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.
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.
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.
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.
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.