Last week we met with Eidos and Funcom, the team behind the hugely anticipated MMO,“Players can run into groups and deal damage to all foes”‘Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventure’, and had a look at the game that’s got everyone’s petticoats in a fluster.

We shuffled into the plush, scarlet velveteen screening room and settled down for a quick tour of Hyboria. First impressions are, it looks reet gorgeous. We sighed at the water effects and oohed at the sheer detail in the environments. A fly through revealed lush jungles, densely planted with tropical flora, streaming volcanoes, beaches and the ruins of ancient civilisations over-run by creepers.

The fun doesn’t stop there because the environments are fully interactive, rather than just pretty wallpaper. This means you can climb walls, open doors and smash fences with your big smashy sword of doom. Add dynamic shadows and you’ve got a game that will win a beauty contest hands down.

It’s All In The Face
Next up was the character generation, which looks like it could fulfil the wildest fantasies of any gamer. Players get to control every aspect of their character’s appearance, even down to the size of their ears. Funcom’s big brag was that players should be able to switch name tags off and people will recognise their character by their face alone. This fuelled my character gen fixation no end – could it really be true?

The good news is you won’t look like a “g* n00b” when you first enter the world thanks to the“One of the true innovations of ‘Age of Conan’ is the single player game”nifty addition of solo missions. ‘Age of Conan’ begins with a single player game, allowing players to familiarise themselves with the world and pick up items before entering the first city. Funcom promises a variety of items to pick up, ensuring level one players won’t all turn up wearing hair shirts and rough cloth boots. The amazing graphics mean every item is individually detailed, down to rings, belts and different layers of armour and clothes, adding another aspect to your individuality.

Bright Lights Big City
Once in the city, the streets will be teeming with city folk going about their business. Although we didn’t see a bustling city, we did see a drunken pirate stagger out of the local inn to relieve himself off the side of the pier, as an example of the AI at work. NPCs will, apparently, eat when they’re hungry, go to bed when they’re tired and go to the market when they want a sticky bun, adding to the overall immersion. The cities sound like they will be the hub of the social aspect of the game, allowing players to brawl with other players in the taverns and generally act like barbarians – hoorah!

If you don’t think much of the game’s cities, fear not, as guilds will be able to build their own. The real mark of a guild in ‘Age of Conan’ will be the size of its city, not how many house plants they have. High level guilds will be able to gather resources such as wood and iron to build a settlement, which can grow to become a substantial city in its own right. Build a battle keep and set about attacking other guilds to raise their city to the ground and claim the land as your own.

Going Solo
One of the true innovations of ‘Age of Conan’ is the single player game, which eases you into the action. This could be the clincher that brings in newcomers to the MMO genre, enticing them with a traditional RPG that just happens to be massively multi-player. The solo missions feature most heavily from level one to 20, but players are still part of the online world, allowing them to enjoy the best of both er&h**ip;worlds. Players will be able to choose when to follow their solo missions, which are woven into the central plot line.

Hack and Slash
When it comes to combat, ‘Age of Conan’ has eschewed the old, target enemy, click spell,Mountable combat will also be allowed!click, click, style combat in favour of something that requires a little more thought. Fights require players to actually swing their weapon, whether that be left right, up or down. Foes will shield themselves depending on the side they are getting the most damage, so the aim of the game is to vary your attacks in order to keep enemies on their toes.

Rather than using a targeting system, players can run into groups and deal damage to all foes, as opposed to hitting one at a time. This system should take the tedium out of battles, but it could get tricky when parties want to target the high level foe in a group.

The world of Conan
We checked and you won’t be able to play as Konan, C0naan or Coonun, so don’t even try. However, speaking to the team at Funcom, players will meet Conan himself, as an old king. The game is based on the original Conan stories created by Robert E Howard in the 1930s and the developer aims to stay true to the original stories, feeling it’s important to have that vision in the game.

When it comes to iconic figures, Conan’s up there with Tarzan and his world is rich and violent. ‘Age of Conan’ has an 18 certificate so the developers are pulling no punches when bringing this dark, gritty world of blood and struggle to life. Expect to see blood mid-battle, the odd scantily clad succubus or tavern wench, depending on your taste, as well as the ability to sever limbs if your ale’s a bit too hoppy.

‘Age of Conan’ is entering a lot of new MMO territory and it could make it that most hallowedPrettyof things – the ‘WoW’ beater – or it could be its undoing. From what we’ve seen, it’s got all the ingredients to go all the way, but only time will tell. Suffice to say, we’ll be jumping on board to sample the delights of a bar room brawl if nothing else – oh and to spend three days creating a character. See you in Hyboria!

‘Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventure’ will be released on PC 20 May 2008.

Paul Younger
Founder and Editor of PC Invasion. Founder of the world's first gaming cafe and Veteran PC gamer of over 22 years.

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