Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Assassin lingo

"I have KBed him and used LO with DWW and then followed with GC+SS and FC. Use that against hox and tos"

This is actual quote  that I have seen on forums, posted as a tip for the newcomer.If I was that poor newb I would have been like: "I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT".

So I have written this little guide to take you young cutters into the inner circle of Assassindom. First, as with all things, you have to learn the lingo. Hence here we are.

The most commonly used abbreviations:

SDS - slow death strikes
SS - swift strikes (can also mean soul strike, see miasmas)
Kick - snap kick
GC - grim corruption
IL - impede life
GB, grave - grave's blossom
DWW, DW - death's whirlwind

CC and CC breakers:
CC - crowd control, effect that makes your opponent stuned, feared etc.
KB - knock back, can be applied via snap kick
Immunity - when lotus overload procs you are pretty much immiune to magic for 5s
OP - opportunistic strike (stun)
DG, gaze - death's gaze (fear)
Curse - curse of the lotus (fear)
EB - excellent balance

Buffs and Debuffs:
LO - lotus overload
Avatar - avatar of death
Kidney, KS - kidney shots
DP - dull pain
Burden, B2B - burden to bear (armor debuff)

Mechanics and Miasmas:
Shards, Souls - soul shards, those are consumed by miasmas and some combos, regenerated over time,
DoT - damage over time,
FS - face stab miasma
SS - soul strike miasma
Dart - lotus dart miasma
Buff - effect that makes your character stronger (like dull pain)
Debuff - effect that makes your character weaker (like armor ruin)
FTD - from the darkness (charge)
Explosion, Bomb, Detonation - essence detonation

Sin - assassin
Hox - herald of xotli
Tos - tempest of set
Guard - guardian
Pom - priest of Mitra
Demo - demonologist
Necro - necromancer
Pet - usually necromancer's pets
Barb - barbarian
Conq - conqueror
DT - dark templar

HV, vault - hallowed vault
LT, temple - lost temple
BR - blood ravine
Totem, TT - totem torrent
SAG - The Call of Jhebbal Sag

Sunday, December 18, 2011


Can't get into PVE. And the picture is my character inside fat PVE boss. See what I did there? Cleverness! The issue is a little more serious thou. Recently I have given PVE a fair shake. How fair one? Done few hard modes, tried the district instances in Paikang and even went 3 times for the Toth-Amon tier 3 raid. I really wanted to enjoy those activities and to some extend I did. Hell, I even used my over the time training for the PVE cover of the dusk golden perk. I kinda regret it now.

The problem is that I don't enjoy group PVE all that much. I think I have just missed the social part of my gaming, you know, signing up on vent, talking to people. That experience is pretty alien to PVPers. Yeah, I am slowly becoming a sociopath. There are a couple of things that just don't click with me when it comes to group PVE and here the list:

Time investment - By Crom! PVE is just a time sink. What I love about PvP is that you can just do *click click* join a minigame, pwn or get pwned in 10-20 minutes tops and you are done. Done! I really enjoy that I can cut my playtime into pieces, so to speak, and enjoy the game in such a way that I can make my gaming fit my schedule and not the other way around: setting everything to fit the raiding time etc.The group instances can take quite a big chunk of time and the raiding is just absurd. For the first time in a couple of years I actually got into argument with my significant other over my gaming. "But I CAN'T just turn it off, we are on second boss!" Of course I haven't said that, but what I really like about PvP is the predictability. I can merely check the time and say: "I will be done in 4 minutes". With raiding? I can only check my watch and think "I should have been done like an hour ago".

"Remember, Time is a greedy player Who wins without cheating, every round!"
The Clock - Charles Baudelair

Effort investment - The "looking for MT and healer" stuff is killing me. Seems like a pure waste of time. I know that Age of Conan is pretty ancient with how LFG work, but still you cannot compare experience to what you are getting with minigames: click & join. True, if you get a good group for PVE the experience will be much more pleasurable than trying to handle your random team mates, but I will take my random group of non-existent group because I can't get that damn tank).

Fun factor - It seem like I am just not cut for the group pve. From what I understand PVE is very much about team effort. There is no place for "I" in the word "team". As a person I aim for individual achievements and I am not really a team player. Sure, there is a team effort in group PVP, but it seems like in 6v6 or even 12vs12 I as a player have a significant impact on the outcome. In raiding I am just another "DPS monkey" and in group PVE it very much seems like the success or failure lies in the hands of tank and healer. I also very much enjoy the lore and story in my solo PVE. I literally read every bit of quest text. What I don't like in group PVE that everyone is RUSHING things: clickly clicky the NPC, get quest, rush in, bam bam the quest mobs, and we are done. Also I can get that sweet adrenaline rush whenever I am getting another player down, but I cannot seem to get same feeling when the Boss going down.

So there you have it. There is nothing wrong with Age of Conan  group PVE content, but it seems like I am PVPer at heart. I am glad that I gave PVE a fair shake and will most likely try out new PVE stuff that will be coming out, but my daily gaming can only be PVP and that is the way I like it.


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Update Notes 3.1 - 13th of December [Assassin]

  • The Corrupted Poison feat now also lowers the reuse time of the Grim Corruption combos.
  • Increased the finisher bonus damage of the Slow Death Strike combos.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Assassin's Hideout Podcast - ep.26

show notes:
- patch 3.1 taking long
- AOC in 2012
- podcast on FTP and in mp3!

Edit: had some technical problems, the file is fucked up a bit :X.
Edit 1: the file is now hosted on

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Age of Conan addon 2012?

I have been thinking where the devs are going to take us in the next add on for Age of Conan. Hyboria is a very vast land (continent?) so there is plenty to pick from. Instead of trying to the the guessing I have decided to give you my top 4 wish list for the places I would like to see in Age of Conan

4. Vanaheim and Asgard - aesirs and vanirs are constantly raiding each others. I kinda miss the mountains in Age of Conan (haven't had a chance to visit them since last year's event) and it would be great chance for introducing two new factions to AOC. Since Funcom already used up the stuff from "Frost Gigant's daughter" story from REH it is very unlikely that we will see it.

