A veritable mad scramble ensued here at The Anvil of Crom offices, and as the piles of wadded up loose-leaf and discarded notes fluttered about, I was left wondering when my previous two pieces were going to see the light of day.
If I sound somewhat perturbed, I'm not really, as this is a fantastic spot for any game columnist -- or Age of Conan fan -- to occupy. There's a lot of new content and not enough time to write about it; really we should all be so lucky. Sooo, that's my lengthy way of saying won't you join me after the cut for some initial impressions of hardcore PvP, AoC-style.
For those of you new to AoC or new to The Anvil of Crom, you're probably wondering how the heck I could disparage what is arguably one of the best newbie experiences in the history of MMORPGs. Well, repetition is how I can disparage it. As I'm on my 13th character, and I've deleted two others, this marks my 15th run-through of Funcom's 1 - 20 content.
Suffice it to say I've got the experience down to a science, but that doesn't mean it was one I was looking forward to repeating this week. Anyway, repeat it I did, and now I've got a freshly minted 20ish Ranger knocking about the capital city of Tarantia and finishing off a few quests prior to heading out into the Wild Lands (or wherever) for the fourth or fifth time.
Yep, Blood and Glory is finally here, and while I'm fairly excited for reasons I'll elaborate on in a minute, the early fact of the matter is that it's a fresh-start server and there are no transfers allowed.
Interesting times ahead
The good news is that FFA PvP has been restored to both White Sands and the Underhalls, and if I don't make it to the Wild Lands this week it's because I was having too much fun skulking about the dungeons and making life miserable for lowbie gankers (or confirming my own PvP ineptitude, take your pick).
Blood and Glory has also dispensed with offline levels, the Bori snafu, and the annoyance of multiple characters on a single account. Wait, how could that possibly be annoying?!?! Well, let's just say that giving folks the ability to roll any number of anonymous alts never did any favors for MMORPG communities. Speaking of communities, egads and Crom help us. I'm getting ahead of myself, though, so hold that thought.
Anyhow, single-character servers. They're better.
Yes, they are.
While the jury's still out on this one (and by this one, I'm talking about Deathwish since I'm stuck playing on the American shards), ultimately one avatar per account means that arsehats are less likely to be so, especially the further away from level one they get.
Also, leaving aside the folks who go for multiple accounts, single-character shards remove the ability to be self-sufficient, which could result in a shot in the arm for AoC's ridiculously underused crafting and economic sub-games.
Combined with the removal of offline leveling, Blood and Glory really does mark a return to old-fashioned launch-flavored Age of Conan (excepting the whole gear-is-now-as-important-as-skill caveat), and Deathwish will ultimately be a server where your name is remembered -- for good or ill. Speaking of good or ill, I'm not convinced that returning to launch-flavored Age of Conan is entirely wise since the game has improved on those days in almost every respect. At the very least, though, Blood and Glory will gather most of the PvP-minded folks on one server and leave the PvE majority in relative peace.
So, back to that community. Any thoughts you may have entertained about a new server featuring dedicated moderators or a civilized global chat were put to rest within about 20 minutes of Deathwish coming online last Thursday afternoon.
The trolls were out in force, usually accompanied by colorful language as well as every conceivable variation on the Xbox 360 meme. If Funcom's goal was to offer a Conan-flavored riff on your average 4chan discussion, well, mission accomplished.
The good news is that very shortly you'll get to kill most of these people (it is a FFA PvP server with no guards, after all). The bad news is the sheer amount of racist, misogynist, and homophobic filth you'll need to wade through if you're looking for a guild or, Crom forbid, you're new to the game and intent on asking a question.
You would think that the supposedly savvy hardcore PvP crowd (you know, those vets who've been around the block a few times since the days of Darktide and pre-Trammel) would know better than to rise to the flame-bait that skitters across global every few seconds like a cockroach when the lights come on.
Sadly, you'd be wrong.
One other piece of noteworthy news is the fact that the item shop does feature stat armor on Deathwish, and some players have questioned the decision to allow gear purchases on a server that is advertised as old-school. Earlier this weekend I spoke with Craig Morrison about Funcom's intentions with regard to buying power (or progression, if you prefer), and it seems as if the devs are committed to this sort of thing for the time being. It's also worth noting that the level 80 gear is blue armor roughly equivalent to tier one raiding stuff, and is outclassed by PvP armor and of course higher-end level 80 kit.
To summarize, it's very early in the life of this whole experiment, but in spite of the fact that PvP doesn't often float my boat, I'm having a pretty good time with it. The fresh start isn't as tiresome as I'd anticipated (a particularly surprising development for someone who's played pretty consistently since launch).
If you can stomach the drunken amateur comedy hour and the sausage-fest preening that covers the entire server like a warm, wet blanket -- and you don't mind the journey to 80 taking you quite a bit longer than it does on the traditional servers -- you might get a kick out of Deathwish and its European counterpart. It's clearly not for everyone but there's an undeniable appeal any time players are given more freedom instead of less.