Age of Conan has caused me extreme sadness. Not many games have been able to bum me out, but AoC has definitely done it. It has proven to me that my computer has finally reached “over the hill” which is basically the game giving me a bill for $800 and saying “pay it or you are washing the dishes, bitch.”
For a while I just could not get a playable frame rate. I am sitting at or just slightly above all of the minimum system requirements, so I wasn’t expecting the world, but the second night of release it was just a damn slideshow. After hours of messing with settings in game, cleaning up my computer out of game, and praying to internet Jesus I was able to get the game to be playable and look decent enough. It still hiccups a lot, and every time it does part of my soul dies, and I shed a single tear for my old, haggard computer, but the game plays well enough.
*Some very low level quest spoilers ahead*
So, once I had it all running again I took my level 5 guy that had just made it to the first town and started going about town and running quests for people. At first the questing system is good, really good, I mean at level 5 you are doing much more complex stuff than you are at level 5 in a game like WoW, and the story line is already epic. So I started following this one quest line that dealt with a resistance to the overbearing guards of the city. I was like ‘alright suckers, I’m already in the thick of this crap!’ and it sent me to an inn to talk to a very, very large breasted girl. She then gave me the option to turn it to night time, which basically makes the game a solo instance for you. So I did that, and I followed this whole string of quests which unraveled how corrupt the city has become, who is pulling the strings, what type of crazy magic they are using to do it, and I used my rogue-ish powers to stop it all. At one point I even blew up a volcano to take out a gaggle of troops, and I had to run down the mountain as it was blowing chunks all over the place. It was awesome.
*end very low level quest spoilers*
The combat is getting better and better as I level, which I guess is obvious to anyone who has played an MMO. If you look at what you can do in WoW at level 5 and compare it to level 20, then to level 70, you find that it grows and changes and fleshes itself out much better. I am happy to say the same is happening with Conan. It’s still all about using real time attacks against your opponents ever shifting defenses, but you get more combos and actual skills you can use to augment just the direction based attacks. It’s very fun and completely satisfying.
Now onto my way too early to do and unfair to both game comparison!
Technical issues – The edge goes to WoW here by a long shot. WoW isn’t perfect, and there are still lag issues and servers crashing and whatnot like 3 years after launch, but AoC is very unstable right now. The server didn’t go down at all while I played for hours last night, but you can tell they have a lot of work to do to make this a more stable game. But such is life playing an MMO at launch. And as far as that goes, it’s launch is just as stable as WoW’s was.
Graphics – On my system WoW looks better. On a good system, AoC destroys WoW. WoW mostly gets by with art direction, because the underlying engine isn’t all that impressive anymore, but the artists and world designers at Blizzard really know how to make the most of what they have. The world design and art direction in AoC is also very high, but on a low end system like mine the graphics are just very, very uneven. There are some super low res textures, popup, things like that. But again, that’s because my computer sucks ass. I set everything to high just to see how it looked and I was completely floored. I am also impressed with the world they have created. I mean, if I am climbing up a giant volcano around level 8 what the heck am I going to be doing at level 80? I’m excited about the future. But for now I can run wow at 1900×1200 or some crap like that, and get 60fps… and I run Conan at 1280x700something and I get 20fps and lots of stutters, so WoW is the winner.
Combat – Combat is what the AoC developers really focused on to set it a part from other MMOs and I am happy to say that it does deliver like they promised. With everything playing out in real time, and having actual real time defenses that you can shift as you play (and as does the mobs you fight) it ends up being a much more complex experience than a game like WoW which is all auto target, auto attack, no worries about aiming or a player being able to physically move out of the way of an attack. The combat system in AoC is deep and fun and very skill oriented, which should make PvP exciting.
PvP! – Well, I haven’t done any in AoC yet, I am on a PvP server but it doesn’t kick in until level 20 when you get off of Noob Island. But, I have done a ton of WoW PVP and right now I just feel like it is in a very bad state. Arenas are very imbalanced and value class makeup over skill, and offer easy rewards even for losing. Battlegrounds have been all but forgotten and don’t have the same intensity they once did. And world PVP has gone the way of the Dodo, even with Blizzard trying to add PVP objectives in each new zone they make. The promise of what AoC’s PvP holds should put it over the top. They have battlegrounds just like WoW, and world PvP is rampant because of the fact that there are more lower levels running around (just like the heyday of WoW world PVP) and also there are very important keeps and such to conquer in zones, and from what I read they are highly contested, unlike similar objectives that WoW has thrown in. And then at the end game guilds get to build their own keeps, and other guilds can try to seize them from you, bringing siege weapons to take down walls. It sounds amazing. But as of now I can’t comment on how it all works.