3. Hyperborea - shrouded in mystery, high magic and decadence. It would have most interesting visuals for sure.

2. Zamora - with it's city of thieves: Shadizar. I am a bit tired of eastern themes in AOC, but I will like to visit this city for sure.

1. Nemedia - this is it! I want another epic struggle between Aquilonia and Nemedia, two mightiest countries of the dreaming west. You can see the very border of Nemedia and Aquilonia if you go to the Border Range instance. There are also two great stories from REH portraying the conflict between those empires: The Hour of The Dragon and Scarlet Citadel.

Nemedian armor

Nemedian architecture
Visit Border Range for a great place to RP in

Thursday, December 8, 2011

World Drops

I have always had 3 main issues with Age of Conan. First being the looks: everyone looked the same. Constantly looking at same, plain, dirty armor that everyone on your level is wearing. Luckily the vanity armor tab fixed that and now I am constantly amazed how creative people can get with their style.

Second thing is crafting. Lets not beat the dead horse here. Luckily, again, the current system is getting burned to the ground and rebuild from scratch. Last, but not least: the world drops.

Age of Conan has the hands down THE worst looting system I have ever seen. The worst. Pretty much all the mobs are dropping is trash, hardly worth picking up. I personally really like the world drops. To this day I remember my low level epic mace that dropped on my +30lvl Rogue in World of Warcraft many years ago. That felt great. I think that a large part of a pleasure that comes out of playing an MMO is that feeling of hope that perhaps, just perhaps, the next mob will drop something really good. When you could get epic weapons in the Villas people used to play those non-stop and there were no complains that it is boring or repetitive (hell, I like to re-visit those from time to time even now). Then the purple rain came. For those of you that weren't here in 2008 to experience it: the mobs in Potains (back then Potain was infestedwith demons for no reason whatsoever) were dropping blue weapons on each kill and epic weapons every couple of kills. It was insane, obvious bug. Funcom's solution? The removal of epic world drops from the game *face palm*.

With the Khitai expansion came the loot bags. Now, I like the very idea, but hate the execution. While epic weapons can pop out those bags (I have seen those on trader) it is very, very, very, very rare. That and the drops are not really comparable to vendor sold epics. I am running my Khitai quest rotation daily and on average I get about 12-15 bags (those advanced ones). To this day I got only about 5-8 BLUE weapons out of those. I think I have easily opened couple thousands of bags and got few mere blues. Great.

Room for improvements? I am not saying that mobs should shower players with epics (trust me, tried that with bugged demons and it gets boring fast :D), but player should be rewarded from time to time for his efforts. Social items, nicely looking blues, crazy mount, or even pet would have been welcomed.

If the crafting system was working I would have at least be pleased with the crafting materials drops. After 3 years I have 3 bank characters JAM PACKED with crafting stuff and that is after helping my guild reach renown lvl20 through crafting.

But seeing how vanity tab changed the game for the better (can imagine now playing without it) there is still hope that crafting will again turn the tables for Age of Conan.  

What is the best stuff you have gotten out of your solo PVE in the open world in Age of Conan?

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Get into (blogging) game

Recently we have lost quite the number of Age of Conan bloggers. This takes me to the main issue of how little press coverage and media Age of Conan gets. Hint: very little. Looking back at what blogs we had I gotta mention: - the grandfather of all blogs. If anything it gave me the idea of running class blog. Evii's writing was more of a "trial and error" type of guides, more of a journal if anything, where he was jotting his notes about his progression with the class. - the blog I loved for it's personalized touch on Age of Conan.Quite a few rants and insights about how the things were back in the days (of high adventure).I still do troll this blog by posting a comment about some major events in AOC. - now that was some major disappointment for me: the guy had such an energy to just go in and write his ass off. And yet here we are :X - a blog dedicated to conqueror's class. It had nice vibe, but it the end it seems like the author wasn't really all that into Age of Conan in the first place - a dear student of mine. Of all blogs this one had the potential to become this great, refined thing. Arcalimon had the dedication and the will to go on. Sad to see him go. - a very interesting and niche project. I have been following "deadly sins" with anticipation. Basically the blog was covering the whereabouts of assassin only guild. 

And the honorable mention goes to this guy: - "Our future is simple to expand, Recruit and to expand our knowledge to help our fast growing users of the website" indeed my good sir, truer words were never written... 

If you are thinking about writing your own blog I highly recommend doing that. No, really do it. Here are few tips about the things I have learned the hard way: 

1. Audience - don't get into blogging if you are not willing to write just for yourself. I find it very rewarding to just type in what I am thinking about and if someone reads that and enjoys it: great. When I started I had like 2-3 readers and now I have about 200 page hits per day. Even if all of you were gone I would still have kept doing it because "one bitten, forever smitten". That is how we roll in the bloggosphere (I HATE that word). 

2. Content - I think most people have problems with finding the stuff to write about. Lets face it: Age of Conan ain't WoW, baby, and if you are going to rely only on re-posting official news you are not only going to bore your readers to death, but also starve your blog and end up like (prime example of what not to do). My rule of thumb is: share knowledge and opinions. Those are the two things that people are really interested in: finding crucial piece of information about their class that will help them to improve the game play experience or read some one's rants and that they hopefully agree with (if not they can always rage in the comments). Don't be afraid to post things that you think are nothing out of ordinary, you don't have to be in world's first T4 Emperor kill to write something interesting. Hell, if anything I am enjoying those "oh-not-so-epic" tales written by low level players that are taking their first steps in Hyborian kingdoms.

3. Persistence - if you are going to write then STICK with it.Just like with everything else by re-engaging in the activity on regular basis you will develop habit. If you are going to do 3 posts in 2 days and then go silent for 2 months then no one (except some crazy weirdos like me) are going to ever read your crap again. 

