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Heads Will Roll…

Age of Conan doesn’t like you. It doesn’t need or want you. I’m talking to you, Joe Public. It has no room for auto-attack, heal-bots, bad-word filters, and whining teenagers who cry “overpowered!” to the class that just killed them. It purposely alienates the WoW crowd and doesn’t apologize for it.

I was lucky enough to play AoC’s PvP beta weekend extensively (aka too much). Notice the word “PvP” in front of the word beta, because there was not much else that was given in the build besides that. These instance PvP matches are basically just mini-games for this beta, compared to the world-PvP and siege-PvP in release. So I can’t talk about crafting, mounts/mounted combat, cities, sieges, etc., basically 90% of the rest of the game. I can only give you my personal dig of the early-level combat system.

Blood Ravine

First 5 levels started you off on PvE noob island where you get to learn the basics of quests and controls. Right away, the first few fights in, you realize how much different it is to fight in this game. You have to manually attack either the left/right/head of your enemy, though I believe there will be lower left/lower right attacks added to specific classes in higher levels. The effectiveness of each hit is determined where the “virtual shield defense” is located on the enemy. Don’t swing to the head when the enemy has all 3 levels of his virtual shield stacked there or you’ll hear a whole lot of parry clash sounds. There is no shield available in the rear, so it benefits all classes if you attack from behind. The surprising thing about this is the enemy NPC’s actually can adjust shield locations during battle according to where you’re swinging! Mindless spam attacks on 1 side isn’t gonna fly here sport.

PvE

About 20 minutes on the noob island, you’ll reach a point where the beta would auto-level you to 20 and give you standard level 20 class gear and dump you into an instanced PvP lobby with about 30 others hanging out waiting to enter a 10v10 PvP arena match. The graphics engine shows off here and really handles it well with a lot of people on screen practicing their combos, summoning pets and casting AoE spells.

PvP lobby
Now, to the actual PvP. Hallelujah, there is actually a very strict collision detection here. There are no clipping within characters to be found. Weapon ranges matter and is very accurate, as I learned when I played a mage that just rooted a polearm user, retreating a few steps where I knew a short sword couldn’t reach me, and still received blows from the polearm. WASD movement with “strategic bonus” dodge moves by double-tapping a key. Double-tapping forward and you get a brief 5 second “charge momentum” buff that gives you high stun % on your next hit. Double-tapping backward and you get a 3 second “defensive evasion” buff that gives you high evade % and high attack miss %.

PvP team

Every class has a stamina bar that is used up quickly if you “sprint” by holding the Shift button while you move. Mage types use them for running away, melees use them for combos. There are 12 starter classes, 4 categories: Soldier/Priest/Rogue/Mage with 3 classes in each category, with higher levels being able to choose prestige and different archetype classes. Everyone can stealth, but their stamina drains while moving in stealth. Only the 3 rogue classes can move without stamina penalty, and faster. It’s not a great idea to burn your stamina as a Soldier sneaking around, because you won’t have enough for combos.

Totem Torrent

Speaking of melee combos, this is where player skill really separates itself by far. Sure, you can spam your directional attacks while dancing around like a monkey but you’ll do nothing for damage. Combos are done by pressing the combo, then executing the following directional attacks in sequence and on time. Press the wrong key or not press them fast enough will have you waste the precious stamina you just spent to start the combo. Even if you attack in sequence correctly and do it in time, you still have to actually land the final hit of the combo. If you end up facing the wrong way or out of range by the time you get to the final key press, you waste it. Rank 1 combos only require 1 additional key press but Rank 2’s require 2 additional keys, and I’m guessing you see the pattern for the higher combos. If you manage to land a combo and it kills on final hit, there is a chance you could execute a “fatality” where it beheads/maims in some way and gives you a “bloodlust” offensive buff for a period of time.

Ravine

Mage types have similar combos for spells, called Spellweaving but it didn’t make it in this test build. I can’t really speak on it, but if you read the page I’ve linked about it, and they do it right, it just might be the best and most innovative thing about this entire combat system. Not to forget the healers but most of their heals are ticks over time, which eliminates heal-bots and gives dedicated pure priests freedom to do other things while their heal is well, uh healing. Happy priests make for happy world.

CTF

As I wind to a close here, I can’t help but think all this fun was had with only auto-leveled 20 “pre-made” characters, compared to the possibilities of max level 80 PvP. And these instanced PvP mini-games, compared to the possibilities of guild/siege/mount/zonal warfare. Just from this small portion of the game, you can see how Funcom is thriving to be different from the masses. It’s refreshing and welcome and I can’t wait for release.

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