The Anvil of Crom: Once more unto the Breach, dear friends

Ah yes, where else but Massively can you get a lesson in both Shakespeare and Age of Conan (in the same article, no less)? Nowhere else, I tell you, and before we get to the Conan part, let's get ye olde English out of the way. Many of you have no doubt uttered today's titular phrase on your way into a particularly nasty game dungeon. A few of you may have even uttered it correctly.

Here's your gold star.

The rest of you, pay attention: It's unto the breach. Unto, not into. So said Shakespeare and later Olivier in his 1944 film adaptation of Henry V. And yeah, I used to say it wrong too. Anyway, on to the AoC. The Breach in question is one of two new solo dungeons added with the Unchained update, and thanks to Blood and Glory, this particular dungeon is the only one of the pair that your humble columnist has found time to sample.
The approach

Story-wise, we've talked about the Breach and the Forgotten City instances before. If you're in need of a quick refresher, know that there's a hole in Khitai's Great Wall, and rowdy Hyrkanian marauders are exploiting it by virtue of a war band led by one Nekkhi Khan. Players working their way through the instance will find themselves going up against hoards of Hyrkanian warriors -- though not at the behest of the residents of Khitai whose lands are being invaded.

Rather, a rival Khan named Menudsjin enlists your help to stop what he perceives as an unwise attack on the "sleeping dragon" that is the Khitai people. Speaking of Menudsjin, you'll need to pay a visit to his tent in the north central region of the Gateway to Khitai zone to get started on your Breach adventure. He'll give you two quests -- Worse Than Death and The Upstart's Downfall -- as well as another unrelated quest found outside the Breach instance that you can complete in the open world at your leisure.

Breach bossMenudsjin's quest dialogue is interesting, and as is typical in Age of Conan, quite well written. The only catch is that it might not make much sense to you if you did your 20 - 40 leveling somewhere other than the Gateway zone since Menudsjin treats you like an old friend, regardless of whether you've actually spoken to him before or not.

In any event, there are two ways to approach the Breach instance: The path that leads out of Menudsjin's camp to the east, and the long way around, which involves riding up to the Great Wall at the zone's eastern border and doubling back through the foothills to the north.

The former route will lead you close to the Passage of Madness and through the Foothills Camp, both of which are packed with level 37 (and up) mobs. The latter route has less of a Hyrkanian presence but you'll still be fighting through some NPC fodder if you're much below level 50.

Speaking of levels, the Breach scales between levels 40 and 80, and for purposes of this column, I played it through from start to finish on my 40 Bear Shaman as well as my 80 Demonologist.

Int... er, Unto the Breach

The Breach itself lies at the end of the twisting gorge cut through the rocky foothills north of the Khitai steppes. It's festooned with Hyrkanian guardsmen, some on foot, others on horseback -- all of them bent on your destruction (or your XP-related gratification, depending on how you look at it). It's worth noting here that entering the Breach entrance might be a tad confusing on your first attempt. You'll basically need to cross an invisible zone line in the gorge before you're presented with a do-you-want-to-enter pop-up, and I'm not ashamed to admit that I ran around the general vicinity of the X on my world map scratching my head as to how to zone in. Fortunately, a player materialized out of thin air in short order, marking the proverbial spot.

Once you do get in, you'll get right to the killing as a camp of Hyrkanians and the first mini-boss (Monkhbat the Wolfslayer) await you. The mobs inside the Breach were even con and resulted in 36 mastery XP and 636 regular XP per kill on my level 40 character (sans XP potions, if you're curious). At level 80, these numbers changed to 258 mastery, and of course 0 regular XP. When coupled with the sheer amount of mobs available as well as the quests (which rewarded 14,000 mastery XP each upon completion), this makes the Breach an appealing spot for both character leveling and AA leveling.

Appealing could also be used to describe the dungeon's aesthetics. From the rain-soaked switchbacks to the fluttering Hykanian standards and the hyper-detailed NPC armor, this is Khitai (and Age of Conan) in all its graphical glory. Interestingly, the Breach is a fairly dark instance, both literally and metaphorically, and users with high-end gaming rigs will see a lot of impressive lighting and shadow effects as they wind their way through the outdoor playfield.

Breach boss fightIn terms of size and layout, the dungeon feels quite a bit larger than the Tarantia Noble District villas (AoC's original 40 - 80 instanced solo content). Whether this is due to the new outdoor location or simply the change of scenery is hard to say, but it is great fun to be able to alternate between the two areas to fill in the leveling gaps. The Breach is also a persistent instance, meaning you can log off in the middle of it for a couple hours and come back later without having to worry about a bunch of mobs respawning around you.

There's also no timer, so feel free to explore every nook and cranny as long as you like. In terms of gameplay, it's a straight-forward dungeon-crawl, and you'll come upon a couple of mini-bosses prior to meeting the big bad (Nekkhi Khan) at the other end of the gorge.

None of said mini-bosses were particularly challenging for my 40 or 80 character, though I will say that the end boss killed my Bear Shaman a couple of times before I figured out an effective strategy. My semi-geared Demo rolled through the final boss fight with ease due to his AoE damage and the occasional crowd-control move.

Final thoughts

In terms of instance rewards, I've already mentioned the XP to be had, and it's worth noting that Nekkhi Khan dropped a 10,000 mastery XP tome to go along with the 2,000 XP tomes dropped by the other bosses and the 28,000 XP from the level 80 quest rewards (all of which isn't too shabby for 30 minutes' work). I also got a handful of blue armor drops, though only one of them was usable on my particular class. As it wasn't much of an upgrade, off to the auction house it went.

And that about does it for my first impressions of the Breach. Overall, it's quite a fun little instance. The rewards weren't zomg spectacular on my initial run-throughs, but it's an enjoyable daily diversion on the journey to 80 and beyond. I'll see you next week for another installment of The Anvil of Crom.

Jef Reahard is an Age of Conan beta and launch day veteran as well as the creator of Massively's weekly Anvil of Crom. Feel free to suggest a column topic, propose a guide, or perform a verbal fatality via
This article was originally published on Massively.