Today's installment will give you a first look at Dead Man's Hand, and no, I'm not talking about the unfortunate Xbox title that I once purchased in the hopes of playing Red Dead Redemption six years prior to Red Dead Redemption. No, this Dead Man's Hand is a new single-player instance in Age of Conan, and it's debuting shortly with all the rest of AoC's movie tie-in adventure pack content.
Head past the cut to join me in discovering what Funcom has to say about its latest dungeon endeavor (and oh yeah, I've got some exclusive screens and concept art for you as well).
Dead Man's Hand
The dynamic solo instance in the Savage Coast of Turan pack is the dangerous pirate island of Dead Man's Hand. This instance scales to your level between 50 and 80 and can be played in the same rotations as Age of Conan's other daily instances.
Players are sent to the island by Conan's old ally, Artus, and the narrative ties into part of the greater storyline that players will discover in and around the city of Ardashir. In this case, Artus wants the players' assistance in rooting out a traitor within his own ranks. No one ever said that pirates are the trustworthy type!
The pirates have made their home on the island despite the presence of indigenous savages who live in the swamps in the center of the island. These dangerous primitives have some strange rituals and are a constant threat to the pirate encampments.
The island has some fantastic visual diversity. Despite the almost tropical location, the skies are blackened by the constant ash cloud that belches out from the volcano on the island. This also means that there are thermal springs that create dangerously hot geysers in the arid rock valley that sits beyond the main pirate encampment.
You could almost think of this location as being the proverbial brooding, moody, darker, older brother of the starter zone in Tortage.
Dead Man's Hand differs from previous solo instances in that it almost doubles up as a kind of mini-quest-hub. The island has a great solo storyline to play through on your first visit; it revolves around the possible betrayal within the ranks of the Red Brotherhood, and the location also offers a great batch of side quests as well as a set of repeatable quests for future visits.
One of the unique elements of the instance is that it actually supports a lot of extra gameplay. Choosing from a selection of both one-off and repeatable side quests in addition to the main storyline quest, players get the chance to explore the setting a little more and experience the seedier side of a pirate's life. The player could find himself aiding the denizens of the local brothel or solving a series of mysterious murders that have blighted the population of the island.
In the main storyline, the player must investigate events on the island and interrogate the characters that are suspected of being involved in the betrayal. These quests lead to some really interesting encounters that the players must defeat, including a final confrontation aboard a pirate vessel that will test their skills. Continuing the work we have done with the previous solo instances, the gameplay here is also focused on providing some fun and interesting encounters, seasoning the game with the added spice of those additional side quests and stories.
Because this is a location that we know players will return to time and time again, the development team worked hard to ensure that the island was is stocked with interesting activities and that it offers that purely optional extra gameplay above and beyond the previous solo instances. So you can choose to just do the main repeatable quests, or you can choose to spend more time there and complete the side quests as well.
It puts the choice in the players' hands; the instance can either be a quick 20-minute romp or offer a longer solo play-session if you want it to. The team wanted to address that occasional downside to solo instances and open the area up to further exploration and questing alongside the central story.
The Dead Man's Hand
With its fantastically moody setting, mature storytelling, and engaging combat, the island offers solo players a great addition to their choices when it comes to daily content. Funcom is really looking forward to letting players explore the island for themselves when the adventure pack launches!
And that's a wrap on this week's Anvil of Crom. Jef will be back next week to dry the tears you're all shedding due to his shorter-than-normal prose outing, and depending on Funcom's release schedule, he'll hopefully be talking about his own experiences powering through the new content. Don't forget to check out the gallery above for full-size versions of the Dead Man's Hand screens and artwork.