Wolf and Tiger mounts, choices and consequences that roll out branching storylines and emotes that trigger puzzles and help to conquer bosses are just a few of the new concepts coming to Age of Conan later this year.
Age of Conan expansion Rise of the Godslayer takes place 20 years after the events of Robert E. Howard's penned story The Tower of the Elephant. In the 1933 story, Conan breaks into a tower to steal the legendary gem the Heart of the Elephant. Inside the tower Conan discovers a god-like creature named Yag-kosha who begs conan to kill it.
In the fiction of the game, Yag-kosha's death plummets the distant eastern empire of Khitai into chaos.
While the expansion pack's hundreds of new quests, progression systems, dungeons, items and mounts are all built for characters that hit level 20, new players will be able to start characters using the expansion pack's new Khitan race, which leans on a blending of Chinese and Korean mythology.
Visually, the pack offers up a stunning new selection of locations. Working with Korean company Neowiz, who are localising the game for their market, Funcom devekioed a number of settings that pull from Korean and Chiinese lore. The maps I caught a glimpse of included the Steppes leading up to the edge of the empire, bamboo forests, cherry blossom orchards and ravaged and desolate terrain.
Craig Morrison, executive producer and director of Age of Conan, said that the expansion pack doesn't just add new content, it also works to address some of the issues gamers had with the title.
A major one was that the playfields didn't feel connected and were too linear. These new lands, Morrison said, are stitched together, allowing a player to look back and any time to see where they have been.
Another interesting change coming to Age of Conan with Rise of the Godslayer is the promise of choices that have a direct impact on how your adventure unfolds.
"In Rise of the God Slayer there are 10 factions," Morrison said. "We expect the players to be playing through three to four storylines at a time because it is a very complex political situation in Khitai. The players have to try and feel there way through it. They have to make friends with some factions and in doing so will make enemies of others. Unlike with other MMOs that actually blocks and opens up content to them simultaneously. So based on their choice they'll have real consequences."
Those consequences even include the sorts of armour you can wear, there are 80 new sets introduced with the pack.
Another difficult decision players will be faced with involves the introduction of mounts and pets to the game.
Rise of the God Slayer has both Tamarian Tigers and Wolves of the Steepes. To get either of these creatures players have to go on a special quest to steal a cub from a den and then, through a series of quests, grow and train the pet to teach it to kill.
Once they have this attack pet, the player has to decide if they want to train it further to be a mount. If they do, they lose the animal as a pet and can only ride it. However, Morrison points out, players can choose to have one as a pet and one as a mount, though each has different abilities.
While the introduction of a new race, mounts, new areas to explore and the inclusion of meaningful choices are all interested, the thing that has me most excited about the expansion pack is how it will be using emotes.
That's right, the game will make meaningful use of your character's ability to make faces.
"Age of Conan is probably one of the best looking if not the best looking MMO on the market, but it doesn't mean much if it's not fun," Morrison explains. "The designers try to make things interesting and dynamic for the players, to create interesting mechanics other than just fight the boss."
The Rise of the Godslayer's interesting mechanic will have players using emotes to solve puzzles, interact with the world and even fight and defeat bosses.
For instance, in one area I was shown, players had to stand on stone pads and figure out which emote to each use to open a door. In another area, half of a group of players had to emote on one side of a chasm to craft a bridge out of spinning chunks of rock and hold it there while the rest of the group made their way across and took out the enemies on the other side.
Finally, Morrison showed me a boss fight that involved watching the enemy carefully for clues to which emote to use to move stone pillars. Killing the guardian behind each pillar weakened the boss until you were finally able to kill him.
Even more interesting, if you use the right, or I suppose wrong, emote, you can trigger what is essentially an on-the-fly change in the game's difficulty, enraging the boss and making him much harder to defeat.
Age of Conan: Rise of the Godslayer is do out sometime in the first half of this year at a price that they told me would be consistent with what you'd expect from something like an Everquest expansion pack.