Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Share your impressions of Age of Conan beta

I am not going to post a full review of Age of Conan before I have played the release version for a while, as apparently the open beta version doesn't have all the latest improvements. But I'll post some more impressions from the open beta here, and I'm inviting you to do the same in the comments section of this thread. Did you like the game, will you buy it, and what parts did you like best and least?

I filled out a survey by Funcom today, asking me about my AoC open beta experience, but they were mainly concerned with my system specs, my framerate, and whether I experienced what they call "stalling": the game hanging for a second or two while loading graphics. Unfortunately in spite of a E6600 dual core processor, 4 GB of RAM, and a Geforce 8800 GTS 512 MB graphics card I experienced a lot of that stalling. It is rather annoying, because you can't do anything for a while, but your keystrokes are remembered, so if you were turning while it stalled you end up turning far more than you wanted and facing in a completely wrong direction. And of course as combat doesn't happen if you don't press keys, being unable to do anything for 2 seconds in combat can be bad for your virtual health.

Besides stalling my biggest "technical" annoyance with AoC are the loading screens. There are a lot more loading screens in AoC than in WoW, and the wait time on the loading screens is rather long, even with a good broadband internet connection. The many loading screens are due to most buildings and adventuring places, even those for soloing, are instanced. I can understand why you need loading screens for an instanced game, but I can't understand why they need to be that long. With things like caching and better coding it should be possible to limit loading screens to seconds instead of minutes.

Another place where I would wish it was better coded is the way Age of Conan handles obstacles. In many cases even small obstacles act like invisible walls. I can't tell you how often I already got stuck on the inconveniently placed 1-foot high bench in the Thirsty Dog tavern. I'm supposed to be a powerful barbarian fighting against tyrants, witches, and monsters, but I can't even step over a low bench?

What I did like in Age of Conan are the destiny quests in the single-player part of the game. For my first character, a Tempest of Set, they were not very class specific, I just had to kill stuff. But for my Barbarian, which is a rogue sub-class, I had several sneaking quests. The destiny quests are also more interesting most of the time, while the general quests in the multi-player part of the game are often of the "kill 10 foozles" variety. I like the idea of receiving new skills as quest rewards instead of buying them from a trainer.

I wasn't too much bothered by it, but Age of Conan isn't doing all that well in explaining its features with tutorials. The only available tutorials are videos you have to download from Fileplanet, and a loading screen explaining the keyboard layout. You need to watch that one closely to find out for example that at level 10 you can press "N" to distribute talent points, otherwise you might just level up without talents because nobody ever told you of them. Likewise I know there is crafting in AoC, but have been unable to find out how to do it, because the game isn't telling you.

So how did your Age of Conan beta go? Anything you'd like to share?

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