4. Enjoy it - this is the last, but not least. This is not your second job, this is not your future carrier or gateway to "Internetz famez". It should, optimally, be something that you really enjoy doing. If you have this creative side of you that is screaming to get out then this is great opportunity to express yourself. The blog gives me a chance to vent some feeling about a game (it sounds super geeky, but we all got angry at a game at one point),criticize things that I don't like, give my appreciation to things that I love (so it is not "once I did wrong and that I am hearing ever, twice I did right and that I am hearing never") and finally share whatever knowledge I can with other players. I like giving tips inside the game when someone asks for help simply because I like helping people. The blog lets me to do same thing, but, hopefully, on a larger scale. These things I enjoy. 

Yeah, that is about it, the four key factors. I highly encourage you to at very least give it a shot. Hit the "create a blog" button and give me your thoughts - I dare you.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

[Guide] Lotus Dart miasma

Perhaps the most misunderstood miasma of all: the lotus coated dart is also known as lotus dart. When lotus dart is used with Slow Death Strikes it creates DoT called Lotus Toxin: Deadly Venom, and if Grim Corruption effect is present the Lotus Dart will trigger Lotus Toxin: Grim essence. Wow that is a lot of lingo to memorise!

This is why people refer to both of those effect as simply "Lotus Dart" calling each of those "Lotus Toxins" as Lotus Dart + SDS (slow death strikes) or Lotus Dart silence (lotus dart + GC).

Lotus Dart
This miasma is our only ranged attack. I mean "attack" is really too big of an word: on it's own, without any poison present, it puts a DOT on your target and ticks for mere couple of hundred damage. Really, you can call yourself lucky if  you get 500 dmg out it if. In comparison other miasmas are superior: face stab on it's own does 1 x damage which can easily crit over 1000 dmg (on players!) and soul strike can crit up to 600, but more importantly it applies holy/unholy debuff that can be stacked. So what can you do with lotus dart alone?

Pulling - I find it a great tool to pull mobs with out switching to cross bow. It is very fast (instant) and has quite a reach.

Chasing - it can be useful if you are chasing after someone in open world PVP. If your opponent runs long enough unmolested he can re-stealth which pretty much makes your kill go bye-bye. Throw lotus dart at him and he will again be marked as in PVP so not being able to enter stealth.

Lotus dart + crossbow
- man, that is REALLY reaching for it, but yeah the sweetest kills you can get in PVP are those made with crossbow and since you can use your dart while holding and shooting crossbow why not add those pitiful damage numbers to whatever you can do with your ranged attacks.

Killing critters - nothing like using dart on chickens...*sigh*

Lotus dart + SDSIf the dot from SDS if present on the target (it will stay only for 5 seconds) and Lotus Dart is used then SDS dot is consumed and replaced by two new dots: Deadly Venom and Lotus Dart crappy dot. What is the main difference between SDS dot and Deadly Venom apart from damage? Well SDS does unholy damage and Deadly Venom is poison damage which means it is checked against armor. This means that deadly venom will take advantage from armor debuffs like burden to bear. Back when patch 1.6 that brought assassin revamp was on test server deadly venom did so massive and constant damage that your screen was almost blocked by flying damage numbers. It was nerfed pretty badly. Nevertheless it is still a very potent DOT. You can get 2 upgrades for this:

Steeped Lotus Extract - +15% damage and +10 spell critical chance. It is decent, but essence detonation gets one more stat which is Spell Critical Chance. This is why detonation based builds are turning out more devastating damage. It is decent upgrade, if you are going to invest heavily in lotus tree then take it.

Baneful venom - this is a second dot that gets added along with SDS dot. The trick is that Lotus Dart consumes only SDS dot and Baneful venom will stay. I like this upgrade.

Vile Corruption
- this adds instant unholy damage when SDS dot is consumed by Lotus Dart. It is like mini (and I say MINI) detonation on top of your dot. I like this upgrade better than Baneful venom because it also works great with Face Stab. Face stab does instant damage and this Vile Corruption is in sync with it since it is also instant which creates great spike.

When to use Lotus Dart with SDS
After essence detonation - as explained in previous post about essence detonation it leaves the target softened up and vulnerable. Both armor debuff & poison debuff help the Deadly Venom poison damage and unholy debuff help SDS dot damage and Baneful Venom/Vile Corruption damage. This is why opening fight with essence detonation is superior to any other combination.

When the target has low armor - with armor up to medium lotus dart will have better effect than with heavy/full plate.

When there is high chance the target will run - I wouldn't count on Dark Templar running away from assassin, but you can pretty much expect this from ranged casters and rangers. The problem is that your target can be running away as you are going through your grim corruption animation which means the opponent will be far out of reach of your soul strike miasma. Same is not true for lotus dart: not only you can use SDS rank II to apply DOT super fast (it has no effect on how strong the DOT from dart will be), but also with dart's super long reach you will still be able to consume the dot with your miasma.

When target is trying to pick up a flag - nothing interrupts picking up the flag than constant DOT damage

Lotus Dart + Avatar of Death - DOT's ticks provide great, constant stream of healing if you have Avatar of Death running.

Lotus Dart silence (lotus dart + GC)
It lasts mere 3 seconds. Really, it is a waste most of the times. I guess it has it's uses when it is bundled with SDS so your opponent has both DOT and silence on him, but when it comes to quickly silencing your enemy I still favor Choking powder perk

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Second assassin advocate steps down

FURYBlakhart, action movie star, philanthropist and raider has made this announcement:

Not going to go into huge amounts of detail but I wanted to let the Sin Community know I have told Sil, Funcom, etc that I am no longer going to be the sin advocate and will probably not renew my sub past its current cycle.

In short; too many issues with varying aspects of the game and also trying to rationalize spending the extra time not only playing the game but also doing the Advocate stuff vs real life.

It's been great fun and this has been one of the better communities around in my opinion.

Hope for those who are enjoying the game that you continue to do so and have fun!

Take it easy everyone.

 This was our second and only advocate after Chillwhisper who quited long time ago.

Personally I am very surprised because I have always considered FURY one of the die hards. I am sure that real life stuff was a major factor in his decision however his bitterness about the state of the game is also evident (which I find totally justified).

