Archive for the ‘Age of Conan’ Category

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/Gawk – Far To The East Edition

May 20, 2010

My photo travelogue through the savage world of Age of Conan continues! With the Rise of the Godslayer expansion live, for the first time in this screenshot series I’ll be posting images taken from beyond the Silk Road!

Yeah, I seem to have this obsession with posing my characters in fields of tall grass.

Welcome to the Gateway to Khitai. My Khitan character was dumped here right after she finished her destiny quests on the island of Tortage, but she’s not home yet. Technically still within Hyrkania, this region is one of the five new zones added with the expansion, and is a level 20-40 area. My first impression was, “Wow, this place is bloody huge!” But perhaps it was only an illusion, caused by the abundance of wide-open space. After all, I would say there are several playfields in-game right now that I would consider enormous…except they feel much smaller when I’m constantly running into the side of a mountain or falling off a cliff. Somehow, I don’t think I’ll be having those problems here.

Sprawling land as far as the eye can see. Not going to find too many places to fall to my death here.

Funcom said they drew heavily from the cultures of ancient China and Korea when visualizing Khitai and developing its myths, creatures, and locations. I can definitely see and feel it.

Hmm, not entirely sure what Xiaohuli is up to here. Maybe some morning taichi?

I believe that the kappa is a legendary creature found in Japanese folklore, however. Speaking of the kappa, I have to admit I’m slowly starting to get used to mine. He’s still ugly as sin, but tee hee, I do kinda like the fact he changes color each time I bring him out.

"What do you think, boy? Relative of yours?"

From the first moment the Great Wall appears on the horizon, you know there’s fun and adventure to be had! Beyond it is Khitai proper. Peering over the wall, you can catch a glimpse of the pagoda in the Northern Grasslands Province.

Xiaohuli's going to have to stay on this side for now, where the mobs aren't going to one-shot her.

Once again, I am impressed by the work they’ve done for the musical score. Pleasant shivers ran down my spine as I stood before the Gateway, listening to the melancholy sounds of the erhu as the imperial banners of Khitai fluttered behind me. The only downside:  no more Helene Bøksle. Nonetheless, you can be sure I’ll be picking up the Rise of the Godslayer soundtrack.

The Khitan armor I've collected looks pretty good so far...except my belt looks more like a hula hoop.

And finally, I was right — the exclusive puma pet that comes with the retail box is simply adorable! Sadly, this one pictured here belongs to my husband, because I got the digital version of RotGs instead.

Damn you, EB Games, damn you and your crappy stock and lack of pre-order options!

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The Tortage Experience

May 18, 2010

Even though it might not seem like it, deep down in my heart of hearts, I really am an altoholic. Most of the time, I have to fight myself not to make another lowbie character, like when I resubbed to Age of Conan back in February. Sure, after almost two years of being away from the game, I could have re-rolled a new toon. But Why? I asked myself. I had a perfectly good level 47 Priest of Mitra just sitting there, waiting for me to put her back in business. Besides, I knew I was going to roll a new alt in the expansion, so couldn’t I just wait a couple more months to experience Tortage again?

Okay, voice of reason, you win. I’ll hold off on the alt-making.

Looking back, I’m glad I did — because playing through Tortage with my new Khitan character was like experiencing it for the first time again, and having this feeling coupled with the excitement over a new expansion feels simply amazing. I didn’t even care that I had to fight over Red Hand mobs with a dozen other players in the Underhalls, I was just glad to be back.

I don’t want to make this post all about gushing though, because while I may have forgotten all that was great about Tortage, the same goes for its low points. The biggest source of irritation for me was being forced into solo instances to complete the night-time, single-player portions of Tortage, which I remember now was what nagged me on my first playthrough as well. Don’t get me wrong, I love the whole notion of destiny quests, but I just wished there was the option of not having to do them all by my lonesome.

Speaking of which, I can’t believe I’d forgotten about the most important aspect of the Tortage experience — that there’s this intricate storyline unfolding here, and where your role fits in it depends on the archetype of the class you’ve chosen. That would explain how my husband took all of three minutes to do his Assassin’s mission before the final battle of Tortage, whereas I spent at least five times longer than that to finish my Guardian’s pain-in-the-ass quest. Aside from these little differences, everything else is relatively the same for everybody. There’s no other newbie area, and I can see how playing Tortage for the umpteenth time on your umpteenth alt can get a little tiresome and annoying.

