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Click-deprived Barbarians

I hate to say it, but my Age of Conan experiences are not going well lately. It's just not "clicking." I'm at level 50 with my Herald of Xolti now, and a love/hate relationship has formed with Age of Conan.

"Loves"
  • Age of Conan is a reasonably deep, fun MMORPG.
    This is major. Though there are hundreds of MMORPGs in existence, I can count the number that can do this for me on one hand. (E.g. City of Heroes, EverQuest 2, and Final Fantasy XI.)
  • Age of Conan's end game looks like it could be worth playing.
    Unlike my old flame.
  • Age of Conan is in vogue.
    It's not going to reach World of Warcraft popularity because it's not made by Blizzard but, unlike Tabula Rasa or Vanguard, Age of Conan has successfully reached enough popularity to be a major milestone in the story of MMORPG evolution.
  • My new Herald of Xolti respec kicks ass.
    I went from having a small battery of extra melee attacks to having a variety of useful spells, including a self-resurrection (albeit limited to once a half hour), instant-cast flame breath, AOE stun when transforming into a demon, and a combo counter. I really want to play this character.
  • Player maturity
    Whether it was the game's wantonly Mature rating or generally hard-nosed approach to content, it seems to players in Age of Conan are generally more mature than the ones I encounter in City of Heroes.
"Hates"
  • Technical problems: Both mine and Funcom's.
    My computer is reasonably ancient - the CPU is good, but an ATI X1600XT is far below average performance: It was "performance mainstream" in 2005!

    You'd think that turning down the detail in Age of Conan would solve this problem, but actually, low detail settings are bugged. I get about 10-16 FPS on "High without shadows" and 6-8 FPS on "Low." That would be playable enough but, unfortunately, it can slow the game to an unplayable slide show when there's a lot of effects going on.

    It's really digging into my enjoyment of the game, and because the laptop didn't sell I'm pretty much hosed until I can find a way to earn some money. If I'm lucky, Funcom will tweak their low settings to actually provide better performance soon.
  • Peer Pressure
    I really enjoy my freedom (solitude?) especially in trivial pursuits. Unfortunately, I've got peer pressure bugging me in many ways on this game.
    • Out of game, I'm being pressured to log in.
      (No matter how much I love something, being told to do it sours the experience.)
    • In game, I'm pressured to get into groups.
      (I like to group sometimes, I even feel a responsibility to helping my fellow guild mates, but when I'm just chilling I often prefer to solo. It doesn't help that AoC's grouping rewards suck, you're usually better off soloing for cash and xp unless you happen to have quests in that area.)
    • My guild forces me to have TeamSpeak running.
      (Hearing people talk seriously disrupts the game's immersion for me.)
    Basically, this kind of peer pressure prevents optimal enjoyment of the game for me. I prefer to play at my own pace, savoring the game properly, and these factors really cut into that.
  • Player Killing
    When I play a MMORPG, there are times I enjoy excitement, and times I want to relax. It's hard to feel relaxed playing the game knowing that, at any time, another player can attack me. I can deal with it, sure, but do I find optimal enjoyment on a PK server? No, I don't.

    I think the PvE servers with optional arena combat would be much more my style. Why'd I start a character on a PvP server to begin with? See previous entry.
  • City of Heroes' concept/setting flexibility
    City of Heroes spoiled me in that you can play pretty much any character you can imagine. Sure, the powers wouldn't cover all concepts, but with 10 archetypes (the 4 "epic" aren't very flexible) and a wide degree of power selection in each, you could at least bluff it. Age of Conan, on the other hand, is pretty much: "You're a Barbarian. Work with it."

    This extends to the setting: Age of Conan is flavor of fantasy, like most MMORPGs. City of Heroes ranges from contemporary modern society (highly unusual) to ancient times to alien dimensions and more. It's not just about the supers, CoH is just a whole lot more creatively liberating!
Tragically, as much as I admire City of Heroes, I've reached a major, seemingly insurmountable impasse. Other than raids, which simply aren't held very often, the only thing you do at 50 is flesh out the missing parts of the character: badges, enhancements, task forces, and missions. To do that, I would need some character I care enough about to want to "complete" them. I've been unable to devise such a character, and so there's no reason to bother leveling one up at all.

Love it or hate it, I've got a month subscription left on Age of Conan and, by Crom, I'm too poor not to use it. However, maybe I should just start an alt on Age of Conan, away from peer pressure and PK, in a relaxed atmosphere where technical problems and fantasy setting limitations are easier to deal with. Ideally, this second character would rekindle my interest in Age of Conan, allowing me to enjoy the game the way I like to enjoy it, so that I become interested enough in the game that I don't mind dealing with the hassles of my main character.

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