Age of Conan - A Year Later Part 3

As a self proclaimed forum junkie and long time follower of gaming communities, I think it is very true that you can see the fall or growth of a game by listening to each game's respective...

As a self proclaimed forum junkie and long time follower of gaming communities, I think it is very true that you can see the fall or growth of a game by listening to each game's respective communities.  Happy players are in game playing and unhappy players are on the gaming forums telling the developers where they mucked up.  This little fact of life was very apparent in the Age of Conan community after launch, but now we are seeing a different tempo on the forums these days with more helpful posts with solid feedback, a few friendly discussions amongst players, and even a thread here and there giving thanks to Funcom for all their hard work.

It isn't easy bringing a game back from the dead, but with the leadership of Game Director Craig 'Silirrion' Morrison and a dev team that is clearly willing to listen to the playerbase and work hard, Age of Conan is certainly pulling it off.

Beautiful and dangerous Tarantia Commons awaits.

Ten Ton Hammer is taking a look back at the Age of Conan from launch over a year ago, to what it is today.  We've already covered technical improvements, server population, and gems in our first installment.  Then we touched upon combat, questing, and PvP gameplay in our second look at AoC.  Now, in our third and final re-review of Age of Conan we are inspecting the major changes that have happened to player classes, itemization, and crafting!

They Did What to my Barbarian?!

Class alterations, big or small, are never easy on the player or developer.  Balance is always what we all hope for, but sometimes getting there can be frustrating and painful.  Whether you are a PvPer or a PvE adventurer, the news on class balance is good!  Funcom has spent a great deal of time examining the classes and player feedback and have altered classes across the board.  Because of the changes to stats and how they work, enemy mobs also had some re-balancing done.

Soldiers:  Additional damage to some of these classes as well as new and improved buffs as well as better taunting and aggro control.  All soldiers can now wear plate armor which, ya know, woohoo!  My Conqueror isn't seeing much change but I just redid her feats, so I might see a boost from that.

Rogues:  I've seen mixed reviews on how the changes are playing out.  Overall, rogues have better survivability with the utilization of debuffs and an increase in strength.  I've heard that the Assassin could use more help, but I'm seeing a great boost in the survivability of my Barbarian, so no complaints from me!

Priests:  These classes saw a better balance with a rise in healing power and a portion control on damage.  Tempest of Set seemed particularly over-powered prior to the class update and that seems to be a bit more even handed now.  These are still very viable classes, just a bit more healer and a little less nuker.

Mages:  These classes keep their frightful power of “kaboom!” and gain a few bonuses in damage output, debuffs, and decreased reuse timers.  The Necromancer gets some huge help with much better behaved and useful pets that are more in line with the power and level of the player.

The end result has been that most classes have seen some improvements to how their classes play.  Nothing is ever perfect though, so I expect to see class balance continue to be an ongoing project.  Player feedback is extraordinarily important in class playability so each player should feel free to keep dialog open with Funcom regarding how their class is currently doing.

Oooh… Stats!

Armor items have gotten far less complicated and far more useful.

Age of Conan was never meant to be an item-centric game and while I think that's good, there does need to be a reason to keep playing and upgrading, and this is where AoC fell short early on.  It was completely possible for a player to pick up a nice item at level 30 and still have use of it at level 50 and this should NEVER be the case.  Along with that, changing stats around through gear, feats, and gems didn't have the customization that it should have had.  Striving for better and more useful gear and weapons is such a big part of gameplay that without it, players are left aimlessly blowing in the wind.

This brought on the Itemization Revamp addressed in update 1.5.0.  Funcom realized that not being item-centric did not mean making items and their stats useless!  What we needed was a reason to look at our gear and make a choice, a real choice, on what we would equip and have those choices effect how our character plays in some way and this is exactly what 1.5.0 did.

Each class has base stats that grow with them as the gain in level.  With no equipment or feats set, one level 50 Conqueror should look just like the next stat wise.  Through item choices, feats, and gems these two fighters should be able to alter the focus of their character allowing for one player to choose a decked out defensive fighter that could hold off the Roman army while still allowing the other player to choose an offensive fighter that could likely lay waste to that same army.  They also should be able to manipulate non-primary stats to assist with their defenses against certain types of attacks, such as physical damage, magic damage, holy damage, etc.  It is this meaningful choice that lets each player decide what works for them in their own unique way of gaming, and gives that player a tangible way of implementing it.

New zones bring future fun with the announced expansion.

Another big update to items is the simplification of stats.  Not only were stats close to worthless, they were often confusing as the good items had a stat list a mile long.  This made things very confusing for the average player because you never really knew what you should be upgrading and which item was the better item.  Now when you're shopping for new gear, in a glance you can pick out the better item!

Overall, these changes gave the player more ways to further customize their gaming experience and made it a lot more user friendly.  Half the fun of playing a game like Age of Conan is in the strategic planning, and the itemization revamp went a long way in making that happen.

Crafting for Fun and Coin

At launch, crafting felt sort of tossed in as an afterthought.  It was something for players to do once they reached mid levels in game, but it was complicated, time consuming, and not particularly lucrative.  Crafting is generally used as a time sink in MMOGs but that certainly doesn't mean it can't be interesting and worthwhile!

Probably two of the biggest boosts to crafting were the itemization changes and the gem revamp.  These updates, all by themselves, gave crafting far more purpose.  Itemization changes gave crafters a reason to actually create better quality armor and weapons and actually get to see players buying them.  Gems, after a roller coaster ride of usefulness, finally have found a happy medium and are enjoying a life of balance and stackability that makes my bank super happy.

Rise of the Godslayer has lots of goodies to wow players!

The actual mechanics of crafting remain pretty much the same with a few tweaks for convenience sake.  Minor updates have gone in such as the map showing which nodes are currently being harvested from, and drop rates being fixed a bit so we can have a shot at getting the things we need without being spammed with things that we don't need.

I would like to see crafting get a bit more attention. The drop rate on leather is atrocious, and I think that crafted food, drink, and potions really should be far superior than vendor bought items.  I have complete faith though that Funcom is watching the community closely and we can look forward to more updates addressing current player concerns.

 With the last year being so turbulent for Age of Conan, players are enjoying a period of continuity and peace.  What does the future bring for the land of Hyboria?  A new expansion "Rise of the Godslayer" is on the horizon and players are making their way back into game at a steady pace.  With this kind of momentum, we can continue to enjoy Age of Conan for a very long while.

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