Nonetheless, I still think Tortage may be the best starting zone I’ve ever experienced in an MMO. There’s plenty of things to like — interesting NPCs, well-written dialogue and fantastic voice acting, gorgeously rendered environments, engaging quest lines and entertaining cut-scenes. Like, come on, I can’t be the only one who derived pleasure from pissing off the volcano gods with a vial of whore’s blood. And how about what happened afterwards? Did you stand there with your mouth open, watching the bad guys flee in a panic while afire, knowing what you really should be doing is running for your life? I know I did!

The first 20 levels were by far the most polished part of the game at launch, which made my disappointment towards the incompleteness of everything post-Tortage feel that much more poignant back in 2008. What makes Tortage such a special place isn’t just because of the big things I mentioned. Sometimes, it’s the tiniest details that help bring a place to life — things like the opening and closing of the west gate, the clouds of buzzing flies around the marketplace, the sound of a barking dog in the distance…or the sight of a drunken pirate urinating off the side of the boardwalk.

Sorry, I know that was a crude image, but it’s a perfect example of the random, ambient happenings that one can expect to find around the island, and serves to further add to the immersion of the game. Instead of being disgusted, seeing that just made me appreciate Tortage all the more, so I hope my readers can forgive me for including it in this post.

On the other hand, I’ll understand if you can’t forgive me for this other picture I’m about to post:

Gordon of We Fly Spitfires shied away from posting a picture of Grace Jones on his blog, so I told him I would in my next AoC-related article…and, well, now I sort of have to deliver. In all seriousness though, I think Grace Jones is awesome, I loved her in Conan the Destroyer!

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The Hyborian Courier Network

May 16, 2010

Just wanted to make a quick post to support my fellow blogger Adventurer Historian’s Age of Conan guild, The Hyborian Courier Network. His vision — to have a guild composed of bloggers and internet writers (but you don’t have to be either to join) and in general just to have a fun and relaxing time.

The HCN (hey, that’s also the molecular formula for Hydrogen cyanide!) may be a long way from having any resources or a guild city right now, but if you’re just venturing into Hyboria and are looking for a few friendly faces or a good group to play with, why not look us up? We’re a very small group at the moment, but we’re growing a little bit each day. I believe the current focus is on leveling up, but who knows what the future will bring?

Xiaohuli putting on her best recruiting face. We want you, rawwrrr!

For more info, head on over to AyAitch’s site. If you’re interested in joining us, feel free to leave a comment below or send us a tell in-game. We’re on the US Wiccana (PVE) server.

Contacts: Tanaji, Khatri, Xiaohuli, Brynulf, Mingxia, Minjee, Makotai

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Fight Like A Khitan

May 14, 2010

So, you want to learn how to fight like the ancient masters, little grasshopper?

Xiaohuli: Yes, sifu, but um, my name is “Little Fox” actually. You didn’t just get the species wrong, you sort of missed the entire phylum–

SILENCE, FOOL GIRL! Do you want to pwn face or not?!

Xiaohuli: Yes, sifu, I do.

Then you shall go forth and master the legendary arts of the mighty polearm, grasshopper. Take this most sacred weapon of the celestial heavens, acquaint yourself with its power, use it to bring honor to all your ancestors who have wielded it before you.

Xiaohuli: This is a rusty pitchfork…

/facepalm. Insolent girl who say dumb things get hit with Five Point Palm Exploding Heart technique.

Xiaohuli: Okay, okay, I’ll do what you say. Just…keep that Pai Mei stuff away from me. So then, what are we going to learn first?

First, we shall master the Divine ROFLcopter technique of the Thousand River Hands! Twirl that mighty pitchfork, twirl!

Xiaohuli: Too easy, sifu, give me another one!

Very well, cocky little grasshopper. Perhaps the Magnificent Imperial Roaring Monkey Slam technique shall humble you.

Xiaohuli: Hai-YA! I'll blow your throat up!

That’s it! Good! Good! Now the Jumping Jab of the Wavering Mystical Lotus!

Xiaohuli: Like this?

Yes, yes! Very impressive! You have been a very good student, young one, and there is little more I can teach you now…save one last technique. But you must use it wisely, grasshopper — its touch is death, a secret power revered by the heavenly ancients, not to be used improperly or without care.

Xiaohuli: Okay, shoot. What fancy move is it going to be this time? The Invincible Smash of the Dancing Ox? The Laughing Emperor’s Harmonious Crush? The Shadow Strike of the Mad Chrysanthemum-Blossom?

