Know, oh prince, that between the years when the oceans drank Atlantis and the gleaming cities, and the years of the rise of the Sons of Aryas, there was an Age undreamed of, when shining kingdoms lay spread across the world like blue mantles beneath the stars.
– The Nemedian Chronicles
So I started playing Age of Conan.
In the Beginning
After watching Conan the Barbarian for the first time (I rented it for catharsis after finishing the quarter’s grading, and I really liked it!), I decided to look into Robert E. Howard’s short stories. Simultaneously, I investigated the Age of Conan MMO.
I was never, ever interested in AoC when it first came out. As a kid, I was science fiction all the way; the fantasy genre has only recently begun to interest me. I heard many things about the how AoC attempted to capture the “savage, brutal, and sexy” nature of Howard’s short stories – and having neither read the short stories, nor really looking for things of a savage, brutal, or sexy nature, I wasn’t interested. Subsequently, I heard through the grapevine that the game just fell flat after level 20. Also, I think the savage/brutal part of AoC got wrapped up with what I heard about the PvP-centric Darkfall, and the negativity I had toward the latter game rubbed off on the former.
But then GeeCee started to play AoC again, and had very favorable things to say. And them I got bitten by the Conan bug. So I decided I’d try out the free trial, which lets you play unhindered up to level 20.
What To Choose?
I knew just enough about Hyboria to make deciding hard. There are the Cimmerians, northern folk who talk plain and fight hard (Conan is one, obviously). Then you have Aquilonia, “reigning supreme in the dreaming west.” Aquilonia is the grandest kingdom of the Hyborian Age, strong but not cruel, cultured but not decadent. Conan, though Cimmerian, is king of Aquilonia (by virtue of a Klingon promotion, it seems). Lastly, there is Stygia, the decadent remains of a declining empire. They, uh, also worship Set, who is totally an Elder God. (Howard and Lovecraft were friends and corresponded alot!)
Despite their god, I like the dark-skinned Stygians. I decided to go with a Tempest of Set, a healer who can call down lightning. Here Kerala is:
Intro to the Game: Tortage
Character creation is immediately atmospheric. You are a slave on a galley. If you chose male, the camera zooms in on one of the rowers; if you choose female, it goes to the slightly decorated “love-shack” at the rear of the ship.
There’s a wreck, and when you come to, an old man is helping you on the beach. He informs you that the slave owner survived the wreck – and if you don’t make it to the city of Tortage before the fatso does, you’ll be barred from entering and will die in the wilderness jungle. “Buy your life with his death,” the man informed me. That is pretty much the most awesome thing anyone has every said to me in a MMO.
I quickly realized that fun dialog and interesting characters are main staples of Age of Conan. Turach the blacksmith has been my favorite so far…
But Laranga is a close second…
Also, GeeCee is totally correct: these females always look like they’re ready for the sexy times.
I’ve really enjoyed blasting people with lightning, but the Tempest of Set came across as a “one trick pony” – I cast a spell from my seemingly-endless pool of mana, and then I do it again. Either they die, or I die. Melee combat consists of me poking them with a spear, and though faster, my piddly spear seems less efficient than calling down a lighting bolt. I had heard that melee was really fun, so I decided to roll another character.
Khatri the Barbarian
This is Khatri. She hits thing very hard, and if that doesn’t work, she hits them again, harder.
I went into the Barbarian class thinking that it would be a crazy strong warrior class. I was completely correct – and also completely surprised. Conan, as a barbarian, was a sneaky thief with an unconventional fighting style, and that is exactly what this class is. If I’d thought about it, I’d have realized what I was getting into. As it was, I was really pleasantly surprised to find out that I can sneak around and do awesome attacks from the shadows.
Melee is extremely fun in this game, and I don’t think I’ll be going back to Kerala anytime soon. Smashing hordes of barbarians Picts with a massive club – or even two clubs, or two swords – is fantastic. The fatality finishes are really crazy and add a little something (on top of more blood) to the fighting scene.
Will I be sticking with this game? Very probably. Some nights I feel like being an upstanding Starfleet officer, firing quantum torpedoes and saving the galaxy. Other nights, I want to be a Cimmerian barbarian wading into another group of Pictish barbarians. Like Randomessa points out, it’s ok to have several different games that each fill a different niche.