Age of Conan: Rise of the Godslayer review
With its powerful character classes, offline levelling and emphasis on PvE, Age of Conan has made a niche for itself among casual solo players. The expansion hasn’t touched the player vs player side at all and Conan feels more like a singleplayer RPG than it ever has before. Fortunately, there’s still plenty here for groups, who can test their mettle across the 13 new dungeons scattered through the high level lands. The underpopulated beta server I was on made grouping difficult, but the dungeons I did see were inventive affairs. The most challenging lie at the base of the vast, ominous crater that scars the northern land of Kara Korum, where a six-man dungeon turns into a huge puzzle, with players activating combinations of switches to tailor their path to the boss. These instances may be tough but they’re nothing compared to the tier 4 Jade Citadel raids that pit you and an army of friends against the Emperor’s forces. You’ll need military grade organisation and help from the new alternative advancement system to stand a hope.
This new system means that at level 20 players now get access to one of three extra skill trees. Points earned in PvE can be spent on one half of the table and points from PvP kills on the other. Earn enough points in either class and you’ll be given Expertise, which can be spent on both sides of the table, which means that even if you don’t participate in PvP you can still gain abilities from that skill tree, albeit at a slower rate. There are new abilities to play with, but many of the new advancements work by buffing or altering existing spells and combos.
You can also use the alternative advancement system to train perks. These skills are passive bonuses activated by dragging them into a slot on a special taskbar that limits the number of perks you can have running at any one time. This means you’ll be switching between them depending on your enemy. Local wildlife bothering you? Boost your damage and finish them off faster. Angered a giant reanimated undead golem? Buff your toughness and you might survive the fight.
The system enables you to enhance the particular abilities you rely on, making your chosen play style more powerful, while also granting you the stat increases you’ll need to take on the challenges of the highest areas. Hit level 80 and the other two thirds of the advancement tree open up. When this happens you’ll have the option of learning these skills over the course of just a day or so. This removes the need for players to grind their way up the skill trees, while at the same time allowing casual players to spec up and keep pace with more active friends.
Rise of the Godslayer is a huge update that plays to Conan’s strengths and addresses many of its flaws, although there are still parts of the core game that need reworking. Veteran players will be disappointed that the starting area of Tortage remains unchanged, with only slight differences if you start as a Khitan character. Some uninspired writing and manneqinlike NPCs threaten to undermine the drama, and PvP enthusiasts, served so well by many of the free updates, will find nothing in the expansion beyond the extra skills.
Overall, though, there’s a sense that Godslayer is exactly what Age of Conan needed. The low level Gateway to Khitai area will ease the transition to Ymir’s Pass, one of the level 60-80 areas added last year, and the other four zones of Khitai offer months of activity at the highest level. Lapsed high-level players will be rewarded if they return, and there’s never been a better time for new barbarians to join the fun.
A mammoth update that caters for mid to high level players. Memorable new lands and quests make up for the lack of PvP.