Behold, the Emasculating Thrust of the Gushing Groin!

Xiaohuli: Ah. *squish* Just like grape.

(By the way, I am loving my polearm/pitchfork twirling Guardian. Can you tell?)

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On MMO Reviews – Why I Think They’re ‘Mostly’ Pointless

May 13, 2010

I remember when Assassin’s Creed 2 came out, I was hesitant to give it a shot. The hype surrounding it made me curious, but I had found the original game a little too tedious for my tastes. It was the many glowing reviews I read on gaming sites, saying that the second installment was in many ways better than the first game, that finally led me to pick it up for the Xbox360. And I’m glad I did. It rocked.

But that was a single player game. Everyone who plays it gets to be Ezio Auditore da Firenze (you, sir, win first prize in the sexiest name contest), we’re all taken through the same story where we all essentially make the same decisions, solve the same puzzles, kill the same targets, yadda yadda yadda, get the same ending. I can read any reviewer’s take on AC2 and have a general idea of what to expect, and know right away if it’s a game I’ll like or not.

MMORPGs, on the other hand, are another story. To be honest, I don’t care much for reading MMO reviews on the big game sites, though I’ll still scan them from time to time just to see what IGN or Gamespot etc. thinks. On launch day of the Age of Conan Rise of the Godslayer expansion, I went to check out the Eurogamer review only to see that they had already decided to withdraw it because they were “not completely satisfied that it meets the standards expected of MMO reviews.”

I wasn’t sure what happened exactly, but seeing that message did bring back memories of their Darkfall review scandal last year and of the more recent Global Agenda review snafu by GameSpot. The reviewer for RotGs may or may not have played enough to give a fair review and there were allegedly a few tidbits of misinformation in the article, but the fact that I don’t know what the deal was makes me feel a little conflicted on this. So someone on a game review site has a negative opinion on an MMO, why all the rage in the comments? I would take it with a grain of salt.

First of all, it takes a lot of time to properly explore an MMO. GameSpot for one has a “30 hour policy” but I personally don’t think that’s enough either. I would argue that a true experience takes days or even weeks. But maybe that’s a bit of an unrealistic expectation from a game site, and as such I wouldn’t read too much into any MMO review article.

More importantly though, I think the variety of MMORPGs on the market have given rise to many types of online gamers all seeking ways to satisfy their different play styles. Whether you’re a PVPer, raider, explorer, achiever, collector, solo-er, casual, hardcore, crafter, RPer, or whatever, the fact of the matter is, no one is going to have exactly the same experience in an MMO, nor would they have the same expectations. That’s the beauty of the genre.

And that’s why I personally won’t rely on a game site review to decide whether or not I want to try a particular MMO. Single-player games, fine. But for MMOs, it’s not like I’ll be familiar with some random reviewer’s play style and preferences, or know from which angle they’ll be looking at the game features. For those kinds of insights, I prefer to turn to personal blogs. Generally, I find my fellow bloggers’ personal experiences with their MMOs over time to be more revealing in terms of what to expect.

Still, in the end, everyone is entitled to an opinion, even a Eurogamer reviewer! I could care less if he gave RotGs a negative review, I’d still have liked to see another person’s take on it, but alas it wasn’t meant to be. It would have been a shame if the review was taken down solely due to the backlash in the comments. Rabid fans can just get any bad review retracted if that’s the case, and that’s no good. On the other hand, if it was indeed taken down for legit reasons…say, if they had tried to rush the review by only giving the expansion a go for like, two hours…then I say, boo to him.

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Journey To Khitai

May 12, 2010

I did manage to fit in a few hours of Age of Conan last night, after the servers finally went live. Oh my God, I haven’t seen this many people running around in-game since launch.

My new Khitan character has been made! Naming her was a bit of a challenge, since I like to give names that fit the lore or are appropriate for a character’s background. As Rise of the Godslayer draws heavily from the Korean and Chinese cultures, I decided to name her Xiaohuli, meaning “Little Fox” in Mandarin. Guaranteed to be butchered, methinks, but it’s pronounced approximately “shee-ow-huli” if anyone is interested to know, or you can call her “Huli” for short, which is simply just “Fox.”

"Foxy" lady.

At least now in this game you can run around with a Chinese name for roleplaying purposes and not be immediately tagged for a gold farmer, but I’m already weeping for the inevitably that are names like “Longdong”, “Hunglo”, “Eggfuyung” or “Chowmein.”

