Like many others, I eagerly anticipated the original launch of Age of Conan and immediately was immersed in Robert E. Howards barbaric, violent, and yet beautiful world. I crushed countless foes who dared to oppose me, hoisted foaming tankards with friends and allies, but eventually my travels ceased when the lack of mid-game content became readily apparent. While I left Hyboria and journeyed through less barbaric lands, my heart, and sword hand, always ached to return.
Khitai's Great Wall no longer serves to keep the Barbarians out.
The newest expansion, Rise of the Godslayer, promised many things: a huge, beautiful new land steeped in Eastern mythos to explore, new foes to fight, more quests, more dungeons, and an alternate leveling system, just to name a few. How well does Rise of the Godslayer do to fill the gaps that existed within Age of Conan? Will it make you desire again to crush your enemies, to see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of the women? To find out how well Rise of the Godslayer delivers, read on!
Rise of the Godslayer is rated M for Mature. It contains:
- Extreme violence
- Blood and gore
- Sexual content
- Strong language
Gameplay - 95 / 100
Playing Rise of the Godslayer will immerse you immediately within the land of Khitai, a land based upon ancient China, Mongolia, and Indochina. While this expansion provides new content for levels 20 through 40, the bulk of the content- including 4 vast play areas and numerous dungeons and raids- awaits level 80 players. The most important feature of this expansion is that you will have to no longer worry about lack of content. There are a plethora of quests for you and your companions to do. Your blade will grow dull from all the blood-letting that you’ll be inflicting upon the many denizens of Khitai.
Rise of the Godslayer does an incredible job of maintaining a thoroughly Eastern feel throughout its desert, steppes, jungle, city, and forest-themed playareas.
The strongest characteristic of the missions in Rise of the Godslayer is the lore of Khitai itself. Funcom has really tied the quests and other aspects, such as factions, to a solid foundation of a strong backstory. Outside of Lord of the Rings Online, I can’t think of another MMOG that has a deeper level of lore binding the game together. The background history that comes through the game experience really immerses you into the game world. In addition to the quests, there are new dungeons to be explored and looted. These dungeons aren’t just about grinding some kills and grabbing some treasure; Funcom has added some puzzle-solving to frustrate us cerebrally-challenged barbarians.
The "Gateway to Khitai" level 20 - 40 content aside, Funcom clearly wants players to get into the endgame action. The offline leveling system equates 4 days of paid time to one level, meaning a character could go theoretically level to 80 in just short of a year without drawing his or her weapon once. It's a cool idea in theory, but arriving at 80 without the guild relationship, items, gold, or skill to adequately support yourself wouldn't be much fun at all.
For level-capped players, Rise of the Godslayer also introduces a dozen new factions to Age of Conan. The relations between these factions are complex: each faction has at least one enemy and some have more (some have allies as well). You can gain notoriety with the factions by doing quests, which thankfully are numerous, and you will be rewarded for your hard work with new items (including hundreds of new faction armor sets), abilities, pets, and even the possibility of two epic mounts. Funcom does a fair job with presenting what players can expect from gaining reputation with a certain faction, but it's worth checking out the faction vendors before you set your faction choices in stone.
For much of the new level 80 content, you'll probably want to bring a group.
While faction grinding is always marginally better in a group, some faction quests actually require a group, such as the final stages of the tiger or wolf mount / pet quest. You’ll get these beasts as cubs and then raise them to become either mounts or combat pets. One downside to the faction system is that despite the immense variety of faction quests available (chasing down soft, juicy scholars for the Tamaran's Tigers' stewpot is one of my favorites), some grinding for reputation gains is inevitable. That said, with six factions to please, if you get bored with chasing scholars, you can always do some work for other factions, like rounding up half-naked women for the Yellow Priests of Yun or burying the Last Legion's fallen comrades for variety's sake.
The new expansion also brings us an alternate advancement system. This system is geared to provide "perks" to the player and is split amongst three types: general, PvE, and PvP. You gain points for each type by doing that activity: engaging in PvP will give you points for the PvP tree, playing the PvE content will reward you with points to spend on the PvE tree, and both PvE and PvP play give you points to spend in the general tree. At level 80, players can acquire perks in real time (36 hours for the first tier, for example). In addition to the new tokens system (the endgame currency splitting that just about every MMO is doing these days), the new alternate advancement system gives adds some variety to your abilities and allows level 80 characters more to work toward. It’s an ingenious, tried-and-true system that seems to work especially well in the PvE, PvP, and General abilities setup offered in Rise of the Godslayer.
Graphics - 87 / 100
The graphics in Rise of the Godslayer are gorgeous, but more than that, the graphics and art direction feel authentic. The wide open landscapes dotted with pagodas and shrines, the dark, threatening jungles, colorful yet deadly forests, and desert settings are uniquely detailed to put the Far East nature of Khitai in high relief.
