barbarian focuses on AoE, the Ranger on ranged single target dps, and the Assassin on single target close range. All three deal significantly more damage than any other class. Of the three the Barbarian is the most sturdy but the Ranger has the best survivability. The Assassin is an all or nothing character because if caught in a bad spot near the enemy you’re as good as dead. I think all are decent choices.
Mages (Demonologist, Necromancer, Herald of Xotli): This is a mixed bag of performance and playstyle. The Demonologist has great stuns and focuses more on offensive nukes but his damage is pathetic compared to the rogues. The Necromancer is about DoT’s and pets but the pets are horrible and the DoT’s take too long to be effective since they can be out healed with one heal spell. The Herald of Xotli is in a league if his own here. HoX are melee caster-like Battlemages that swing 2handed weapons, transform into demons, and actually deal good damage. By far the HoX is the best here and the other two need help.
Priests (Priest of Mitra, Bear Shaman, Tempest of Set): Conveniently broken up into a pure healer, a melee healer, and a nuker healer. PoM’s (as you see in my video) are very powerful healers that definitely turn the tide of battle in their team’s favor with AoE hot’s and conal heals. Bear Shaman swing big two-handed weapons and have melee combos and some of the best if not the best buffs in the game. Tempests of Set are currently overpowered in my opinion with their lightning spells outdamaging the mage classes (quite sad actually). All of these are solid choices.
PvP: Looking closer at the problems of the mini-games
Yesterday I talked about how I felt the two mini-games lacked depth or thought. I want to talk about why I feel that way and point out what specifically causes me to dislike them.
CTF: The maps look boring and overly complex. In a CTF game you’re already pushing the simplicity of gameplay. Why complicate things by creating a maze? The average player won’t have a static team to play with so they will be stuck queuing up with random players. This means that organization is already out the window. Making the maps overly complex just hinders any chance of easily working with your team. CTF mode feels like it’s lacking that extra special something. Maybe it’s polish or maybe it’s just boring CTF.
Annihilate the Enemy Team: I refer to this as Team Deathmatch. I’m not at all impressed with how quickly these matches play out. The average match takes 2 minutes and with some of the squishier classes it feels like half that time is spent at a loading screen waiting to respawn. The gameplay itself, while some consider it strategic, doesn’t help the flow of a TDM game. Teams start off and immediately go for the enemy base to destroy their statue. If this happens then you have one life to live and then it’s over. Also, players can choose to hide in their base and wait out the timer because they are unaccessible by the enemy team (to avoid spawn camping). This causes EVERYONE to wait for more than 10 minutes if this player won’t just let himself be killed. Very frustrating.
Overall I think both modes can be fixed. Make CTF maps a bit less complex. Remove loading screens on death. Make the TDM mode less about the destruction of a res stone and more about fighting the enemy team for territory – perhaps like Arathi Basin (King of the Hill of sorts).
Here is where I received most feedback from yesterday’s writeup. I am not able to run the game at its best settings nor am I able to run the game to my own personal level of quality. I realize that this is in-part because my video card (7950gt) is getting older since it’s 1y 6months old. It needs to be said however that my card and computer are capable of running -every- other game on the market and to my own personal standards. Age of Conan is the first game to challenge my computer. Is that bad? No, it’s certainly not. But it must be said because I am trying to benchmark AoC’s performance as a new game. The -average- user is not going to have an 8800 or a 9600. The average user isn’t going to have “no problems”.
With all that said I did lower my resolution to 1440×900 (down from 1680×1050) and I saw an increase of 10+ frames. There are however still issues in performance that are directly the game’s fault and I want to address them now:
- Spell effects and particle effects cause a drastic decrease in performance.
- Large numbers of players in a small area decrease performance. This will be an issue in city sieges.
- PvE does not lag anywhere near as badly as PvP. Perhaps it’s something in the code.
- There are still graphics glitches with textures loading slowly or delayed.
- The game crashes regularly and almost every time I exit the game.
Yep, this is beta folks. But these issues exist 1 month from release and I can only hope that they will be fixed.
Final thoughts after more testing
I still stand by what I said yesterday. The PvE gameplay is better than this “mini-game” PvP. I think the balance issues are more than a little tweaking here or there and I definitely want to see more out of the performance in AoC. But these things CAN change. The potential for an amazing game is still there in my eyes and as of right now I still plan to subscribe to the game.
I appreciate the positive feedback and constructive criticism from everyone! I’m passionate about the games that I play and I hope that as a result you, my readers, can benefit from it.
More videos to come later today!