Stropp's World

Games And Gamery

Trying Conan

Posted by Stropp on November 27, 2009

So here I am at the end of the two week reactivation trial from Funcom for Age of Conan.

For the first couple of days I replayed old characters, primarily Stropp the Aquilonian Dark Templar, and to be honest with you I didn’t find that character very engaging. I didn’t feel invested in the quests, and perhaps it was the area, those quests seemed to be a little disjointed and a bit boring.

So I decided to create a new character. Bargarse the Barbarian, a Cimmerian.

The Barbarian class in Age of Conan is effectively a rogue archetype. He’s able to stealth and do most everything a rogue does. At first blush this seemed a bit of a stretch for me, I’d never have pegged Arnie’s portrayal of Conan as anything but a warrior. But, I’ve never read any of the Conan books so I don’t know how Howard portrayed him. And at least for part of the film he’s involved in somewhat roguish behavior.

Anyway, I took Bargarse through all the Tortage quests, getting him up to level 20 over three nights, before heading out to Conarch Village and Conal Valley over Saturday and Sunday. With the help of an experience potion claimable throughout November, I took my Barbarian through most of the quests and nearly to level 27. I figure there may be enough quests left to get to level 30.

Some things I noticed:

  • Tortage works like a charm now. It seems the bugs introduced throughout the release period have been fixed. Not that I expected they wouldn’t be.
  • There is still an occasional crash to desktop. I had it happen once.
  • There appears to still be a memory leak, but it’s nowhere near as bad as when I first played. Some of the map textures disappeared from time to time as before, but only happened once. I don’t know if it’s related, but every time I exited the game, a dialog popped up asking me to report a bug (and then the Microsoft one immediately after.)
  • Funcom has some of the post-Tortage quest givers talking now. At release that was one of the big complaints. Tortage set everything up beautifully with fully voiced quest givers, and as soon as I left Tortage, no-one spoke anymore. Now, not every quest giver does, but there are some.
  • There are still huge gaps in the destiny quests. I met up with the destiny guy in Conarch Village and he said, “Hi! Come back at 30.” Funcom needs to fill out these quests with at least a quest chain every 5 levels. Otherwise the destiny quests are nothing but an interruption.
  • The combo’s are useful now. At release, it really didn’t matter if I used a combo or not. Just swinging my weapon did as much damage. Now, swinging wildly doesn’t do much damage at all. But using the combos correctly can really knock a mob down.

The biggest difference though was that I began to enjoy the game. I reckon it was the Barbarian class coupled with the usefulness of combos. The rogue aspects added to the gameplay since I could sneak up behind a mob and sneak attack which was kinda fun, especially when using one handers.

Perhaps the quests in Cimmeria were more fun too. It seemed to be a fairly logical chain of quests that were presented, and even though they ended up being kill x bad guys for the most part, they made sense. And there was the whole bloodlust thing too. Grrr.

Having said all that, I have unsubscribed before the trial period was up and my credit card charged.

I did seriously consider keeping the subscription going. but there were a couple of reasons for cancelling.

First, I’ve got too many games on the go now and, while a 2 week trial doesn’t hurt too much, I really don’t have time for AoC. The other is that I am now officially out of work (finished my contract at 5pm this afternoon.) That means some belt-tightening is required, and I don’t need the cost of another subscription.

But for you my friends, I think that if you played Age of Conan at release but left out of frustration at the time, then you might find the game has improved sufficiently to warrant resubscribing. That’s especially the case if you wanted to like the game and found it hard to leave.

If you want to do the trial, you had better be quick since it expires on the 27th, today.

What Conan Wants, Conan Gets

Posted by Stropp on November 15, 2009

If Conan wanted me back in the game, he has his wish, to a certain extent anyway.

I decided on Saturday afternoon to accede to the wishes of the muscle-bound warrior king and took Funcom up on their offer of two free weeks. After all, I didn’t really want 6’6″ of angry muscle smashing down my door and screaming, “Get to da CHOPPA! Da CHOPPAAA!” (Sorry wrong movie.) Doors aren’t cheap to fix you know, let alone the hassle of getting a locksmith on the weekend.

I did however decide against actually subscribing for any of the payment plans. I’m currently more interested in seeing how Age of Conan has improved since I last played. That was nearly 2 years ago. If I recall correctly, I quit after the first or second month because of the following reasons.

  • The game was woefully incomplete. There was a considerable lack of content in the middle levels. While I hadn’t got that far, level 21 was my highest level, even post-Tortage felt lacking.
  • Funcom was breaking more that it was fixing. At release Tortage was polished and smooth (for me.) Less than a month later, I was falling through geometry and not having a smooth and polished experience.
  • I was experiencing a crash to desktop regularly. Some form of memory leak I think was responsible.
  • Gear and equipment were not properly itemized. At that point it made no difference wearing or upgrading armor, or even fighting naked. Item stats didn’t seem to do anything.

So after clicking on the trial button and refreshing my details, it didn’t ask for my credit card details by the way, I started the patching process.

