Despite having the odds stacked against me, I managed to secure a spot in the Age of Conan early start. While I missed the server opening by an hour due to Narnia-related activities, I did manage to spend a substantial amount of time playing over the weekend, creating several characters to try and decide which of the 12 initial classes was for me. After going through the initial beginning of the game at least six times, I decided to document the experience for those of you who either didn't get in or aren't sure about the game.
Mind you, this will completely spoil the beginning of the game for you, but if you're anywhere near as alt-crazy as I am you'll soon be sick of it anyway.
Anyone who has played Anarchy Online knows that Funcom is a big fan of story-infused character creation, and Age of Conan is no different. Character creation takes place on a slave ship, with you choosing either a male or female slave from three races and then selecting their class. There are twelve in all, three each in the four standard MMO class designations of warrior, mage, priest, and rogue. I choose the female slave this time around, because if we are going to be running around taking screenshots for you we might as well have something pretty to look at. See what I did there?
Having avoided the priest classes, I decided to create Priestess Of Mithra, and I named her, appropriately enough, Kotaku, which is more than likely against naming conventions and will have to be changed, but for now enjoy the embodiment of the website using holy powers against the forces of evil.
After you finalise your character the ships is attacked, and a cutscene shows you sinking to the bottom of the sea, only to have a mysterious force lift you out of the water, depositing you on a sandy beach, where you awake to meet... ...this guy.
Let The Game Begin
The NPC who finds you on the beach explains that you are a slave who has landed on the Island of Tortage, where you will be spending the better part of your first 20 levels or so. The slave master escaped into the jungle, and you have to find him and kill him to earn your freedom before he enters the city.
After he wanders off I check out my powers and weapons...the spell Smite and a broken bottle. Great. Off to a fine start! I head up the path towards the jungle and am greeted by one of the most traditional Conan sights...a woman in chains. Not only is she chained, but somehow this waifish lass is blocking the entrance to the jungle. She instructs me to head to the beach, where the scavengers picking at the wreckage hold her key, and I am off on my first quest. The mob for the key is right on the beach, but I would highly recommend doing a full circuit of the area to help get your level up. There's a crocodile boss down the way with a treasure chest behind him, and money is always a good thing. By the time I returned to the chained woman I am level three, and upon unlocking her I get a new quest to escort her through the jungle to the city. Unlike escort quests in WoW, the enemies won't attack your new companion. She just stays behind you and cheers every once in awhile.
The Long And Winding Trail
What follows is an exercise in killing. There are two bosses right up front, killed easily with my simple smite spell, and soon I am looking a lot more dressed than I was initially, though not by much. The path to the city gate is filled with various hunters, poachers, and some pictish tribesmen, but soon enough I am ready to confront the disgusting slave master, who apparently abused me on the ship. They don't just come out and say rape, but he does tell me I knelt plenty of times for him, so take from that what you will. I dispatch him readily and take from him some pants, but the key to the gate lies through a Pictish village, in a temple guarded by a demon. It's never easy, is it?
One of the neat features of the game is killing blows. Playing a melee fighter you might plunge your dagger into an enemy's chest. A demonologist sets his foes aflame, screaming and gurgling as their corpse blackens. The priest? Well they make the bad guys levitate and glow blue. Goody! At this point I've hit level five and gotten several new powers, including a stamina buff and a heal-over-time spell, so I just tear through the Pict camp and the demons aren't a problem at all. Key in hand I head back to pass through the gate into the land of the monkeys.
They're Called Gorillas, Dumbass Okay, gorillas, but still. These foes are a bit tougher than the ones I had encountered so far, making we work to win. Encountering two towards the end nearly kills me, but my HoT ticking away manages to save my arse. Not sure why they decided to put the gorillas before the final gate, but there they are.
Into Multiplayer Land Finally we arrive at the city gates, and my dumb blonde friend thanks me for my assistance, promising some sort of reward other than money or items should I catch up with her later. Oooo. The loading screen appears, and I enter the Island of Tortage proper. As for what happens next, you'll have to wait for my full early impressions later this week!