Age of Conan Final Impressions: Part 2

ShayIn the Part 1, we discussed the good of Age of Conan (AoC). It was a short article. This one will discuss some of the bad of AoC. This article will be much longer. I played this game on a PvE server. PvP on a RPG doesn’t appeal to me. So I will mainly be discussing things as they pertain to PvE.

Let’s first discuss some of the things that were discussed pre-release that never made it. Some of these things were cut early in development, some we didn’t know were missing until after the game came out. One of the first big announced cuts was classes. The original count of at least 23 classes was cut to twelve. Classes were combined while others were just cut.  Buddy Keys were not available at launch and are still not available months later. Mounted combat was not implemented as early videos showed it to be. A pre-release video showed a mounted solider riding by a human mob at full speed and decapitating them. Since you only have a chance of fatalities when doing combos and you cannot do combos while mounted, you could not do as shown.

The cut of DirectX10 was a huge disappointment to some people, including me. One of the initial attractions to AoC was the visuals. I have always been an eye candy person, so I was looking forward to what DirectX10 was bringing. The promised and missing social clothing was just a tiny part in the costuming issues. Drunken brawling, jousting, and guild city buffs were also absent at launch.

Up until now I’ve been careful to minimize all bias about this game. I wanted the reader to make his own initial impressions of AoC. But the gloves come off now. I will speak it as I feel it. Following, you will find why I think you should stay away from this game and this company.

Let’s start with the item stats per level problem. While playing my second character through, around level 10, I received a nice blue belt.  It had high immunities and did not look like the one belt that everyone else of that armor level and class was using. Not too long after leaving Tortage, I was a little above level 20 and I got another blue belt. It was identical in every stat except the immunities were 1/5 and 1/6 of the belt I had gotten 10 levels earlier. I found it odd that they were not only less but less by so much. By the time I had stopped playing, my character was coming up on level 50. And I was still wearing that level 10 belt because it was the best by far I had gotten, or even seen at the Trader.

paper bagThe lack of variety in the looks of armor was terrible. If you wore light armor, you looked the same as anyone else who wore light armor. You looked like you were wearing a paper bag shirt and a paper bag skirt which becomes a longer dress at level 20 (even if you had a male avatar).  And you kept wearing that paper bag clothing until level 40, at which point you got to upgrade it for the exact same look (paper bag), except that it is dark brown instead of light brown.  Which might have been fine if it looked like it belonged in the Conan universe, but it didn’t. It looked like something your mother might have worn. It wasn’t skimpy. Guild Wars had much skimpier clothing. There was nothing sexy about any of the clothing. Even the higher level armor looked horrible, although for some of the armor classes it was pretty much still the same damn paper bags.

The game was sold as a mature game from the beginning. In early discussion about the game, Funcom had said they would be full nudity in the game. As it came closer to launch, they had said that it would only be topless. Then a rumor started that they were completely taking nudity out of the American version and toning down the violence in the European version. Although Funcom would never admit this, I think that this was not a rumor and they were planning on doing this. But when America freaked out, they released an announcement stating that there would be partial nudity. When the game came out, the only nudity to be easily found was if you had a female avatar and took off your top. There was an occasional topless NPC and sometimes a NPC without any below-the-waist armor, although the lower body was covered by a paint-on thong for female avatars. At one time they even reduced the bust size of all female characters, NPC, and PCs alike.  Over time, they slowly took out all NPC nudity and by the time we left the game, only concubines in the pyramid and a concubine’s sister were left unclothed.

