The Tortage ExperienceMay 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!