Live long and prosper FURY, you will be missed.

You can check more on FURY in this interview I did with him a while ago.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

When barbarian becomes a king

I love re-reading Conan stories by REH. I find myself noticing those little informations about Hyboria that I have missed the first time and more so references to the real, historical events that most likely inspired Mr. Howard. Mind you Howard claimed that the Conan simply "materialized" in his mind as if Howard was indeed experiencing glimpses of the prehistoric past. This is, of course, not true considering how many elements of Hyboria are lifted from our history...but then again history likes to repeat itself, doesn't it? And the Conan stories do feel like REH was merely writing down tales told to him in random order, by a seasoned adventurer (this is what author claimed). Going back to the topic: so how did Conan become the king?

I am pretty sure that he had to be a high ranked commander in Aquilonian army to gain popularity
When I led her armies to victory as a mercenary, Aquilonia overlooked the fact that I was a foreigner, but now she can not forgive me.

- Phoenix on the sword
During his carrier Conan served in many armies often gaining rank of general so at his later age he was not only an able fighter, but also a competent commander:

    He was a professional fighting-man. In search of
    employment (he said) he had come to Keshan. For a price he would train
    the armies of Keshan and lead them against Punt, their hereditary
    enemy, whose recent successes in the field had aroused the fury of
    Keshan's irascible king.

    The proposition was not so audacious as it might seem. Conan's fame
    had preceded him, even into distant Keshan;

- Jewels of Gwahlur

For me it is pretty obvious that Conan has stormed the Old Tarantia with Aquilonian forces that were loyal to him. He was, after all, a very popular commander because even as a King he fought in the first lines along with his troops. It is pretty obvious that one cannot choke to death the king of the mightiest kingdom of the west if he is not backed up by thousands of swords. But there is another interesting thing that Conan mentions:

    Looking back now over the wild path I followed, all those days of toil, intrigue,

    slaughter and tribulation seem like a dream.

- Phoenix on the sword

People often think that Conan was this straightforward and brutally honest barbarian, incapable of cooking up any scheme or intrigue . That might have been true for the young Conan.

    The Cimmerian glared about, embarrassed at the roar of mocking laughter that greeted this remark. He saw no particular humor in it, and was too new to civilization to understand its discourtesies

- Tower of the Elephant

But in fact in his  mercenary days Conan was proficient enough to understand and exploit politics, faction's struggle and was already reaching for the power:
You will like Tombalku ! It was made for men like us to loot! There are half a dozen powerful factions plotting and intriguing against each other - there are continual brawls in the taverns and streets, secret murders, mutilations and executions. (...) I am high in favor and power!

- Drums of Tombalku

Going back to the comic that really inspired this post I find it very naive to present Conan as savior of Aquilonia, a man that "saw, came and conquered" because poor Aquilonians were oppressed by a mad man. He did it simply because he could and wanted to. His ambition was to carve out an empire of his own which he attempted for the first time, I believe in "The Vale of Lost Women" when he was war chief of Bamulas.
When King Numedides lay dead at my feet and I tore the crown from his gory head and set it on my own, I had reached the ultimate border of my dreams.

- Phoenix on the sword
Here is where the comics books idolize Conan as this romantic hero that slew Numedies pretty much in self defence (when Conan's back was turned Numedies rushed him with a dagger). Conan killed him because that is what you do when you are taking throne by force. He mentions this in "Scarlet Citadel"

I climbed out of the abyss of naked
barbarism to the throne and in that climb I spilt my blood as freely
as I spilt that of others

- The Scarlet Citadel

I am strongly suspecting that Conan was serving in Aquilonian army with a sole intent of one day reaching for the throne. This is something that he did before - numerous times. In "A Witch Shall Be Born" he joined Olgerd Vladislav and his Kozaki forces only to later become the chief, break Olgerd's  arm and banish him to the desert. In "The Pool of the Black one" Conan climbs aboard of the Wastrel, a ship under the command of Zaporavo with an intend to kill the Captain Zaporavo and take over the crew.
"A ship can always use another good sailor," answered the other
without resentment. Zaporavo scowled, knowing the truth of that
assertion. He hesitated, and doing so, lost his ship, his command,
his girl, and his life. But of course he could not see into the
future, and to him Conan was only another wastrel,

- The Pool of the Black One

Now about Numedides himself: he very much resembles Nero of ancient Rome.
"Now in Mitra's temple there come to burn incense to Numedides' memory, men
whom his hangmen maimed and blinded, men whose sons died in his dungeons, whose
wives and daughters were dragged into his seraglio. The fickle fools!"

He idealizes the king whom Conan killed to get the crown,
remembering only that he occasionally patronized the arts, and forgetting the
evils of his reign,

- Phoenix on the sword

Nero's rule is often associated with tyranny and extravagance. He is known for many executions, including those of his mother and the probable murder by poison of his stepbrother, Britannicus. Nero enjoyed driving a one-horse chariot, singing to the lyre, and poetry

- Nero, From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Recently I have also found some other reference to ancient Rome which might be a bit far fetched, but REH mixed and matched so many events of history and civilizations  that you can never be sure:
State persecution of Christians ceased in the 4th century, when Constantine I  issued an edict of toleration in 313. On 27 February 380,

- Christianity From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

"Why should you risk your lives for me?" asked the king.

"You were our friend when you sat upon your throne," answered Hadrathus. "You protected us when the priests of Mitra sought to scourge us out of the land."

