E3: Fight with Steel in "Age of Conan"

Thursday afternoon at the E3 convention in Los Angeles, CBR News was given a look at the upcoming "Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures" video game. It's a difficult game to describe properly. It's a single player, massively multiplayer, hack and slash role playing game. And while most games that try to be a little bit of everything often lose sight of their goal, the developers at Funcom might have developed an MMORPG that can keep fans of twitch games happy as well.

The game takes place during the period when an elder Conan is the king of Aquilonia, its jeweled crown resting on his troubled brow. And although his name is on the title, Conan is not the hero of this game. Players create their own characters to live in the world of Hyboria.

Funcom is working very closely with the Conan license holders to make sure the game stays true to the Robert Howard novels, and it shows. Unlike most fantasy games, there aren't any elves or magic users around every corner. Magic is sparse, and the game is ruled primarily by steel.

The game starts as a single player adventure game. As characters progress through the story mode, they build up the strengths and abilities they want to use when they enter the massively multiplayer portion.

What really separates "Age of Conan" from other MMORPGs is the combat. In most MMORPGS, combat is turn based and one-on-one. Even if there is a group, characters attack one at a time. In "Age of Conan," combat takes place in a real-time, closer to a hack and slash game than a traditional MMORPG. The combat system is fairly deep though, as each weapon can attack from multiple directions, and can be chained together for combo moves. Characters can also attack multiple opponents at once, clearing groups of enemies with a single chain of attacks. Currently, there are 11 different core weapon types, like swords, clubs, pikes, bows and arrows, etc, each with different variations. There's also combat on horseback, with faster horses delivering deadlier blows.

Another interesting twist is that non-player characters don't just exist in the game to give quests or get killed. They live entire lives of their own. If they are awake too long, they get sleepy. If they eat or drink, they defecate. Both of which makes them easier to attack.

There is still a lot of room for growth in "Conan." The game, which debuted for the first time at E3 last year, is still in pre-beta development. There are a lot of things that have to be reworked and fine-tuned. Still, there's a lot of promise. "Conan" could be the first MMORPG to give a sense of action to the genre.

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