I spent a few hours playing Conan last night and I have to say I was underwhelmed. Probably helps if you are a Conan fan to give the world a little extra zing and appeal, although the only Conan books I’ve read were Robert Jordan’s.
There’s a host of little things that irk me, and other things that I want to like… And for some reason, I can never patch MMO games over my road runner connection; so I had to use my AT&T DSL which took about 3x longer. So, to be fair, I didn’t get off to a good start that wasn’t entirely Conan’s fault (although shipping a beta version on the 2 install DVDs does, technically, count as their fault, especially since this isn’t their first MMO).
The text font over NPCs looks like the Windows “SYSTEM” fixed font, and the whole presentation of NPC icons just bugs the hell out of me, it looks like coder art.
You start in a single-player newbie experience, which felt really retro and consoley to me, there was a sharp-/jagged-ness and a lack of overall smoothness or seamlessness to it that I somehow just found pokey/hokey.
Their system for notices (Gained a level, looted a broken tooth, completed a quest) is hideous. They draw a large 75-90% opaque black ribbon across the screen in which they print the text in a truly ugly font. One for each message. Emphasis across the screen – in widescreen these take up a huge amount of display real estate. “Quest Completed”, “New Quest”, “Item Received”, “You have gained a level”, “New abilities available”, “New Combo Available”, “New Combo Available” – wtf, I can’t actually see any of the rest of the screen for all these ribbons cluttering it.
The starter town … is both cool and irritating at the same time. I think the mannequin-like NPCs spoil the ambience, as does the rather poor movement of other players, and there are some collision issues that quickly get irksome.
NPC dialog is done in an RPG style, with a letterbox closeup of the NPC and a multiple-choice dialog system that lets you role play the conversations (“Oh yeah? How about I kill you now, bitch?” or “Perhaps I could help you?”), but at the same time I dislike the way it interrupts the flow: you can’t just walk away from an NPC you inadvertantly clicked on.
Several of the animations seem out of place or sloppy, such as the jump animation which seems to be a standing in-place jump that they simply blend with your other animations, that can look really dumb: the most amusing was talking to an NPC called Tina, whose considerable chest seems to animate independently of the torso, so she would turn to face you and 5-10 seconds later her breasts would suddenly snap to face you too. And outside the tavern stands a rotund NPC who continually places his arms inside his stomach and chest.
A single misclick early on and I found myself floundering to get back on the tutorial track; and I wasn’t entirely sure whether I could be bothered to find it again.
I think my newbie experience was probably marred by the fact the game was still setting up and initializing – there were sharp lines to the trees and a jaggedness to the overall look of the content that seemed very last generation; stuff that never loaded more than the low LOD textures before I’d moved on, minor bumps and bruises that really shouldn’t matter except this was my first impression.
I played long enough to reach the next piece of content, White Sands, which is a major improvement and I think if I hadn’t gotten that far, I probably wouldn’t fire the game up again, but having seen something beyond the newbie crap, I’ll give it a shot this weekend.
One of the positive things about AoC is that everything is collidable, including other players and NPCs. In most other MMOs, using the terrain and collision system to your advantage or to block NPCs from fighting you is an exploit; in Conan it’s part of combat. And I can kinda see how that might be interesting (although I died a few times simply because I simply stood there fighting too many mobs and not taking advantage of this extra dimension of combat).