The Anvil of Crom: Savage Coast first impressions

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Oy, the life of a game blogger. Earlier this week I teed off a bit on subscription-based games that tack on a cash shop. The short version of that particular rant is that I'm not a fan of the practice, at all, and as far as my personal gaming time goes, I've bid adieu to all of the double-dippers formerly denting my wallet -- with one exception, of course.

Whether that one exception makes me a hypocrite or is simply part of my job description is something I haven't quite figured out yet. In any event, it's somewhat ironic that I'm now about to tell you what a good time I had after spending 20 bucks in Age of Conan's item store. Yep, there I was, forking over for 2400 Funcom points -- I only needed 2000 for the Savage Coast of Turan adventure pack, of course -- and enjoying it for the most part. Luckily, it only costs 520 Massively points to read my first impressions after the cut.
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Age of Conan - Ardashir streets
The adventure pack has added a lot of content to AoC, and though it's probably not enough to be dubbed an expansion, it's certainly better than some expansion offerings in other games that I've happily paid for in the past.

So, what is there to do? Plenty, and in fact there's so much that there's no way I can fit it all into today's column. I'll give you an overview here and we'll reconvene a few times over the next few Sundays for more in-depth hands-ons with different portions of the content. Sound good?

Age of Conan - Ardashir statueThe Savage Coast of Turan is inspired by the recent Conan the Barbarian film reboot, but to be perfectly honest, the most exciting part of the adventure pack for me was not getting Jason Momoa's sexy armor or talking with Artus. Rather, it was simply opening up the in-game map and seeing Turan. Hooray for an expanding gameworld!

Purchasing the pack proper was something of an adventure in and of itself due to the fact that I had to reboot my client a couple of times before it would believe me when I told it that yes, I had in fact bought the add-on. Once that was done, I discovered that starting the journey to Turan is as easy as sailing to Khemi and talking to Tali in the merchant alley towards the zone entrance. She sent me across the harbor, and I made my way through the port city to the Khitai caravan master on the opposite side of the map. I kept walking past the caravan to a newly explorable portion of Khemi, complete with a gaggle of NPC merchants and a second caravan master.

Talking to this chap netted me an introductory quest, so off I went to the land of loading screens (followed shortly by the land of harems and eunuchs, to borrow one of Funcom's chuckle-worthy dialogue bits). Artus and his big orange floating question mark swam into view as I loaded onto the Turan docks, and at this point you're free to waltz right up to the old pira... er, merchant... and get started on the various quest chains that shipped with the new content.

Or you can do what I did and spend an hour or two running around the new Coast of Ardashir playfield. It's more expansive than it first appears; in fact, it feels about the same size as Khitai's Northern Grasslands (and thankfully, unlike the early version of the Crashlands, it doesn't stutter, choke, or otherwise lag your computer to hell and back). You start off in Ardashir City, which reminded me of a miniature Minas Tirith. The city features plenty of interesting nooks and crannies to explore, and the rooftops and accessible ledges lend themselves to a bit of impromptu parkour if you're in to that sort of thing.

Age of Conan - Ardashir guardBefore leaving the city, you'll want to make a note of the locations for the Temple of Erlik (a new level 80 raid instance), the Isle of Iron Statues solo dungeon entrance on the boat dock where you zoned in, and the massive fort perched on a cliff across the harbor (which serves as the adventure pack's new level 80 group dungeon instance). The last bit of new content takes the form of Dead Man's Hand, and accessing it entails a quest from Artus.

Outside of Ardashir City, you'll travel through barren, gray-brown badlands that are quite different from any other AoC location. Despite the dreariness of the place, there's a certain beauty to it, and it's a good thing too, since you'll be spending a few hours here leveling from 50 to 55 or thereabouts.

Underscoring all of this is new orchestral music from Knut Avenstroup Haugen, and I think I speak for everyone when I say, please Funcom, sell us a CD or MP3 album right bloody now.

All things considered, I like what I'm seeing from the Savage Coast of Turan thus far. In terms of my playtime, I haven't done many of the quests yet, nor have I had time to duck inside any of the instances. I spent a little over two hours running around snapping screenshots, getting the lay of the land, and generally soaking up the newest addition to Funcom's Hyboria. If first impressions count for anything, I'd say it's probably worth the 2000 Funcom points (and actually, it'll only set you back 1300 if you can wait until the "official" release date of September 8th).

I'll be back next week with the first of a few in-depth looks at different pieces of Turan content. Until then, check out my Turan gallery above and the requisite concept art below.

The greatest concept art ever
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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 jef@massively.com.
This article was originally published on Massively.