Age of Conan: A Second Look

Age of Conan’s conversion to the hybrid F2P/subscription model has been a success. Ten Ton Hammer’s Jeffprime ventures again into brutal Hyboria to give AoC a second look.

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style="font-style: italic;">Age of Conan
came out of the gate strongly, but had faded over time until the recent
conversion to the hybrid subscription/free-to-play model created by
Turbine for href=""> style="font-style: italic;">Dungeons and Dragons
and style="font-style: italic;">Lord of the Rings Online.
Now, AoC
goes by Age
of Conan: Unchained
and has
become a success with revenues href="">doubling. To
see if Age
of Conan
is worth going back
to, I am donning my armor, sharpening my blades, and working on my
sloth-like reflexes to venture back into the brutal lands of Hyboria.

When the game was originally announced, I was one of those gripped by
feverish excitement of Conan coming to the MMOG market. I am a huge fan
of the brutal world of Conan having read all of the original stories by
Robert E. Howard, and I was mesmerized by the style="font-style: italic;">Conan the Barbarian
movie starring Arnold Schwarzenegger when it came out in my teenage
years. The movie captured the essence of Conan: brutal, violent, a
mercenary bad-ass who’s out for himself and his friends, plus
all the hot babes and sex. (The sequel blows in comparison.) Therefore,
I was stoked to hear Funcom say that style="font-style: italic;">AoC
would be mature, with brutal combat, adult storylines, and definitely
gritty and savage.

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Who doesn't want to play a
game like this?

My friends and I played the game a ton when it first launched and we
were happy, but eventually cracks began to appear in our barbaric
paradise. First, there was a lack of content, especially in the
mid-level range that really hampered leveling and killed the fun of
questing. Second, the game really pushed the limits of our computers,
so that when a huge skirmish broke out, most of my group’s
computers pretty much shut down. Eventually, my group drifted away from
the savage land of Hyboria, but now it may be time to come back,
especially since most of us have upgraded our systems!


The greatest selling point in style="font-style: italic;">Age of Conan
is the combat;
it’s brutal, savage, and fun as hell. I’m pleased
that Funcom had decided to streamline the combat by reducing the number
of keystrokes needed to do a combo. While I loved the combat
originally, it did get a little frustrating trying to hit three keys in
a row while in the middle of a huge fight. What really yanked my chain
was fighting in PvP. I played an assassin and it drove me crazy that my
opponent could negate most of my attack by dodging back out of the way
while I was frantically pressing keys. I don’t have a fancy
thousand dollar mouse with macro-programmed buttons all over it. I use
a plain mouse and keyboard as I’m old school! My reflexes
aren’t what they used to be (I’m 41), but
I’m normally happy if I get a few kills in. However, PvP was
an exercise in frustration and futility as enemies weaved and danced
around me, avoiding all my attacks. Especially irritating were the
Tempests of Set with their one-button AoE spam. Ugh!

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I can actually get some kills
in PvP now!

However, PvP is more fun as that most of my combos are now just a
single keystroke with just a few requiring more. While I still get my
butt kicked, I can drag a few enemies down with me from time to time.
As long as my blade gets bloody a few times, I’m satisfied
with my time in PvP.


The biggest complaint against style="font-style: italic;">AoC
was the lack of content once you left
Tortage. Since the game was launched, more content has been added with
the biggest addition coming with the style="font-style: italic;">Rise of the Godslayer expansion
that added the Eastern land of Khitai. With the introduction of Khitai
came the addition of factions. New PvP maps have been added to the game
and new dungeons (the vast majority being high level) have been
introduced. The faction quests in Khitai are repeatable as are the
quests for the new instanced dungeons of The Breach and The Forgotten
City. I particularly like the new instanced dungeons as that they scale
with your character from level 40 to 80.

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Sneaking through the Forgotten
City...and doing lots of killing.

All in all, any new content is a welcome addition to the game. You can
never go wrong with having too much content in my opinion. Funcom has
done a decent job of adding new content, but I would like to see more
mid level repeatable dungeons such as The Breach as well as new zones
for players to explore and conquer. The first new content update will
be the upcoming adventure pack based upon the new style="font-style: italic;">Conan the Barbarian
movie coming out later this August.


of Conan: Unchained
in the footsteps of Turbine’s
and LotRO
with a hybrid subscription/free-to-play model. Players
that subscribe to the game get access to the entire game world, all the
classes, and get 60 Funcom Points per month to spend in the cash
shop.(The 60 points given to subscribers is pretty low as it equates to
roughly 50 cents worth of points! Funcom should up this number quite a
bit. Turbine gives subscribers roughly $6.50 worth of points every

If you wish to play for free, you’re limited to two character
slots and your class choices are limited to: Barbarian, Demonologist,
Priest of Mitra, and Guardian. Free players are also limited to the
outdoor zones of Aquilonia, Cimmeria, and Stygia, plus the Gateway to
Khitai zone. Only two of the six raids are available to F2P players as
well as they only get access to seventeen out of more than thirty
dungeons. Free players are also restricted in that they cannot gain
offline levels, do alternative advancement, and they cannot participate
in sieges.

