Welcome to Chosain Province, kids, and I promise it's not as dark as that intro. It is inspiring, though, and whether you're given to flights of fancy or simply content to burn through the region's quests and faction grinds, Chosain makes a heck of a beautiful backdrop for Age of Conan
adventuring. In the latest installment of my Hyborian travelogue
miniseries, I'll give you my impressions on the zone as well as a look at a few of the things you'll see and do in one of Khitai's more noteworthy locales.
Chosain Province is accessible at the eastern end of the Northern Grasslands zone, and if you're anything like I am, you'll be anxious to take a break from the latter and see some new sights after a few weeks (or months, in my case) of repeatable quest running. While the Grasslands is a beautiful zone
in its own right, it's also your first introduction to the lengthy Khitai faction grind, and many players I know have a love-hate relationship with the place as a result. Chosain is just what the doctor ordered, then, and the region hosts a huge variety of vistas and visual styles to distract you from the grind. Whether you're into rolling red fields, lush rice paddies, or corpses swinging from trees and the husks of burned out war machines, Chosain has got you covered.
The town of Gun Hai lies at the extreme northeastern edge of the Chosain map. When you first enter the zone from the Grasslands, taking a hard left and heading north to the edge of the world will bring you to the heavily fortified village. Gun Hai is the first of two opposing faction towns in Chosain, and it's home to many principles from the Scholars of Cheng-ho faction. Depending on your faction choice, you may be asked to engage in a few sabotage missions in Gun Hai or aid some of its residents, but either way you'll want to poke around the impressive scenery around, above, and inside the city itself.
Far to the southwest of Gun Hai is the city of Gun Xiu, a mercenary stronghold under the control of Tamarin and his fearsome tigers (actual tigers as well as his followers who have appropriated the beasts' name). If you want the Rise of the Godslayer
tiger mount, you'll be seeing quite a bit of Gun Xiu and Tamarin's Tigers' representatives in particular. The flooded rice fields and classic far-eastern architecture make the town pretty easy on the eyes, but the city's beauty belies the violent tension simmering beneath the surface as Tamarin's forces gear up for war with the Scholars of Cheng-ho in the north.
The village of Shaulun is, for all intents and purposes, the center of Chosain. Aside from its location near the middle of the map, it's also where you'll start the majority of your faction missions. The Scarlet Circle makes its headquarters in the province here, as does the Brittle Blade and others, so you'll be spending plenty of time flitting in and out of your respective faction's compound to pick up missions.
Shaulun is also the political center of Chosain as far as Age of Conan's
lore is concerned. The conflict between Gun Xiu and Gun Hai plucks many of its combatants from Shaulun's streets, and there are several quests in and around the city that are worth reading if you enjoy Funcom's
take on Hyboria.
The village itself is straight out of one of those early- to mid-2000s Wuxai
blockbusters. I half expected to see Jet Li
and Zhang Ziyi
pop out of an alcove, defying gravity and doing their deadly sword dances across the rooftops. To say the place is atmospheric is quite an understatement, and whether it's due to the visuals or Knut Haugen's
twangy oriental guitars, I can't get enough of the place.
Aside from the three cities, Chosain Province features numerous military camps that you'll encounter over the course of your faction grinding, as well as an open battlefield near the center of the map. If you need some examples of AoC
earning its mature rating, look no further than the gruesome visuals on the blasted battlefield and the surrounding environs. Thus far I haven't spent a lot of time here as it doesn't seem to feature any quests for my faction as of yet, but it's hard to miss on the road from Shaulun to Gun Hai.
Chosain also features a trio of dungeons for the highly geared adventurer, though the conventional wisdom is that they're not worth the considerable time it takes to complete them in terms of rewards (most seasoned players will tell you to run the Kara Korum circuit instead). If you want to make a go of it anyway, head southwest from the battlefield to the Mines of Chosain (helpfully marked on your in-game map). Here you can access the Den of the Crowmen, the Abyss of Kun Whu, and the Jade Dugout from the same entrance.
So that's Chosain in a nutshell. If you haven't seen it yet and you're languishing in the Grasslands wondering if (or when) you'll finally go insane at the behest of your faction taskmasters, do yourself a favor and head farther east into the heartland of Khitai. It's a nice change of scenery, and it offers quite a bit of exploration and immersive fun. Until next week, I leave you with a group of folks who've never seen the Red Forest.