PAX 2009: We travel east with Rise of the Godslayer

Kyle Horner
K. Horner|09.09.09

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PAX 2009: We travel east with Rise of the Godslayer

Age of Conan came to PAX pretty much directly off their announcement of the Rise of the Godslayer expansion. So when we arrived at our appointment to check the game out and speak with Executive Producer Craig Morrison, you can imagine our curiosity levels were quite high.

This expansion is taking players far into the eastern lands of Khitai, which is essentially a retelling of our own ancient eastern worlds. Something we were told right away is that Funcom wanted to avoid Japanese influences, as they're fairly over-saturated in videogames. Instead, they're going for a heavy focus on Korean and Chinese culture for the lands of Khitai.%Gallery-72323%
Interestingly, the Gateway to Khitai, which is part of a 20-to-40 area, is the only new area being added with the expansion. The vibe we got was that Funcom wants to flesh out the less potent part of the game world's content and this level spread was the weakest link -- at least until now.

Right away we noticed the Great Wall, which shadows over this zone and functions as something of a landmark for players to use while traveling around. It's incredibly powerful imagery and something that helps connect Conan's world to our own. Also much like our own world, Khitai represents a deep mystery to the other kingdoms in Age of Conan. Thus, the expansion is a voyage of discovery through a land about which little is known.

Many of the choices Funcom has made for this expansion are reactions to some of the prime complaints from the community. For example, the new zones are far more expansive and offer more chances for exploration. In fact, Craig told us the new zones possessed about 30-40% more playable game space. If you want more numbers, we were also told the current largest zones held about 1,100 NPCs while Rise of the Godslayer zones will offer 2,000 in comparison.

Craig also informed us that the new zones are stitched together, and players won't be "traveling" great distances between zone loads. So let's say you're standing atop the Great Wall. When doing so, you'll be able to see directly into the next zone, which will give players a far better sense of their surrounding world in-game.

So, some of you may be wondering why they choose Khitai. While it's true that Robert E. Howard didn't write much about Khitai, he expressed an interest. Specifically, as a compulsive letter writer (he actually wrote back and forth with Lovecraft for years) Howard wrote several letters to contemporaries about his desire of traveling abroad in the east. Sadly, he passed away before being able to do so and never got the chance to write about those experiences. Still, The Tower of the Elephant is at least one example and a well-known story of Howard's, which is why Funcom went with the story as the source of RotG.

The story is a wonderful piece of literary work, and there's even a great graphic novel version you can easily find online. However, if you'd just like to know what's going on right now, we're more than happy to bust out the basic lore.

Back when Conan was a young thief, he heard of an evil sorcerer's gem -- known as the Elephant's Heart -- locked away atop a great white tower. This place was known as the Tower of the Elephant. In Conan's youthful brashness, he becomes determined to scale the tower and steal this famous jewel for himself. However, upon reaching the top he discovers it's not a gem at all. In actuality, the sorcerer has captured a pacifist alien exile from the distant constellation of Yag named Yag-Kosha. This once powerful alien being had taken on a student, whose lust for power eventually drove him to enslave is former mentor. Now an emaciated shell of his former self, Yag-Kosha begged Conan to kill him in an act of mercy. It's a tough choice, and Conan decides to appease him and end his suffering.

Now, 25 years later when Conan is king, it turns out that the people of Khitai once worshiped this creature as a god -- and ever since their god was killed things haven't been going so well. So Conan's actions have had far-reaching consequences, because as far as the Khitai are concerned he murdered their god.

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