- The Hour of the Dragon

So Conan protected the followers of Asura from persecution. The temples of Asura were hidden in Old Tarantia just as Christians in the Rome had their secret gathering places. Both of those religions were considered a cult at some point.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Lore whore: the begining

art by Frank Frazetta
Not the best title of the post, but it will have to do. With the recent...shall we say..stagnation of Age of Conan I feel the need to change the focus of this blog just a little bit, otherwise you will get nothing, but constant stream of rants about how bad the things are. Sure I will be doing guides and regular stuff (I have few posts lined up like the lotus dart and penetration guide), but I want to explore a little bit the lore section of Hideout. I am big lore fan (or "whore" is you must) . I won't be covering any "basic", well known stuff, but rather give you my thoughts about all the things that are not obvious when you are reading the books for the first time. For example: assassins in the lore. Yep, if you read the books really carefully you will find some references about those men of the most noble of professions. There is just so much to talk about. Looking at the blog's stats I was really surprised that the all time most popular post on the Assassin's Hideout is.... Janosik = Conan. I doubt that Janosik is a popular Internet meme so I guess people are looking for more in depth information about Hyboria. Anyway I am preparing my first post about how Conan became the king of Aquilonia which will give you a taste of things to come. Would you be interested in more lore related posts? Let me know in the comments.

Friday, October 28, 2011

[Guide] Soul Strike miasma and essence detonation

In this post I will be talking about Soul Strike. For many this miasma means only one thing: essence detonation. True, detonation is the main dish on corruption table, but it has other perks as well.

Since there are so many miss conceptions about detonation I will try to cover this subject from assassin perspective and from other classes perspective (not how OP it is, but rather how to defend yourself from it).

Testing your damage/penetration/debuff

Before we go any further I will let you on a little "secret" the test dummy in your guild city/social summon has 0 armor and 0 protection. This means that your damage will stay pretty much the same regardless of debuffs you put on your dummy. Furthermore the spell penetration will also have 0 effect because there is no spell protection to be by passed.

Soul Strike (SS) without base poision

Soul Strike (as opposed to lotus dart) has a basic utility even when used without SDS/GC (base poison). Shortly after it's usage it applies a debuff  "Spiritual Torment". This adds -250 protection debuff against holy and unholy damage and can be stacked 5 times. The debuff time is 30s, but it can be refreshed. What this means is that it is beneficial for you to use Soul Strike on your target even when your grim corruption combo is on cool down because it will "soften up" your target for you and your allies. Furthermore Soul Strike on it's own can crit as a spell and add some small damage for "free".

Soul Strike + Slow Death Strike
This combination is our only "instant" CC. This means that as long as your target has SDS dot on him you can use Soul Strike to consume that dot and stun your opponent. It is a great way to break opponent's combo or spell if you see it coming. Furthermore you can stack both SDS and GC effects to, at the same time, stun and apply essence detonation. This is beneficial for two reasons: it prevent your opponent from using a bubble to mitigate the damage and prevents any healing.

Essence detonation
This is hot topic. Is is overpowered? Everything that you use against under geared opponent without AAs can feel that way. However things has changed since patch 1.6 that introduced as to detonation. You can now invest in AA passive perk that will give you better resistance against unholy type of damage and thus effectively lowering its effectiveness. So simple solution. Now I think that essence detonation is the king and queen of miasma and here is the reason why: everything that you do pre-detonation and the debuffs that you get post it will give you an advantage over any other miasma combination. In fact other miasmas get get more effective if they follow the detonation. Reason for this: GC will apply wrack that lowers resistance to all types of damages and debuffs against unholy/holy, you might also get burden to bear debuff if you have that feated in. After the detonation you will also get the above mentioned spiritual torment debuff. Your opponent will be greatly soften up for anything else you might throw at him afterwards, especially since large part of assassin's damage (if you are hybrid specced) comes from unholy type of damage (corrupted blades) and your vile corruption (feat that gives extra unholy damage when SDS dot is consumed) will also get a boost. Hell, even your SDS will get a boost since it does unholy damage.

The damage of detonation largely comes from your spell damage, rank of Grim Corruption is irrelevant - you won't get bigger bang from GCV than GCI.

You can upgrade your detonation via soul destruction feat. When maxed (which I do recommend) it gives +15 spell critical damage (and we all love when detonation crits) +15 spell critical chance (the more crits the bigger the damage) and 10% increase to damage. This feat makes an ocean of difference.

More so detonation does small AOE damage which is very beneficial in solo pve (since mobs tend to stick together) and in pvp to some extend.

Detonation, after you have used soul strike with GC debuff on, will go off in 4 seconds and will give visual notification in a form of large, black explosion.

Keep in mind one thing: Soul Strike as a miasma is a spell. This means that it can be resisted (detonation will not trigger) or in very unfortunate cases it will proc lotus overload on other assassin (which lasts 5 seconds so 1 second more than the detonation).

The reach of soul strike is slightly longer than your combos, but still you have to be pretty darn close to your target to apply it.

Detonation is also not always the super best choice. The damage is delayed and during that 4 seconds anything can happen, including your opponent getting massive heal or using a bubble/dull pain. Some times the face stab might be better (low armor targer with low health) and some times the Deadly Venom (aka lotus dart). As a rule of thumb you should use the detonation on highly armored target. There are 2 reasons for that: 1. tanks have more armor than protection and detonation is checked as protection 2. assassin have more spell penetration than armor penetration is detonation as a spell will have higher chance to by pass the protection (penetration is a topic for a another guide).

Upgrades to detonation 

Lotus pet: gray lotus - this can destroy your opponents in open world pvp. Good for solo pve too.

Spell penetration - the more you have the better. You can get both feat and perk for this, or even gem your off hand cultural dagger with gem called Bel's Mirth.I will cover more about penetration in a separate guide.

How to defend against the detonation

Watch closely if you have this applied to you

By knowing how your opponent can defend you will get better at using it so lets go over the basic.

Bubbles - classes like Bear Shamans, Conquerors, Priests of Mitra, Tempest of Set and Guardian can put up a barriers (aka bubbles) that will absorb all of your damage from detonation. There is nothing really you can do except anticipate the bubble and using the CC at the right way. Against spell casters choking powder might come in handy to prevent the shield from going up.

Dull pain - the king of assassin vs assassin combat. This will reduce the damage of detonation to mere couple of hundred points. If you see the dull pain going up (golden leafs flying around assassin) then consider not using soul strike and leaving GC just for snare or consuming it for face stab (which is NOT a spell, it does piercing damage and thus will not be mitigated by dull pain).

