Age of Conan – The Secret World’s previous life

Ah, Tortage. When Age of Conan released, it caused some problems for the players- namely, that it was a polished and story-heavy part of the game that didn’t translate to the later game.

I never liked it. It’s a matter of “instanced” starting zones- when i play an MMORPG, i want to join the “open” world as soon as possible. Granted, in AoC, the open world isn’t much more open than Tortage, but in starting zones, i always feel left out and want to leave them as soon as possible. So Tortage’n night time questline is a hindrance to that goal.

If you didn’t know, in AoC’s Tortage, where all characters begin their journey, you can- and have to- switch manually between day- and nighttime. Daytime is just about what you’d expect from an MMO- it offers quests, other players, NPC vendors and so on. When you switch to night, you’re all alone. The questlines differ from class archetype to class archetype- warriors play a slightly different story than thieves, mages or priests.

Jingci on White Sands (Nighttime)
Jingci on White Sands (Nighttime)

But one does have to give credit where it’s due. It’s funny in a way, because The Secret World kind of opens the door to better understanding Age of Conan, its mechanics and the story-heavy introduction. I’ll see later how well it transports over to the open world, but for now, i find it to be very interesting.

The story revolves around a town, Tortage, where some dark power overthrew the previous leader of the town- and it’s your job to help the resistance in getting the power back. Once successful, you’ll be able to leave the town. It’s quite long- i just tried to finish as much of it as possible since we’re playing AoC in a group (or two, as was the case last friday) and we’ll have to do the nighttime questline at some point. I played about 2 hours and could still go on, but i don’t have time for that.

AoC’s Tortage offers great locales- there’s a volcano, underhalls, a lighthouse and the isle of White Sands, a surprisingly dangerous place, be it night or day. The difficulty is one of the things that stick out in AoC- it’s far more difficult than what we’re used to nowadays. Even Solo, you have to pay attention to your pulls and body-pulls have a long range. It’s not rare to fight against 3 or more opponents at the same time. Three, i always manage. When i made a mistake and get to fight four or five in a row, it will be a close fight.

I had to respawn more often than i thought
I had to respawn more often than i thought

Age of Conan still looks great (for an MMO)- although i’d say at least Elder Scrolls Online is more beautiful, AoC has a good look that aged well and it offers really atmospheric zones. And these are all things we see come to a high point when playing The Secret World- atmosphere, story, difficulty and to some extent, freedom. AoC offers some of that- not only does it still boast the initial skill trees that used to be standard but by now have become the exception in MMO design, but there are skill points you can distribute to activities like climbing, running speed and perception, which enables your character to see hidden opponents.

I’m playing a Dark Templar because our group(s) were short of tanks- not that i’d know how to tank, i’ve never done it, but Dark Templar was also the class i played when i joined AoC for some time, so it is a style of play i’m still somewhat used to. My favourite thing about the DT are its leeching abilities- with level 13, there’s not too much yet, but later on, by level 29, i had about 4 or 5 buffs i could activate and i was leeching health the whole time.

Even the guards change at night
Even the guards change at night

I can only stress once again that sounds, graphics, the story and the general theme of AoC make for great atmosphere- and the game is kind of fun, as well. The combat style isn’t as actiony as it was advertised back when the game released, but it is an active style of combat, with the combos and quite unique skills all around. I’d also have to give AoC credit for its classes- they’re really unique- you won’t find something very similar to a Bear Shaman, Herold of Xotli or Tempest of Set in other MMOs.

I’ve written about the business model before, so i’ll make it short: while levelling to level 80, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a need- or even a reason- to spend money. I don’t know if this is very wise of Funcom, but for us players, it’s a good thing in some ways. If you really want to, you’ll find some stuff to buy in the ingame-shop, but there’s not much that’s needed. All that changes when you’re level 80, though. To progress further, a subscription might be required and you’ll have to purchase the one and only expansion of the game.

I didn’t take a look at the newly-released achievement system, although they recently added “vistas” and treasure chests to the open world and these additions seem interesting enough. I guess we’ll see about that at a later point in our group’s journey.

Saving a boy
Saving a boy

For me, as much as i’d like to dive into AoC, for now i’ll constrict it to the guild group. But AoC is worth a look if you’re curious- and it’s cheap (but not small on the hard drive). And somehow, i feel it’s kind of a look into The Secret World’s past.