Questing/Leveling/Instancing – AoC already blows WoW out of the water here. It levels faster than WoW does, which keeps the carrot on a stick much closer to your nose, which I guess is good and bad, but so far it’s been mostly good. I can’t believe how much my character has improved in just a short time. Likewise, I am leveling a new guy in WoW right now and even with their buffs and vast internet guides to make leveling quicker, I am still finding it painfully slow.
I guess the real reason for that is the questing system. When I was doing that quest line last night in the spoilers paragraph I stopped caring about my leveling or getting ahead and I was just sucked into this really awesome and epic story line. But, when I came out of it a few hours later, I had gained like 5 levels, so not only was the story great, but the xp was great, and I got nice rewards and I was much more powerful in the end. I have more tools to fight multiple mobs (something AoC is about, in WoW its all about crowd control and some AOE, in AoC it’s all about fighting many guys at once and laying waste to all of them, even your basic weapon swings are AOE in the sense that anything near them gets hit also, you don’t just lock on to a target).
Solo instances are awesome, it’s something people have been begging for in WoW since launch and something blizzard has said time and time again won’t be happening because of balancing issues and blah blah blah. But what they fail to recognize is the story telling ability that this opens up. Like, for instance, say there is a farm building outside of town in the normal zone. If you start a quest that makes a solo instance, you can make a quest where that farm building is being burned to the ground and you have to run in and save the people inside (this isn’t an actual quest, btw, it’s just a general idea of what they are able to pull off without getting into spoilers). In a non instanced world you can’t do stuff like that, because it would make no sense. Solo instances = better story telling, and blizzard better copy it or they are going to be left in the dust on the story telling front.
I haven’t done any 6 man instances yet, so I can’t comment on them.
UI – The AoC UI is an absolute disaster, and I really hope there are huge upgrades coming in patch 1.1. It’s big, you can’t move stuff around, it just generally sucks ass. AoC does not allow much in the way of modding, which is something I am actually happy about because that way the designers can design the game around what’s actually in the game, not the cheating mods that they know everyone is using. But, at the same time, if they aren’t gonna allow us to mod it, they need to make their own stuff perfect, and it is far from it at this point. Much work is needed here, while WoW’s default UI is incredibly robust at this point. WoW wins this by a landslide.
Economy – Sorry, i can’t really speak on it yet. Crafting doesn’t even start until level 30 or 40. There is a robust AH though, but I have no use for it at this point. I assume it will be fine, and then infested with gold sellers, just like WoW… but, yeah, I can’t say for sure yet.
Community – The same. General chat in WoW is filled with idiots bitching about wow or talking about inane BS. General chat in AoC is filled with idiots bitching about WoW also. It’s the same effing chat! Ugh. The AoC forums are also filled with the same level of crying and bitching and lack of technical understanding that the WoW forums have become famous for. This category is a wash, they both suck. But, one Squidoo lensmaker has taken it upon herself to make a nice community and place for info, and while it’s just starting off this should become a great place for Conan related info, and meeting other mature players.
In the end WoW is definitely a tighter, more put together game. That shouldn’t be surprising to anyone, as AoC just launched and has many technical hurdles to overcome. But AoC holds much more promise than WoW. If things keep unraveling and moving forward like they have thus far I feel like AoC is going to be a better game than WoW and The Burning Crusade expansion. The ball is now in Blizzard’s court to make their next expansion Wrath of the Lich King better. I hope they can, because I love Blizzard and I love WoW… and in the end I love better games, so rooting against them making a better game is kinda silly. But, for now, I think AoC, a few technical hurdles aside, is a more compelling experience. At least at the very early stage I am at with it.
My first PVP kill, the poor bastard would probably feel worse if he knew I did it at like 7 frames per second.