Lotus overload - if it procs it will mitigate whole damage

Side step left/right - it will grant you some immunity. If you mitigate detonation this way you can call yourself lucky, but it is worth a shot

Silence - since Soul Strike if a spell silencing the assassin might save you from da bomb

Interrupt - grim corruption animation is pretty long (especially GCV) and it cannot be skipped no more so watch for assassin starting his combo and interrupt him at the very beginning. GC will go on cool down and you will be safe from detonation for a while.

CC - obvious choice

Running away - some times running away might be best option. Break snare that comes with GC and sprint away.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Night of the lost souls: the souls that got lost, but sadly they are back

Playing through the NOLS content this year I have mostly focused of coming up with bad puns that I can throw at this content later on in the post. The content is nothing to laugh at: it is the same, freaking thing as a year before and a year before. I didn't have to pay attention to the quests because...well by know I know them enough to just: you take the necklace and shut up, you gimme the helmet and die and you spirit give me the reward and go away for another year.Why is that so? Why is it so hard to come up with anything more? It is just few NPCs and quest and few quest lines. Is it so hard to come up with something new? And the rewards....oh geez, I hate that it sounds like I am shitting over this event for the sake of shitting, but this year's rewards are craaaaaaaaap. Red hand tunic? Like that is probably one of the first items Funcom created for this game and, after being refried, we can also have it. It is decent at best. Last year's skull, NOW that is some cool reward. Just look at it:

Last year's skull mask. The essence of cool.

This year's red hand tunic. Decent at best. Check out the doll *face palm*
So how it went? Well first the haunted forest. Talk to NPC, get necklaces, put it on the altar, BAM BAM the chieftain and use your port spell to jump back to Tarantia.
I am crying, but those are not the tears of joy...see you next year, dear forest..
Talk to the spirit and then rush to the villa. You know what? I lied. Funcom does indeed give us a small twist to the NOLS chain (if you can call 2 quests a chain..) and that twist is: VILLA EFFECTS! That is right, the inhabitants of the villa spend their whole year preparing the decoration so the players can enjoy something bold, new and refreshing each time. This year's we got the red fog effect which makes things hard to see and can cause head aches. 

Fun, fun, fun!!!
After downing the villa boss just rush back to the spirit, get your reward and be over with...unless you want to run group instance for another quest (no you don't). What is the deal with social pets anyway? I never see anyone with his pet out unless it is a combat pet. Anywho, here are the rewards for 2011:

 And last but not least: the ultimate proof of just how lazy the Funcom developers are. The quest text is straight from 2009 where the reward was a horned helmet . The problem is that the devs didn't bother to change the quest text. Half-ass content done in a half-ass way.
See you next year, NOLS fans! You know I am going to be there to poke fun at it (I sure hope I don't)

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Subscription based singleplayer

So I have attended a wedding recently. I love weddings because one: it is a celebration of love and love is to be shared, and second: I am an excellent, eager dancer and I can go wild on this occasion (the magic ingredient is vodka). Turns out I have been seated next to a guy that, apart from running his own business and being a dad, was an avid MMO gamer. His fatal flaw was not being able to settle for one game, one character and he was constantly shifting from one MMO to another without being able to, in most cases, even leave the starter zones. Seriously, at one point he had 8 subscriptions running to a major MMOs with gaming time available to him being less than 1-2h per day. Having learned that my play style was "one MMO, one character - go" he got really interested in Age of Conan since he never have tried it before, but he has been Conan fan for a quite a while (mainly due to comics and paper&dice RPG). Our chat went something along these lines:

- I always roll on RP servers when I can, Hyborian setting must be incredible on AOC RP servers right?

- um....we don't really have RP servers. I mean anymore..we used to.

- ok, so how is raiding in AOC? The combat system is bound to be making raiding something more than button mashing,

- yeah...well I don't raid so I wouldn't know really.

- fine, so what do you do then?

- I pvp,

- what is pvp like in AOC?

- it is mostly instanced, it is called minigames.

- oh nice, I do like those in WoW

- well, not really like in WoW, think smaller, like 6 man

- right, so arena based pvp then

- no no, like 6 vs 6, something like capture the flag in FPS,

- WoW has that too. I have really enjoyed those BGs with my team from PVP guild I used to be in.

- well in AOC you can't sign up with a team, it is random.

- WHAT? What do you mean random?

- you sign up and kinda get a set of people for your team,

- but you can still join with a friend or two?
- no

- what? why the hell not?

- I don't know.

- so if you don't pvp with a group what do you do?

- mostly when I log on I do instance runs or minis,

- instances are cool, does AOC has that classic tank-healer-DPS stuff?

- yeah, but I don't do group PVE, I run solo instances,

- solo instances? What are those?

- like regular instances, but only you and mobs, and smaller rewards in a form of tokens. You can still get epics for those tokens,

- and you are paying for it?

- I do, but you don't have to. To be honest you have to stay subed to be competitive in pvp

- so let me get this straight: you are JUST doing those "minigames" with random people or doing solo instances alone?

- kinda am, yes,

- you are not playing an MMO then,

- what do you mean?

- sounds more like subscription based single player

- :X

true story...

Monday, October 10, 2011

Chained to Age of Conan: Unchained

Chained to Age of Conan: Unchained? Oh the irony of it! I will be very blunt: AOC have caused me literally oceans of frustration. The devs have made (and will continue to do so in the future) bad decision after bad decision and the game in constantly in "course correct" as if, somehow, since 2008 everything has been done to "fix" broken game.

Examples? Three years in and we have non-existent crafting system (course correct: crafting revamp). Bad decisions? Bori. Upcoming bad decision? World PVE bosses. With so many woes one could (and rightfully so) ask: why do you even bother? True, I have been more negative about the game in 2009 that I am now (less negative) but regardless I would have quit the game in 2008 (easily!) if it wasn't for one small detail. What it's going to be? Combo system? Blood and guts being spilled both in PVE and PVP? Mature themes? Wrong! It is ALL about Hyboria. Since the very first Conan story I have read I knew that I have been bitten and once bitten forever smitten. Love bites! I can honestly say that I am huge Conan fan (or to be exact: REH's Conan fan) and, to my despair, where FC developers FAIL miserably, FC artists and writers show up to pick up the slack. FC's Hyboria is done right, both visually pleasing and stunning and stepped deeply in REH's Conan lore. Really, if this game had some unlicensed, low fantasy setting I would dropped my subscription faster that unwanted pregnancy on a prom night (whatever that means). What would I do if new Conan mmo came out? I find that very very unlikely, but I would go with this company that provides best representation of Hyborian era. All other "features" are, at least for me, secondary at best.

