Funcom was kind enough to lift the level cap on the Open Beta servers and boost everyone up to level 20 during the last day of testing. In addition to the level boost all servers were transformed into FFA pvp servers and characters were given a set of stock blue items. I have been playing for most of the day and wanted to give you all my thoughts on two of the three areas, the PvP, and the performance of the open world in Age of Conan.
If you can’t handle reading someone’s blog and their opinion of the experiences they have while playing a game then stop reading now. TY!
—WORK IN PROGRESS—
The REAL starting areas
I knew there had to be more to Age of Conan. After suffering through some of the worst gameplay ever in a mmorpg (Tortage), finally experiencing a part of the game that felt like a true mmorpg was a relief. The world is big, open, and begging to be explored. All the more reason for me to say this: Funcom, you REALLY need to get rid of Tortage completely or make it optional. I regret that I did not make a Aquilonian. I thought I had created one but i turns out I accidentally made two Cimmerian characters. You’ll have to find someone else who experienced the first land, but here are my thoughts on two of the three.
Cimmeria – This land gave me a very big Midgard vibe. Lots of norse influence in the architecture and culture. But while playing with my Dark Templar and exploring the various towns and quest hubs I could not shake the feeling of how drab and uninspired the entire land felt. It’s incredibly bland and … bleh. I didn’t last long here. The quests I found (and I found a lot) were “Go kill 10 of this and get their teeth” and “Go kill 5 of these and get their tails”. Nothing to get excited over. After an hour and a half of exploring around and killing mobs I felt ill because of how awful the environments of Cimmeria felt. To me it was bad enough to not buy the game if that’s at all what the rest of the world is like.
Stygia – Thank you Crom! The rest of the game ISN’T like Cimmeria. Stygia is vivid, alive, and full of character. The main city feels like you’re walking the streets of Agrabah or some other Egyptian influenced city. The level of detail in Stygia is immense. Walking up the streets I would stop and look at the shop keeper’s tents and they looked lived in and real. Unfortunately this detail came at a price. I had to turn my settings way down just to be able to move on the docks.
The quests in Stygia are much better than Cimmeria. I felt like there was more of a story here and I could more easily accept that this old hermit had a vision from Set and it was my obligation to help him collect snake fangs and scorpian stingers. The lands outside the city are best compared to a harsh desert with many beautiful oases. There is a river running between the main quest hub for level 20 and the main city that you must zone across by boat. Once in the quest hub you get several quests like the one I described above.
Updated thoughts on questing after playing all day: Overall the questing I have done so far has been lifeless. If I had to pass judgment on the questing right now I would say that AoC has shallow and uninspired questing that is literally, on the level of “kill 10 rats.”
Open-world PvP on a FFA Server…
The two characters that I played most today were my Ranger and Dark Templar. Both of them performed well but the Ranger stands out as being amazing. With my hide skill maxed out I was easily able to stealth around undetected and avoid being ganked. When I wanted to fight someone it was just a matter of positioning myself in a place where the other player could not easily reach me due to pathing. My ranger was able to kill any casters in four arrows and melee’s like Guardians were not an issue. I did however have extreme difficulty killing anyone who got the jump on me and Bear Shamans in general (they out heal ranger damage easily). My Dark Templar felt middle-of-the-road and neither struggled or did very well against anyone in particular.
What I don’t like:
- Rez point camping – People would literally camp the rez points and gank people before they could load in. This NEEDS to be addressed. I spent 15 minutes trying to get away from the Stygian rez point.
- Griefing Questers – Griefers wait until you initiate a conversation with a NPC then gank you while you’re stuck in a quest dialog.
- Everyone stealths – *facepalm* Much more annoying than I ever thought possible. Having a caster stealth up and drop a nuke on me is… indescribably dumb.
- Ganking – Level 80’s can attack level 5’s and camp their rez points. In OB today level 26’s were camping level 20’s. So stupid.
What I do like:
- Group fights – getting a group together and roaming to find other groups is actually lots of fun.
- The sense of “danger” at all times is really an adrenaline rush.
- PvP whenever you want it without queues, etc.
Too bad the parts I don’t like dominate and squash the parts I do. FFA PvP will be a gankfest for a long, long time. It might eventually cool off as people start to spread out in the world. Something that many FFA servers suffer from is age. As FFA servers age I find that many people form elitist clicks and the servers become ghost towns with the occasional gang war over turf. Not my cup of tea at all. I would rather play in the Border Kingdoms on a PvE server and experience city sieges, battles for resources, and as close to ‘fair’ fights as I can get.
Performance, Glitches, Bugs, Lag, etc
What happened Funcom? Open Beta originally stunk like a skunk but you patched it up and the Tortage experience was almost lag and crash free. I guess that patch didn’t address the issues in the rest of the game. PLEASE READ: DO NOT leave a comment telling me that it’s my computer’s fault. I’ve been playing mmo’s for 12 years and I can tell what is and isn’t my computer’s problem by now.
Here are the following bugs, glitches, and performance issues that I encountered:
Memory Leaks – I encountered a total of 4 memory leaks today. One in Cimmeria and three in Stygia. The one in Cimmeria was out in the valley. The three in Stygia were spread out with 2 of them being in the main city and the third at the quest hub across the river. These memory leaks would come on very quickly and drain my system memory. I would drop to 4.4 frames per second each time and then crash to desktop with a Funcom error message thing asking for feedback. My system would take about 30 seconds to recover then be fine.
Hitching/Stalling/Hanging/whatever – This was supposedly fixed in the Closed Beta and I thought it would be fixed in OB. Running around with Shaders 3.0 enabled and Dual-Cores on I stall and hitch like a … yeah. When I turn down shaders to 2.0 and set core affinity to 1 then I experience them a little less. They’re frustrating but one of the lesser evils.
General CTD’s with an Error – I CTD’d 7 times today due to unknown reasons. That’s 7 times not counting the CTD’s from memory leaks. These CTD’s were linked to an error in the game’s engine. Each CTD came up with a screen wanting feedback on the crash from Funcom. I happily obliged and filled out what I was doing which ranged from fighting a mob to running around the main city looking for quests. It feels like Vanguard. “ooOoOoo he said Vanguard!!!” Yeah, I know it’s a swear in many of your vocabularies but the only game that has come close to this is Vanguard.
Graphics Glitches – Lots of these. The worst are green and purple shades on people and buildings. The lesser of the worst would be water disappearing and characters swimming in the middle of the air. Oh, and I love sliding around the world with my arms stretched out after loot.. yeah.. that looks awesome. The funniest of the glitches is when someone would cast a spell it would send out this arc of color across the world.
I’m very pleased that AoC feels like a real mmorpg after Tortage. I hated Cimmeria but loved Stygia and truly regret not being able to see Aquilonia. All the content and areas I explored still showed signs of needing polish but that can come after release. Right now Funcom is in a terrible position for a developer to be placed in. Instead of being able to focus on improving and polishing the content of their early game, and then moving on to the late content, they’re foced to split their attention and fix performance issues and optimize their game post launch. Vanguard suffered from the same issues and only within the past few months recovered from their deficit. I’m not dooming AoC to Vanguard’s fate, not at all, just simply pointing out a very obvious pitfall that Funcom could struggle to recover from.
I’m being very critical about the performance issues because they should not exist, to this degree, in a game that is launching in one week. In my opinion the game is not ready for launch and could really have benefited from another two to four months of beta testing. But we have to play with the cards we are dealt.
After playing the game and seeing the state it’s in I won’t be subscribing past the free month if these issues exist long post launch. Regardless of how fun some of the content can be, I swore off paying to test a game long ago.