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My cool Bossonian Sellsword's
Twilight vanity armor. Now I can slit throats with style.

While there are quite a bit of restriction put upon a free-to-play
player, they are getting to play for….um….free! I
think that a great deal of content is readily available to F2P players
and will provide them with a good and lengthy gaming experience. If
they wish to subscribe to get full access, they can do so. If they
don’t wish to subscribe, they can purchase access to various
aspects of the game from the cash shop, which takes us to…

Cash Shop

If players want to pick and choose what options they’re
willing to pay for, they can do so in the cash shop. In the cash shop,
you can unlock additional character slots, the premium character
classes, access to dungeons, as well as the usual items, potions,
mounts, and companions.

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Watching my Priestess
companion dance. Crom wants me to have more slave girls.

There are two things that pleased me in the cash shop. First, Funcom
has added vanity items to style="font-style: italic;">AoC,
which you can wear over your normal
armor. That way, you can get the benefits of the stats on your gear,
but it your gear is butt-ugly, you can wear a cool looking piece of
vanity armor over it. That way, you can slaughter and plunder in style.
The second thing is that you can finally have slave girls! Actually,
they’re called Priestesses in the cash shop and there are
currently four of them ranging in price from reasonable to incredibly
expensive. These social companions, when summoned, appear and go
through a variety of remotes and follow you until combat breaks out.
While I was beside myself finally being able to have a semi-naked slave
girl at my command, there were a few things that disappointed me.
First, you have no control over them. Basically, they just go through a
series of emotes and you have no interaction with them. It would be
nice if you could give them a command to dance, fan your fevered brow,
or some other action. Second, you can only have one companion active at
a time. This blows as that Crom wishes me to have a harem of scantily
clad slave girls following me at all times. Sadly, there is no eye
candy for the ladies at the present time. There are no manly stud
slaves available in the cash shop, but you can get one (called
Satisfying Company) through veteran rewards.

There are a few problems with the cash shop. While some items are
reasonable in price, others are pretty expensive. Some vanity armor
pieces cost 50 points, while a different set costs five times as much.
The slave girls range from 250 points to over 1100. However, my biggest
beef is that anything you buy is for the specific character
you’re buying with, not your account. I can see an item being
character only, but access to a specific dungeon, vanity armor, and
pets? C’mon! That’s pretty crappy in my opinion and
really turns me off from buying anything. If I buy something, I want to
unlock it for all my characters, which is pretty standard in other F2P
MMOGs. This is something that I hope will change in the future.

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The cash shop is a mixed bag.

Blood and Glory Server

While I’m not the best at PvP and tend to do more PvE, I can
empathize with those who love unbridle PvP action. I’m glad
to see that Funcom has heeded the cry of those who wish to freely slay
other players by creating the Blood and Glory server. I love the idea
of this hardcore server where you can only have a single character and
there are no guards or anything to protect you from other players.
First, by limiting players to a single character, players will now
create a reputation with that character. If they piss people off,
there’s no hiding behind some other character until time
passes and tempers cool. No…if someone hates you because
you’ve wronged him, he is free to hunt you down forever. This
is old-school, brutal gameplay at its finest. Crom is highly pleased by
the creation of this server. You will definitely want to make some
friends to call upon for help for when the going gets rough.


All in all, style="font-style: italic;">Age of Conan: Unchained
is definitely worth a second look.
Combat has been streamlined and new content has been added. For players
who don’t want to spend any money, there’s plenty
to do in Hyboria for free. If you want some perks, you’ll
have to pay for it, which is ok. Game companies need to make money to
keep games going and to improve them. The game’s visuals are
still striking and the music is still the best in the MMOG market. My
only beef with the updated game is the cash shop prices for quite a
number of items and the stupid ability to unlock purchased items only
for a
specific character, not an account. Still, my Cimmerian-style anger
over the cash shop won’t prevent me from carving a bloody
swathe through the game. The first night I came back and that I got my
first decapitation, I almost wept with joy except we all know that
Cimmerians don’t shed tears!

To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our Age of Conan: Unchained Game Page.

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