And boy, was there a lot of patching to be done. A bit over 3GB of patching to be exact. Here’s what I learned. Three gig of patching takes a lot of time. I started just after 3pm and it finished close to 10pm. The patcher also crashed halfway through, but recovered the process when I restarted (otherwise I might not be writing this post.)

The problems that encouraged me to previously cancel my account were the things that I wanted to have a really good look at in this trial period. Here’s what I’ve found so far.

  1. Most importantly, the memory leak issues and bugs appear to have been fixed. Not unexpected, I would have been profoundly disappointed if after this amount of time Funcom had failed to have fixed these problems. No CTD is a good start as far as I’m concerned. All the geometry issues I found previously in Tortage seem to have been resolved.
  2. Gear and equipment look like they are working as in any other MMORPG now. Items have stats, and from what I could tell, better equipment made a difference. It’s all good, except I have no reason to flash my hairy chest in public anymore, even on my male characters.

I wasn’t able to see if the lack of content had been addressed since all of my characters are still too low level. I played Stropp my Dark Templar for a while today and dinged up to 22.

To be honest, I’m not sure I’ll have enough time in the next two weeks to get any character to the levels that were reported as being inadequate. I figure there will be other bloggers with higher level characters taking advantage of Funcoms trial offer. It might pay to seek them out for that info.

There are still a few bad points though.

  • I think there are still a few bugs. One quest target was marked on the map, but I was unable to complete the quest because she did not appear to be at the specified location.
  • None of the servers were registering more than medium load, and still showed green, but there were moments of lag. Actually, there were some very long moments where I thought I was going to be disconnected, mostly in the middle of fights. On the plus side, the system seemed to handle them and I didn’t come out of the lag dead, only where I left off.
  • Unfortunately the UI is somewhat confusing. That hasn’t changed, but I didn’t really like it back then; it’s still a poor UI now.
  • Global chat appears to be channeling World of Warcraft’s Barrens chat, except without the restraint.
  • Someone ninja invited me to a guild, while I was in night time mode in Tortage. Must have just done a who all and invited folks not in a guild. Not even a hello, hows it going…

So where does this leave me?

Primarily with a much better impression of Age of Conan before I left. The shame of the matter is that a game has to work much harder to regain a players trust if it loses it, than if it gets it right in the first place. My view of AoC is probably a little tainted by those poor first impressions. If I were playing for the first time ever, today, I might feel a lot different about Age of Conan.

It is a graphically gorgeous game, with a lot of imagination behind it, and a lot of potential too.

However, at this stage, I’ll continue my re-visitation of Age of Conan for the remainder of the two week trial, but at logout today there was nothing there to make me want to pay any money to resubscribe.

That might change if I find some compelling content before the trial ends, or if the game succeeds at recapturing my imagination, but like I said in my last post about this offer by Funcom, there are too many games around at the moment that I want to play. There’s so much going on any game, not just AoC, is going to have to stand out in a big way.

Now a Barbarian breaking down my door might catch my eye, but if Conan sent that assassin my way. That, might get my attention.

Yes Virginia, There Is A Fallen Earth Trial

Posted by Stropp on October 17, 2009

Sigh.

Don’t ya hate it when you make a prediction, and less than a week later you get proven wrong?

Obviously the Fallen Earth folks listened to the plaintive cries of would-be Fallen Earth players, desperate for a free trial before they shelled out their hard earned bucks for a chance to wander the wastelands of the Grand Canyon province.

However, this is a limited trial offer that will give prospective players a fifteen day period to try out Fallen Earth during the Days of the Dead Halloween event. This Days of the Dead trial will only be available for Halloween, and the game will revert to a no trial status at least until the next major holiday event.

Still, it’s a great opportunity for those who are leaning towards subscribing to Fallen Earth to give the game a try. There’s also the benefit of being able to retain any of the special items won from participating in the Days of the Dead events.

So, if you’ve been hanging back from Fallen Earth, there’s now no excuse to drop in and have a look see.

Is There A Fallen Earth Trial?

Posted by Stropp on October 8, 2009

This is a question I’ve seen asked around quite a bit lately. I’ve seen it both on the official Fallen Earth forums, and in the search engine phrases that people have used to find their way to this blog.

The quick answer to the question is: No. There is currently no free trial period for Fallen Earth.

The slightly longer answer is that this is to be expected. I’m not even sure that I need one finger to count the number of games that have given a free trial period at the launch of their brand new game. While that’s certainly the case with the AAA MMORPGs that have been released, there maybe a few free to play or indie games that have offered a trial.

As for when a trial period will be available for Fallen Earth?

No idea. Since Fallen Earth is still in its first month of release, and is doing well with the sales showing that people are willing to buy it without a trial, it could be a while before a free trial period is offered. It certainly won’t be this month, and my guess is that a trial will only be offered once sales slow down and Fallen Earth, LLC want to kick start sales again. Give it at least six months.

However, if the game continues it’s success at sales, you could be waiting a lot longer for a free trial.

It’s up to you.

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