The Anvil of Crom: Three features Age of Conan needs right now

The Anvil of Crom - Three features Age of Conan needs right now
Well, I'm still dodging buckets of boiling oil and flaming arrows on account of my last column. Before I embark on another bit of shoddy journalism, irresponsible cronyism, and revisionist history -- known colloquially around these parts as an opinion piece -- I'd better take a few moments to clear the Occupy Massively folks off my front lawn.

OK, all set. They're crusading against the man in another comment section, so won't you join me after the cut for a look at some missing (and essential) Age of Conan features?

Age of Conan - Kara Korum moon
So, niceties and quality-of-life bells and whistles. Every game has them, including Age of Conan. As I've been playing heavily over the last couple of weeks, though, the lack of a few features from other games has become glaringly apparent. There are probably a bunch more that I haven't (re)encountered yet, too, so share your own wishlist in the comments and we'll present our case to Funcom together.

And yeah, I know the snarky among you just can't wait to chime in with "bring back 1.04!" and "fix the bugs!" but we're not talking about major game systems (at least for today).

Naming keybind
Prior to my AoC renaissance, I was spending a good bit of time in Lord of the Rings Online. While Turbine's game doesn't measure up to AoC in terms of combat gameplay or animations, it is quite beautiful in its own way (and the Middle-earth setting compels me to fill up my hard drive with screenshots, like over 10,000 of them, yes really).

Thankfully Turbine had the foresight to code in a simple toggle function for both mob and player names, so pressing your N key turns off all of those immersion-killing leetspeak names, which helps with roleplay and makes for prettier screen caps. Age of Conan, on the other hand, requires you to wade through a menu tree and check/uncheck various boxes for NPC names, player names, etc.

It's functional, but it's hardly ideal, particularly in high-end areas like Kara Korum or really any of the Khitai zones. Saying the mobs here are densely packed is one way of putting it. Saying that you can't travel five feet without aggroing something would be another. It's quite annoying, then, when you happen upon a screenshot-worthy vista and you're faced with 30 seconds of menu-diving to rid your UI of all the mob names.

Sure, you could travel around with the names off by default, but good luck surviving zone pulls because you didn't see that scorpion blending in with the terrain. Oh, and AoC's I'm-not-breaking-aggro-until-you-reach-the-other-side-of-the-zone trash mobs will make your Hyborian life a living hell too. Trust me, I know.

I know there's probably some perfectly valid engineering reason why this can't be done, lest the whole house of coded cards come tumbling down, but still, it's a keybind, amirite?

Dressing Room
Next on my personal must-have-nao list is some sort of appearance preview. A year or so ago, it was vanity slots in general, but since the devs set off a bunch of rejoicing by adding this functionality, it's time to move on to the next logical request.

I'll point to EverQuest II here, but plenty of other MMOs come standard with this feature as well. In EQII, you simply hover your mouse over a piece of gear and control-click it. A dressing room window pops up that shows you what your avatar would look like wearing that particular item (and of course you can do this with all the various item slots, thereby mixing and matching gear before you spend hard-earned coin on it).

One of the surprising things to note about Age of Conan is that there is a lot of social gear. And by "a lot," I mean a whole lot. I toyed around with making a guide for this week's column, but it quickly spiraled out of control and is now a long-term project due to the sheer number of items and armor/clothing sets involved. And that's not even counting the actual armor items that can be used as vanity gear.

Anyhow, it's nice that each item's icon is a little tiny 3-D representation of the actual item, but it's little and tiny. It's also impossible to see whether your Brittle Blade Honor Mask will clash with that Bossonian tunic you've been eyeballing on the auction house.

Skip Tortage
Finally, for the love of Crom, can we get a "skip Tortage" button for the vets in the audience? This is another one of those things that seems relatively easy to implement from the outside looking in, so I can only assume that there's a very good reason that it continues to elude us.

If you're new to AoC and not sure exactly what I'm talking about, picture this. You're having a good time in Tortage right now because it's a really well-designed starter area chock-full of pro quests, scrumptious zones, and a nice mixture of MMO gameplay and single-player story tomfoolishness.

Now, imagine doing that same story again on your ninth alt. Not quite as endearing is it? That's where some of us are at with regard to Tortage, and because there is but one lone newblet zone in AoC, some of us have been at this point for several years now.

It's a shame because AoC's class roster is, well, the class of the genre. The melee combat has been discussed to death, but the game's ranged and healing mechanics differ from your typical themepark's, so it's well worth stepping outside your main character once in a while to see what else is on offer. And this would be a whole lot more enjoyable if there was an insta-20 button made available to you once you've completed Tortage a time or two.

Now to be fair, Funcom has offered free level 50 characters via certain promotions, and that serves the same purpose. You get one per account, though, which is woefully inadequate for altoholics who want to check out the other classes. Funcom also gives free offline levels to premium players, but you have to be level 30 to spend them, which rules out any chance of using them to skip Tortage.

And that's she all wrote for this week's Anvil of Crom. Be sure to flame me leave your thoughts in the comments after you get a load of my favorite concept art.

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 bi-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.