|System: X360, PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Funcom||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Eidos / SCI||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: May 21, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: Online (MMOG)||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Mature||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
The layout and design of the cities and towns is another visual element worth noting. Unlike many other MMOs, where towns and cities have a lot of unused space and gaps between buildings that makes players scratch their heads and wonder whether the city planner had been fired, Funcom seems to have noticed and taken action. Town and cities feel much more compact, giving them a "lived-in" quality. And, while such improvements are little more than visual, the impact on the gameplay experience is undeniable.
One negative part about Age of Conan is the amount of instancing. While each zone can be very large in its own right, it simply isn't enough to make the player forget about all the instant teleporting that is done between areas. According to Funcom, the amount of instancing was an acceptable compromise to making the game as detailed and beautiful as possible. And, for the most part, only players with an unusual amount of angst toward instancing will notice.
The sound effects and music are as high-quality as the visuals, using talents such as Helene Bøksle, a popular and talented Norwegian singer. Each nation (Aquilonia, Stygia, and Cimmeria) has its own unique style of background music, which does a great job of setting the atmosphere. In fact, Age of Conan's music is so well done that players will be hard pressed to find an excuse to stream their MP3s instead. Unfortunately, the addition of voice acting is a bit of a double-edged sword. On one edge, just having NPCs talk is a nice element not found in most MMOs. On the other edge, however, the player will soon realize that just because an NPC can talk doesn't mean he or she has something interesting to say. Moreover, many of the NPCs have faces and bodies that don't match their voices, while almost all are plagued by less than inspiring voice acting. And, even though the majority of NPCs stop talking once the player is past the starter city, the initial disappointment is replaced by relief after playing several different characters through the starter area.
The controls for Age of Conan are rather standard for an MMO. Nearly everything can be customized to suit the player's preferences and style. Customizable user interfaces are also widely available for those who prefer a different look and feel. However, one strange omission is the inability to reconfigure the mouse buttons-an element in sore need of correcting. Default character movements are controlled by the WASD keys, and while these can be changed, players will notice that there is no mouse-click movement supported.
Age of Conan's combat system has been the subject of controversial debate over the course of its development, often resulting in individuals attempting to define words such as "innovative" and "revolutionary." To quickly summarize the basics, the player is given 1-3 initial attacks: a left swing, an overhead swing, and a right swing. Attacking involves the simple pressing of the corresponding key, causing the player's character to swing their weapon, shoot an arrow, or cast magic. This removes the necessity of clicking a target prior to fighting for melee combat. Unfortunately, for ranged combat, targets must still be selected beforehand.
A large part of the combat system involves performing combos to use special attacks. There is a rather standard hot bar where the special attacks and abilities are available to the player. When a special attack is selected, the system initiates a combo, which shows which keys must be pressed to complete it. The keys that need to be pressed for the combo are displayed on the screen, so memorizing them isn't a necessity, but it does have its advantages when dealing with the shielding aspect of combat. Once all the keys in the combo have been pressed, the player performs the special attack or ability. While the basic directional attacks work, victory in combat relies upon the efficient use of special attack and ability combos.
Players are also given the ability to shield themselves from specific directional attacks. There is a left, right, and overhead shield, all of which have one bar of defense by default. Players are able to allocate the bars any way they see fit. Now, when a combo is executed, the last directional attack pressed to complete it is the side the damage is dealt. Therefore, skilled players can adjust their shields based on their opponent's attacks. While these elements of combat seem like a lot to manage, there are a lot more elements to strategy and skill present for those willing to learn.