Besides all the negativity and yes, despite FC dropping the ball constantly on few issues (despite that the proper solution seems obvious to the community) I think that Age of Conan going free-to-play, going cash shop and announcing its schedule for 2012 is on a right track. I am not saying that the model and the plans will inevitably lead to superb results, but I would like to see what lies ahead, at the end of development road. Since actions speak louder than words I have bought King Conan's Royal Cache (12 month sub paid in advance).This might be me being Funcom whore, but above all I think it shows my dedication to the product as a whole. Trula, if Age of Conan all of sudden went off the market it would be a sad, sad day for me. No, really I would be upset. Very. There is so much I still want to see in this game and, despite all, it still shows so much promise. So what keeps me in Age of Conan? I think it is literally the "age of Conan",a savage era..

"between the years when the oceans drank Atlantis and the gleaming cities, and in the years of the rise of the sons of Aryas, there was an age undreamed of, when shining kingdoms lay spread across the world like blue mantles beneath the stars - Nemedia, Ophir, Brythunia, Hyperborea, Zamora with its dark-haired women and towers of spider-haunted mystery, Zingara with its chivalry, koth that bordered on the pastoral lands of Shem, Stygia with its shadow-guarded tombs, Hyrkania whose riders wore steel and silk and gold. but the proudest kingdom was Aquilonia, reigning supreme in the dreaming west. hither came Conan, the Cimmerian, black-haired, sullen-eyed, sword in hand, a thief, a slayer, with gigantic melancholies and gigantic mirth, to tread the jeweled thrones of the earth under his sandaled feet"

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Slith's cheesy exploration guide ep. 8

It's been ever so long since you a got chance to smell the cheese and visit some places that were not ment to be seen. I am talking, of course, about Slith's cheesy exploration guide and if you though about something else you are a sick fuck.

So I have already written how I was disappointed about city of Paikang not being a main city hub in Khitai. I know, after almost 2 years it is about right time to get over it, but I can't, I gotta have closure on this. Time to take it to the streets and visit the inside of Paikang. Traveling around the city (which is humongous) keep looking for a weak spot in the tight, high wall. Found it? Good. I little struggle and you are inside the city. What sasight...not really, it is ass. Half-finished buildings are "hovering" like a meter above the ground and it is all buggy and weird. Oh well, enjoy!

The streets of Paikang

Difficulty: ***
The only problem is finding the right spot to "attack" the wall. Once you are aware of it it is basic stuff.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Dagger and a bowl of rice ep.9: The final word

"far to the east, beyond the devil hunted towers of Zamora and the wind toss weaves of the vilayet sea.."

This quote comes from the trailer to the Rise of The Godslayer expansion and it is a lore masterpiece of itself.What is more important it introduced the players to the lands of Khitai and initiated the launch of an expansion that changed Age of Conan forever. Or did? Lets find out.

The review 
The following blog post is my attempt at summing up the good, the bad and the ugly that ROGS brought to the Hyborian table. I have been actively engaged in this content since day 1 and still am visiting the lands of Khitai on a daily basis.

The locations
The choice for the location of the expansion is weird to say the last. One could make a point that the sole reason for it was the AOC launch in Korea, but it's a pretty weak argument. Koreans still had to "burn" through 1-80 content and if they didn't like it then no amount of Khitai boobs would change that.It was a bold, bold move by Funcom and to be honest: one that was executed flawlessly (at least conceptually) Khitai and it's locations are what I have expected. Since Khitai itself is merely mentioned in several Conan books creating 5 zones is mighty impressive.

Gateway to Khitai 
Honestly I haven't really checked this content out because its pre-80. The zone itself looks interesting enough and two solo dungeons added later on only sweeten the deal. Everywhere you move the great wall beacons with the promises of AA progression. The Hyrkanians inhabiting the zone are portarted wonderfuly: harsh, ruthless people of the steppes. One could only wish same would be true for the Hyrkanians Faction beyond the wall.

The Northern Grasslands

Very diverse visually zone, but sadly it doesn't excel at anything. Still it beats Chosain and it is a solid foundation for your further exploration of Khitai. This zone is much more open than others (especially damn Kara Korum which is super saturated by mobs) so you can sail this ocean of green on your mount without interruptions every 3 seconds. Sadly it doesn't have it's "theme" apart from fields of grass. Kara Korum is corruption, Chosain is war, Paikang is about emperor and Grasslands....meh. Still I like to revisit this place from time to time and have a lot of nostalgia attached to this zone. I remember how hard it was to beat down those Grasslands mobs in the beginning. Truly, pre 80 solo pve and ROGS solo pve are nothing alike. As a post 80lvl "starting zone" Grasslands does justice to the expansion, and it's good, but nothing extraordinary. The only memorable thing for me is The Gloom Forest (where animals are driven insane by lotus scent) and the temple hidden there (nod at REH's King Kull stories). I think Funcom could have made the conflict between Hyrkanians and Wolves more evident and more brutal. Furthermore the Last Legion doesn't really seem like having oceans of work to do and this is another lost opportunity to show the players that the Last Legion are really the last bastion of hope for Khitai.

