A quick recap of my experiences for context. As a stress tester, I only got into the closed beta about the time the Fileplanet Open Beta started. All in all, I played four different characters each to about level ten. Total time played was probably about 20 hours with slightly more than 5 hours on my highest level character. According to the recent reports, Conan has more than 250 hours of content to reach level 80.
What I Did and Didn’t Do
I did diligently work through the starting area with a variety of classes.
I didn’t actually get far enough to get OUT of the starting area of Tortage.
I did both single player instance (Tortage night) and multiplayer instance (Tortage day) quests.
I didn’t do any PvP minigames having tried them in the stress tests which was enough for me.
What I Liked and Didn’t Like
I like the general feeling of the world, its mood, environment and overall the level of detail. In the few places I could, I felt like I could find my own path whereever my legs could take me rather than just follow the road or run into invisible walls.
What I didn’t like was the hardware burden all that detail puts on the game and impairs performance. Nor did I like that the price of all that graphical detail was to put the world into tiny instanced boxes separated by loading screens anytime you went into a building or crossed a zone boundary. For me, its barely acceptable in LotRO because when I’m in the wide world, its seemless and yes, I can entertain myself just finding out whats over that hill.
I get a distintcly more PotBS type feeling about this or maybe Guildwars type of zoning/instancing.
I liked the more visceral feel AoC’s melee combat has. Despite the apparent twitchyness, I think it will be well received by those that like a little “feel of the road” versus the “mail it in” skill queuing of some autoattack MMO combat.
I didn’t like the feel of its caster combat at all. I didn’t feel mystical and powerful, or that my offensive spells were kicking someone’s ass. The closest I got to that was with my demonologist which felt like it had promise down the road. The spell animations seemed like they were just an overlay to otherwise nicely done animations.
I liked the idea of the destiny quest and ultimately how well it was executed in single player RPG fashion.
I hated that the multiplayer world quests were fairly uninspired by comparison and that apparently they are inferior in granting experience in effect forcing you to play to 20 as a single player.
Finally, a dislike without a like. I did not like having all noobs grind through the Tortage starter area to get into the wider world. The experience is simply too long for an MMO. If an MMO can’t give me the “must play” feeling after an hour or two, I’m probably not going to stick it out.
While I’m not a big fan of PvP or Conan lore in general, I am pretty impressed with what Funcom has pulled together (as far as I’ve been able to experience). What breaks my heart is that you can almost see the great game that it could have been with a little more time, polish, balance, tuning and perhaps a bit more clarity of what they really wanted the game to be.
Schizophrenic decisions about a single player start early on or the “choose your class at 20” approach seem to have defocused some of the development efforts and unfortunately ate time and no doubt precious funds out of its development. Unfortunately, this is the game they made and this is when they want to release it, damn the torpedoes. I sincerely hope there is more behind the scenes that Funcom hasn’t revealed or I wasn’t able to experience in my brief foray.
Putting my money where my mouth is, I’m sitting this one out. Who knows, maybe I’ll be wrong and will gladly pay and subscribe if AoC really turns out to be the game everyone has been waiting for. I’m just not seeing it, at least for me. Since I seem fortunate enough not to have experienced many of the performance issues others have noted, I can’t say the game is Vanguard-broken at least on my system. I can say that while its had its moments, it just didn’t grab me in those first few critical hours.
The final nail in the coffin for me is the evident bumbling and fumbling for the controls of late as Funcom has shot itself in the foot time and time again both with the open beta client fiascos but also its incessant and wildly inaccurate hype. Its just hard to believe anythign they say. Roll file footage of their in-your-face fall release date of “10/30/07” which fell almost as soon at it was put up.
I wish them the best of luck with a good launch, but I’ll be watching this one from the sidelines.