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Age of Conan expansion concept art unveiled

Adrian Bott

As we mentioned, Funcom's Hyborian MMORPG Age of Conan is set to expand. As of yesterday, the concept art first shown at Leipzig is now available to view, courtesy of GameSpy. The dragon banners, pagoda-like structures and mask style suggest that Khitai, Robert E. Howard's composite version of China, may be the setting. If so - and this is only speculation - it might be a promising choice, despite not receiving much attention in the original Howard tales.

Khitai is far to the east of Aquilonia, Stygia and Cimmeria. In A Witch Shall Be Born, Howard portrayed Khitai as a place of sorcery and deep tangled jungles: 'He was a magician from far Khitai, returning to his native kingdom after a journey to Stygia. He took me with him to purple-towering Paikang, its minarets rising amid the vine-festooned jungles of bamboo, and there I grew to womanhood under his teaching. Age had steeped him deep in black wisdom, not weakened his powers of evil. Many things he taught me...' The current race options in Age of Conan don't allow any race but Stygians to be mages, so a Khitai-based expansion could change that. The Tower of the Elephant also mentions 'priests of Yun' who dwell in the lost jungles of Khitai. If the concept art shows rogues and soldiers, a player character Khitai race could be the first to have access to all four class options.

Warhammer Online Coverage Having fun in Conan's homeland? Make sure to check out all of our previous Age of Conan coverage, and stick with Massively for more news from the Hyborian Age!

Additional Conan lore concerning Khitai also mentions the Swamps of the Dead, the only place where the Grey Lotus grows - surely an ideal place for a resource gathering zone. With a name like that, it's easy to imagine the kind of creatures which would infest such a place, and the designers could draw on legends of Asian ghosts and other undead for inspiration. There's also a Great Wall of Khitai on the western border, which could allow for cross-border clashes against the Hyrkanians, of the kind we now see in Conall's Valley against the Vanir.

The history of Khitai is murky. According to Howard's The Hyborean Age, many Lemurians fled their island after it sank under the ocean, and settled on the eastern shore of the Thurian Continent, where Khitai is at the time of Age of Conan. The fleeing Lemurians were 'enslaved by the ancient race which already dwelt there', the ancestors of the Stygians. The Lemurian people appear to have been a common ancestor to the Khitai people and the Hyrkanians: 'Far to the East, the enslaved Lemurians have risen and destroyed their masters. They are savages, stalking the ruins of a strange civilization. The survivors of that civilization have come westward, overthrowing the pre-humans of the south and founding a new kingdom called Stygia.' There's plenty of history here for cultural enmity to be built on.

Funcom is looking to the players to provide ideas for the expansion's content. GameSpy mentioned that 'Product manager Erling Ellingsen said that the studio is aiming to encourage speculation amongst the game's community as to the nature of the expansion, in order to mine their commentary for ideas -- a practice that, according to him, Funcom engages in regularly.'

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