A Pre-E3 2007 Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures Preview
by Jeff "Ethec" Woleslagle
July 2, 2007 - We were extremely fortunate to be among the first in the North American press to spend some hands-on time with Funcom's Age of Conan, an upcoming MMORPG title based upon the popular works of Robert E. Howard. Funcom's Public Director Jørgen Tharaldsen and Game Designer Jason Stone were on hand to guide us through the untamed, otherworldly lands that make up Funcom's first truly next-gen, multi-platform title for the Age of Conan Xbox 360 and DirectX 10-enabled Vista PCs (the game will also be playable under DirectX 9.0c, according to the official website).
My first question was with respect to Age of Conan's multi-platform nature. Would Funcom follow the model of the recently released Games for Windows title Shadowrun and be genuinely cross-platform, allowing X360 players to game on the same servers as PC users, or would they choose to go the way of Final Fantasy XI, cloistering players using different platforms into different servers? I would come to find that it's an especially pertinent question, given that combat in Funcom is a much more active experience than that of any MMORPG I've played before, and the type of controller typically used by different platform players (i.e. keyboard vs. Xbox 360 controller) might give one or another type of platform player an automatic turning or macroing advantage, especially when it comes to Player vs. Player (PvP) combat.
However, in what became a running theme, Jørgen indicated that Funcom isn't ready to discuss this question quite yet. “We simply haven't made that determination,” Jørgen stoically (Scandinavian-ly?) stated. After running headlong into a few more stonewalls, it was obvious that this event was to be about experiencing Age of Conan rather than getting any kind of “scoop.” So I put away my intrepid reporter hat and happily cracked my gamer knuckles, ready to make a character. As it turned out, I doubt if I could have learned more to share with you about what Conan is really aboutby asking rather than playing.
|A few of the latest screenshots from Age of Conan. Click here for the Pre-E3 Gallery.|
Character creation is a fairly straightforward RPG affair, with the exception that Age of Conan roughly follows the EverQuest 2 model in that you don't choose your archetype until level 5 and don't pick your class from 14 different class choices until level 20. Your choices at this point are comfortably limited to race and appearance.
As for race, a little Hyborian familiarization is needed, especially if you (like me) are unfamiliar with Conan lore. Three race options were available to us, the Schwarzenegger-rific Cimmerean, the strong and organized Aquilonian, and the dark and mysterious Stygian. Game Designer Jason Stone explained that Cimmereans were meant to represent the fair-skinned Celtic peoples (remnent of the destruction of Atlantis), the Aquilonians were meant to resemble a sort of pre-imperial Greco-Roman (with all their diverse ferocity and world-conquering potential), and the Stygians were modeled upon Howard's portrayal of snake-worshiping, darkly religious Egypto-Babylonians. Of the three races presented, only the Stygians were capable of sorcery; the other two races being more gifted in physical combat. Stone further explained that Funcom felt compelled to include content from Cimmeria, even though Howard never set his stories in in the wintry northern climes of Conan's homeland. Howard only referenced Cimmeria and concentrated his stories in the deserts of Stygia and lush foothills and plains of Aquilonia.
From the Age of Conan soundtrack - "Kheshatta"
The exact race and class alignments are in the air at the moment, but given how close these three races are in basic appearance, the distinction is in the racial lore you'll have the opportunity to experience when, at level 20, you leave the consolidated newbie experience at the island of Tortage and the widely varying appearance of classes as characters progress in level. This might be a hard sell to those who enjoy tweaking appearance down to nosehair and pockmarks at character creation, but I was glad to get out of the sliders and into my seat in the war galley quickly.