Any game with this many quests will have some quest bugs, but AoC had more than its fair share. Full lines of quests were not accessible because of loops in NPC dialog trees, NPCs not giving or taking a quest item, or a mob not dropping a quest item. When having to go to a certain area for your quest to update, often the quest would fail to update. There was one quest where you had to find a little girl (you literally put her into your bag). Well, the problem was that she would only spawn once per server boot. So if you wanted to complete that quest, you had to rush over to her location after an update and hope you were the first one there, otherwise you had to wait till the next update or server update. I played the game with a friend. There were way too many quests that were not designed with grouping in mind. Very often we would have to do a quest twice from beginning to end because of items only spawning once in an instance or having an excruciating long respawn time. This happened often if you had to get an item drop from a mob.

dancersGetting stuck in locations was a very common and frustrating occurrence. While having the ability to jump, you would often jump on the top of an item assuming it was solid only to fall through the top and get stuck. Often on maps you could get stuck and fall through the whole map – fall to your death, unable to retrieve your gravestone. There was an unstuck command. It moved you to the closest open area it could, but that didn’t work in large areas where you were stuck sometimes. And at other times, it didn’t work as intended at all. The only way to get unstuck was to use your port back to town spell. Which is all good and well, if it didn’t take 45 minutes from town to get to where you got stuck in the first place. Also, you could only use that spell once every 30 minutes. If you had recently used it, you had to wait to get unstuck.

General game stability was bad. Everyone who has played the game for any amount of time has had plenty of crashes. But the overwhelming problem was the memory leaks. The game suffered from a serious memory leak that made it where some people couldn’t play more than an hour without crashing. When the memory leak happens, your mini-map goes gray and in less than ten minutes, your game will crash. Because of Vista’s use of SuperFetch (an application that preloads commonly used programs), Vista users running the game had more problems with the leak. I had 4 gigs of RAM and I was still plagued with memory leaks. Funcom admitted that a problem existed, but basically said that it was our problem and only offered work-arounds that had nothing to do with game. While not actually fixing the leaks, I was able to deal with them when I changed my system to be able to use more than 2 gigs for one application (built-in default). Also, while I won’t go into discussion about this, I want to mention that many people got more frames per second on a high graphic setting than a lower graphic setting.

The game had way too many ‘crash to desktop’ bugs than any game should. But even when they acknowledged particular bad crash bugs, Funcom would refuse to fix them until the next scheduled patch. Which is even worse when you figure in that their patches, more than once, introduced more bugs than they fixed. The one particularly bad bug that was introduced by them was discovered shortly after a patch. If one of your professions was Alchemy (there were only five and you could choose two of the five), and you opened your trade book, you would crash to desktop every time. You would think they would make an exception and fix this in a patch as soon as possible. But no, they decided you should just not open your trade book until the next patch, next week.

waveSpeaking of crafting, it was a complete disaster. I was looking forward to playing a game with a crafting system. There was a creation aspect that appealed to me in crafting. Sadly AoC’s crafting was an afterthought. I read that it was in none of the betas except early testing. Funcom used a quest-based crafting system, which isn’t bad, it’s just not very balanced from profession to profession. To complete each tier in armor crafting, you had to craft a couple dozen armor pieces. Gem Cutting, in comparison, had you paying a certain amount of gold and then crafting three gems. Tier 1 Alchemy could not even be completed a couple months after launch as there were multiple missing ingredients that did not drop in the AoC world at all. Weapon Crafting was easy and you could complete it. The Architect profession was completely useless to everyone but one person per guild.

Then there were the crafting bugs. Every update it seemed that some random tier of some crafting profession would break. Sometimes it was because an item would be taken out of the game. Other times it would involve the trade skill book creating the wrong item or the item you needed to create not being listed. The trade skill book was a mess. It would not show all the recipes on any one page and there were ones at the bottom that did not show. You would not get credit for Gem Crafting if you crafted your three gems in the same zone. You had to craft one gem and then zone or re-instance and then craft another gem and then zone again. The rare resources had an unbelievablly low drop rate, causing unequal crafting difficulties bewteen similar items. Resources had a separate, but severly inadequate storage space in your backpack. There are 96 gems types alone. Whole, they do stack, but only while uncut. I know of 73 different kinds of Alchemy ingredients. It’s bad enough having one of these professions, but Mitra forbid you have both. You’ll be drowning in items. The worst offense though, was that out of the six tiers of crafting, only players with a guild large enough to have a high tier city could craft tier 4, 5, or 6 items.

I’ve had much to say but I’m done yet. In part 3, my rant against Age of Conan and Funcom will continue.

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