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January 2014

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A bit of background - I picked up WoW again shortly after the Burning Crusade expansion was released. I took it really easy this time, and it took months to get my Paladin to 70. After that I played alts and such, but now I'm pretty much done with it again.

In the meantime, I've found a game to look forward to - Age of Conan. I really hadn't thought much about this game until a couple of weeks ago, when I was lucky enough to score a slot in the PvP beta weekend. In this preview, we could do the PvE intro quest up to level 6, and then were whisked away to level 20 and PvP land.

First off - I had very few graphical problems or performance issues. It ran really well on my rig (nothing fancy, Intel quad + 9600GT + 3GB), although I had a couple of crashes over the weekend.

The graphics really are massively better than WoW's. I enjoy the art style in WoW as much as the next guy, but that game definitely feels dated compared to AoC. AoC may not look as good as some single player games, but it looks a LOT better than the other MMOs I've played.

Character appearance and customization options are great. Tons of sliders if you're into heavy duty appearance customization, and a nifty little body type matrix if you just want to get it done. The female models are hawt, and the males look vicious. The gear on the level 20s looked decidedly cool, and the materials looked believable.

I like the AoC universe - it's dark and gritty and brutal. The intro quest tells you right off that you're not in happy fun land. No killing rats and crap to get your first level here.

The combat system is good, for melee classes at least. Moving around intelligently matters hugely in PvP. I'm worried that spellcasting is going to be rather lame in comparison, but I like the direction they've gone with healing (at least at level 20, healing was all about AoE spells).

All that said, I have some doubts. 80 levels seems like an awful lot, and I have no sense for how long the higher levels will take. Loading screens definitely suck, and you get them all the time - death in the PvP minigames sends you through a loading screen before you even resurrect. There are also a ton of unknowns that only the closed beta folks know the answers to, and they're still not able to tell us about them. I also wonder what role PvE gear is going to play in PvP at the higher levels - we know there will be 24 man PvE raids, which I find horribly disappointing.

Despite that, I'm glad I pre-ordered. I'm still really looking forward to this game. We could only do the intro quest up to level 5, and then we were sent to level 20 and PvP land.

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