Xiaohuli’s a Guardian, a decision that was influenced by my sadistic sense of irony which revels in being able to create petite women just to deck them out in heavy weapons and armor and make them tank. That, and I’ve always been curious about being a “Polearm Guard”.

As much as I’m looking forward to the Tortage experience again, I left her outside the gates in the jungle as a humble Level 5 for now. My husband wasn’t able to finish patching before bedtime last night, unfortunately, and I don’t want to get too far ahead of him. He tends to pout when that happens.

Instead, I hopped on over to my Level 80 Priest of Mitra, to see if I could get her started on earning her Alternate Advancement points and perks. But first, behold my Killer Rhino mount! (Cue uncontrollable, maniacal laughing!)

AHHHAHAHAHA! YES! YES! HAHAHAHA! AAAHHH HAHAHAHA!

Me and several guildies also banded together for our first trip to Khitai. For those wondering how to get there, the path begins in the southern point of Khemi in Stygia, where a local traveler named Madu waits to take you across the river where you can then talk to a wagoner about starting your voyage to the east. The wagoner will offer you a choice: either pay for the trip to Khitai with coin, or offer up your services as a mercenary to protect the wagon as it travels. If you choose the latter, you have the chance of getting a random encounter in which you’ll receive an objective to complete before reaching your destination. Not one to miss out on new content, I chose the second option…not to mention the first option requires you to pay out your ass.

These little “instances” are pretty neat. Unfortunately, they’re also solo, so all my guildies and I were separated at this point. You’re randomly dumped somewhere along the Silk Road, and the caravan master gives you a quest. These little missions can vary in difficulty and length, it seems. The first time, I got instructions to kill sandworms to clear the way for the wagon. Easy peasy. The second time I did this, I got a quest to collect (read: steal) baskets of fish and fruit from Hyrkanian pirates in order to replenish our own food stores. This one took me a full 20 minutes. Those pesky freebooters don’t go down easy, and navigating their base was a challenge in itself.

You want me to take out a whole village of pirates, wat.

Anyway, finally in Khitai!

Unfortunately, this is also when things started going wonky. My guildies reported crashing, others had freezes, and I myself was getting really bad lag. It seems they are having some memory leak issues again, oh how nostalgic! No really, I hope they get this fixed soon. It only seemed to be a problem in Khitai, and I found turning the video settings down to “Low” temporarily fixed this problem. This makes for crappy screenshots though, and so that was also around the time I decided to call it a night.

Uber busy with work today, so I probably won’t get another chance to play until tonight, but apparently the servers have been brought down anyway which is a good sign that solutions are coming.

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Glad I Gave It A Second Chance

May 11, 2010

I threw myself into a new commission this morning and afternoon, trying to keep busy with work. But now I am officially HYPED for Age of Conan’s Rise of the Godslayer.

And now that 4pm EST has rolled around, the great Glen “Famine” Swan has spoken — 4 more hours of downtime (Edit: And again)! Can’t say I didn’t see that coming, it’s a new release day after all. We’re not new to this. But even if something unexpected (expected?) happens and the community explodes with rage, I still think that Funcom really deserves a pat on the back. Remember, even Scarybooster says there’s no need to wait for one specific week out of the year to give a developer our thanks, credit should be given wherever and whenever it’s due. And I feel like hurling one out right now.

Of course I’d love for the expansion launch to go smoothly. But I gotta say, even if RotGs causes the AoC servers to implode and no one gets to play on launch day, I have to give Funcom its props. Despite a disappointing release back in 2008 and the cries of “Failcom” that followed, the developers did not give up on AoC’s great potential. They cared enough to improve it, and I think their hard work has paid off. The last three months since coming back to this game have certainly been enjoyable for me, and I can’t believe I’m here tonight waiting for its expansion. Who’d a thunk it?

Second chances are rarely afforded to the online game industry these days, and that so many players have either picked up AoC or are returning to it now speaks volumes of the work Funcom has put into the game. While I’ll admit you guys are killing me with this extended downtime, I’m in no way angry, upset or disappointed. Impatient? Okay, I’ll give you that. Excited? Yes, most definitely! So wth this post, I’d just like to say, “Thank you, Funcom, and all the best.”

(Besides, I’m still trying to figure out what class to roll for my Khitan. At least I’ve narrowed it down a little.)

Guardian
Dark Templar

Bear Shaman

Assassin
Ranger

Demonologist

Herald of Xotli
Necromancer

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