That, plus the character art for the new Khitai characters is absolute top-notch. Funcom's brilliant idea of partnering with Neowiz to simulataneously add some real Far East flavoring and bring Age of Conan to Korea with Rise of the Godslayer was one of those rare moments when business saavy and game design genius come together for the good of the playerbase.
Funcom's attention to detail was very apparent in Khitai character creation.
Also, the Mature rating is finally realized with the addition of naked slave girls! That's right, you heard me, naked slave girls! Finally, one of the most important things that make the world of Hyboria worth living in; hot, naked slave girls! Nothing says Conan more than naked slave girls, except maybe for severed heads, but it’s a close call.
The splendid graphics do come at a price. The zones are large and detailed, so the load times for new areas can be very long on older machines, and on higher performance rigs, the graphics never seem to quite live up to the performance cost. But if you have an older system, you’ll have time to get up and get yourself a drink while the new zone is loading. However, the wait is well worth it.
Sound - 95 / 100
The sounds in Rise of the Godslayer work to draw you into the barbaric world of Conan. No game has a better soundtrack than AoC, with its epic majesty changing to thunderous battle themes when you get into combat. You just don’t get tired listening to the background music in AoC, unlike most other games, and even the combat music changes from zone to zone in Khitai.
The ambient sounds are lush, whether you’re listening to wildlife or the falls of your footsteps, which by the sound, you can tell if you’re walking on grass or stone. Sound shines when you engage in combat. You’ll hear the clash of steel against steel, the agonizing cries of your enemies, and the satisfying thunks of your sword ripping through their flesh.
The only negative that I can think of with sound - and it’s a bit nit-picky - is that 1) my horse still sounds like a steam locomotive, chuffing and hissing with alarming frequency, and 2) I was hoping for more voice acting from quest givers. When Rise of the Godslayer was announced, Funcom stated that it would be a Tortage-like experience for levels 20 through 40. Since Tortage is bursting with voice acting, I was hoping for the same with this expansion. However, voice acting is not only expensive, it sends localization costs through the roof. But it would have been a nice touch.
Multiplayer - 82 / 100
Multiplayer is somewhat of a mixed bag in Rise of the Godslayer. This expansion heavy focus on PvE gameplay and instances leaves little new for fans of the game's PvP action, and given Age of Conan's overall level of brutality it seems to me a natural fit for scenarios and battlegrounds - some accessible PvP short of massive sieges to fuel the target audience's bloodlust. But to survive the harsh PvE setting of Khitai, you will be grouping to complete many of the quests and dungeons, so there’s no lack of hooking up with friends or guildies. Funcom concentrated on enhancing the PvE content for this expansion, with little love for PvP outside of the Alternate Advancement system.
Value - 97 / 100
Rise of the Godslayer provides a lot of value to the players of AoC. While the cost is $29.99, the product is chock full of content. You will spend hours and hours getting through all the new quests, not to mention the faction system and dungeons. Plus, you’ll be using the alternate advancement system to buff your barbarian into an even fiercer killing machine for many decapitations to come.
Lasting Appeal - 95 / 100
The "Gateway to Khatai" content fills what many perceived as a level 20-40 content gap in the pre-expansion game, but the real charm of Rise of the Godslayer lies chiefly with the sheer quantity and richness of new content available for level 80 players. From the Northern Grasslands to the epic battle raging below the purple spires of Paikang, the god-emperor's city, Rise of the Godslayer has kept level 80s busy for months and should continue to for many months to come.
Pros and Cons
- NAKED SLAVE GIRLS
- Tons of new quests and vast, well-designed play areas
- Lots of new dungeons and group content
- Elaborate, story-infused faction system
- Alternate advancement system
- NAKED SLAVE GIRLS
- Not being able to own naked slave girls
- Long loading times
- Some grinding for faction rep
Rise of the Godslayer fleshes out and expands the Age of Conan MMOG and addresses many of the complaints players have been most vocal about. Sadly, not all of the criticisms of the players have been addressed; you’re still unable to own naked slave girls. We’re still not allowed to pillage and rape, or burn villages to the ground just because the ale they served us was flat. What kind of barbaric world are we adventuring in if we’re not allowed to own a few measly naked slave girls? A world such as that is a sadder, emptier world, my friends.
Players eventually arrive at Paikang, the last real Imperial stronghold. Just don't expect a warm welcome.
Finally, the lack of mid level content has been addressed, level 80 content has grown to staggering proportions, and there’s a fascinating new land to explore. While you may have time to have a smoke while waiting for a new zone to load, the wait is worth it. Strong graphics, immersive audio, new gameplay options such as the alternate advancement system, some incredible new dungones, and the introduction of a pleasingly complex faction system makes Rise of the Godslayer a welcome addition to Age of Conan. By Crom, you’ll spend so much time splitting skulls that your family life and job will suffer. Isn't that what is best in life? "To crush your enemies, to see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their women." If so, go out and pillage your bank account ever so slightly and get this expansion!
Overall 90/100 - Great
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