5 thoughts on “Age of Conan – The Secret World’s previous life

  1. I enjoyed AoC back in the day. Problems for me and many others were the Seige warfare mechanics that never got fixed. The next major issue became a reliance on gear even for pvp. In the old days, I lived and breathed on the RP-pvp server Cimmeria. We had epic battles along all sorts of fronts. Why haven’t I returned even though they gave you cosmetics and some new content? Honestly there just isn’t enough updated content from the devs. they never developed cross server group finders, never got beyond what…5 pvp battlegrounds? Never fixed their crafting system that they were taunting us with. Went almost completely Asian and middle eastern in theme (don’t mind Asian but it’s not what I look for in Conan the Barbarian). I had a lot of very happy memories, ran a guild for awhile, felt the heartbreak of raiding team squabbles, saw the greatness of building a guild fortress. Yup a lot of memories but FunCom totally let that game fall apart when it could have been the greatest MMO out there.

    What was awesome?
    Combo combat system and all out blood and gore kills. Brilliant!
    Initial storyline – cool!
    cosmetic armor – great!
    Epic soundtrack!

    I hold a lot of fond memories from the opening 3 years of the game, but it became way too grindy with barely enough pop to fill raids towards the end.

    1. I…think i agree- content doesn’t come very quick in AoC and i heard about the huge grind in Rise of the Godslayer. I think they aren’t doing themselves a lot of favours with the business model, as well. Basically, you’ll have trouble spending money before reaching level 80 and then, suddenly, AoC becomes a quite expensive MMORPG- you’ll have to subscribe, buy Rise of the Godslayer (and maybe even these adventure packs)- that’s a lot to ask from players who could play the game to 80 without spending anything. And it’s also quite a lot to ask from players who “finished” the game. While i don’t really know what endgame entails in AoC, i can’t imagine there being enough to justify the sub if that is all you’re doing.

      The PvP battlegrounds i find to be interesting- i never saw one pop up. I played the game several times, most active shortly after release, but even if i waited up to 3 hours, the battlegrounds didn’t open up. I’ve heard the Dungeons in AoC are great experiences and i’m looking forward to see for myself, but i find it disheartening that the first one comes in the mid-thirties. The crafting system is in a shape that to me just makes it pretty much non-existent. I don’t understand why there are seperate areas for gathering and crafting. It seems crafting isn’t really Funcoms strength- i ignore crafting in TSW, as well (although it seems to be better implemented there).

      1. The low level dungeons you will find extremely painful to get a group together. My advice to is to find some fresh new players who are wanting to see the low level content. I’ve been through most of them and yes they are both VERY challenging and fun. High end raids get frustrating because it takes 24 people to raid and most end up being a hodge podge of less than dedicated raiders. They are a lot of challenge, but one mistep or misunderstanding of the strat and even the beginning raids can crush your soul.

        During the first couple of years the pvp grounds popped all over the place. The problem these days is that it’s usually a couple of pre made teams with little chance of seeing randoms. The open world pvp used to be pretty rough and tumble but it died by 2010. That was a shame, because I remember some pretty epic 40+ a side in all out sand box brawls near Tesso and a couple of other places.

        The largest failure of recent years was mismanagement by the company. I want you to realize, the concept is pure epic, but low populations and non dedicated crews make it very difficult. The Godslayer series provides I think 6 or 8 man instances that are tough but it becomes a grind for daily tokens to get better factional gear.

        Anyways, I hope you enjoy your journey into Hyboria, there is still some fun to be had, and it is’nt an eays mode set of questing. If you can get a partner to work with you, it might provide quite a bit of entertainment. Best of luck on it!

        In the meantime, my current game enjoyment has been SWTOR. It had a really rocky start, but in the past 2 years has improved significantly, to the point I’ll be sticking around for the next couple of Xpacs. The population is reasonable, with the exception of the pvp servers. But I can usualyl see all of the low level content and high end on the main PvE servers. Bio ware did an awesome job on storyline interaction and voice acting. For me, it’s fun.

      2. Finding a group won’t be much of an issue, since i’m playing AoC as part of a guild mmo-hopping-project. We are even close to getting two full groups together if everyone’s available.

        The bigger problem- in my opinion- is to find interesting things to do as a group until the first dungeon arrives. Sure, the Elite adventure zones help a little, but right now, i’m somewhat frustrated that the earliest dungeon comes so late into the game.

  2. It is a frustrating experience, but once you and your team of gaming hoppers get to Black Castle, I think you will enjoy the puzzles therein. I know I enjoyed them very much back in the day. When I ran the Blog Hyborian Rage, I think one of my early posts showed the guild and I after we finally conqeured the Castle. It was a huge accomplishment. Low Lv dungeons in that game are no joke. LoS pulls and carefull aggro management are key. I won’t spoil the adventure for you, but I think you will enjoy the time in figuring out the puzzles and the boss fights. If you want a real challenge, DONT read the strats, figure it out yourselves and see the interesting mechanics that were created. I will say one thing for FunCom when theyw ere actually devoting time to AoC, they made some righteous evil dungeons out there.

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