Ah dear Chosain, how I hate you. Seriously I find this zone to be an utter failure. First of all the zone doesn't really differ much from what we have already seen in Grasslands. Secondly the main theme of this zone was supposed to be the great conflict of two major cities. This conflict, instead of being massive battle as trailer clearly shows, turned out to be two "armies" of NPC standing idly in the middle. Some times one of the NPC wanders off to the other side and gets gang banged by all other NPC. Hardly a blood conflict. To add insult to injury the two cities at war look exactly the same so it all boils down to Scholars vs Tigers. Those two factions are bullshit on their own, but I will be covering it later. Needless to say Chosain didn't capture my imagination and neither did the factions present in it. The swamps on the edge of the map are kinda cool, but that is it "kinda cool". There is also a "Gray Leopard of Aquilonia" with his fighting crew hiding in the city. Like, obvious Conan is disguise is obvious, man. I hate to be this overly negative, but Chosain offered me nothing but boredom. If I could do anything to fix it it would be making the war in the middle of the map more war-like. More so the two cities should be fighting with soldiers and the two factions should only supplement those forces. That would be actually cool to see a squad of troops lead by 2-3 Tamarin's Tigers. Instead we get this massive clown show where on one side there are grown men in orange raiding tigers and on the other side we have biggest gathering of mages and unearth creatures the Hyboria have ever seen. And what is up with those children of the underworld? Those are massively overpowered compared to the resistance that Tamarin NPC can put up. It feels like FC was trying to slow down people grinding for tiger mount by making them fight those little buggers that can put up 2m shield that makes them invulnerable.
It might be that I am just jaded towards Chosain, but even the quests in this zone seem less fun, less imaginative, and just plain worst than in other zones. I am beating a dead horse here, I know that.

Kara Korum
"The land of jagged, razor sharp rocks and bitter windswept passes". I used to HATE this zone with a passion, but just like the corruption it first got under my skin and then took over my mind. Now I simply adore this wasteland and consider it the best location in ROGS expansion. True, it is a noob hell. The zone itself is very complicated to navigate and the mob saturation is ridiculous. I used to get lost in this place all the time and passing from one point to and in some places simply moving and inch in one direction was a battle of epic proportions (pulling 3 spiders and 5 hyenas on each step). After a year I can call Kara Korum my home. I know every nok and crany in this wretched place and what before used to bumpy road is now a highway. I simply cannot praise this place enough. First of all the theme is evident: the corruption and the crater. This is where all things started and I remember looking at the rocks around the crater (which can be seen from every point in Kara Korum) and wondering what I will find there. "What mysteries do you hold crater?" I thought to myself as I progressed closer and closer to it. I remember being a member of Last Legion and stalking through the corridors of the Palace. What a weird and alien place that was. The quests in Kara Korums are the most dark and epic I have encountered in ROGS expansion. This is especially evident with Brittle Blade which shows in true face during the Kara Korum quest line. Same goes for Last Legion: truly here they are the underdogs who fight the good fight and this is the feeling I have been missing in Grasslands. I don't really get the whole Valley of Giants concept. Sure, it is weird and the things there are larger, but after doing the quest I have never again set foot in the valley. It's just OK. But who could forget the Basilisk? This monster dwells in his on temple and turns it helpless victims into obsynian. The very first moment I have set my eye on this beast I thought "I am going to slay you one day" and I finally did because some factions have ability to do so. The music, the atmosphere and the corrupted themselves will send a chills down your spine. The Jiang Shi that are the hidden faction is this zone is was a great idea. The Vampires are not cool anymore (how could they? thank you very much TWIGLIGHT!!) and Funcom managed to sneak them back into the expansion in new, hardly teen-lovable package. All you have to do is visit the living forest and meet a Jiang Shi "hanging out" there to be convinced that there is love in Kara Korum, but just not the fluffy kind. The addition of Refuge of Apostate (even thou the writing on the quests is surprisingly weak) is just an icing on the cake. Oh and Kara Korum is a real place!!! Do I need to say more?   Truly this zone is the very essence of ROGS and your should enjoy your stay.

"..but you have never seen the place like Paikang..". This zone is a bit controversial for me. I have expected the capital of Khitai to be glamorous and breath taking, but I have came to witness ruined civilization rotting in a jungle. This is what the ROGS is all about to be fair, but I feel a bit cheated out of opportunity to experience Paikang city. When ROGS was announced I have imagined that Paikang
is going to be a next major hub for players to gather in same like Khemi or Old Tarantia. Sadly Paikang is closed and only crafty explorers can gain entrance to it (which I did, but the inside is less spectacular that one could expect). The jungle aspect of this zone is done in a superb way. I find myself lost quite often and then all I can do is ride blindly through the bush hoping to see open space at one point. This zone is the most diverse when it comes to looks and style: we have Barachian like beach and sea, deep jungle, magnificent Paikang, several small villages, mountain passage filled with undead, whole village of corrupted, rice fields, temple of Yun, demon infested forest, temple of Yag-Kosha, Hideouts of Jade and Brittle Blade and finally the nest of those Bird-men (which are hard as nails to kill). If you are REALLY into exploring then this zone will soak you up for hours on end. If I have to pick my favorite I would say temple of Yun. The ambiance in this place is just surreal and you can further enhance this, by meditating in the nearby lotus garden and listening to the rich, vibrant tones of the wind chimneys. Another marvel in this zone is the Brittle Blade base. While living in a cave might not be glamorous more important is what the cult is keeping outside, guarded by the Master himself. The freaking tree of death. This tree is filled with skulls and bones and it will literally kill you instantly if you will try to approach it. There is also a very cool lore tied to this tree which you will be able to learn working for the Blade. Shadows of Jades are hiding in the trees, deep in the jungle and finding the entrance to their base is a feat of itself. The Shadows faction is extremely paranoid about Brittle Blades raiding their sanctuary so the surroundings are packed with various traps. You will also have a chance to to team up with resistance, a militant group bound on overthrowing the emperor. During your stay in Paikang you will also visit a lot of small, charming villages and help solve day to day problems of common folks of Khitai.  I don't know how this zone stacks up to others, but it very much feels much, much larger than others, especially that of Chosain (which, we all know, is small & smelly). Last thing I would like to mention is this big, dead kraken just lying dead on the shore. This picture very much reminds me a scene in the Pirates of Carabiean III where the royal navy forced Davy Jones's to kill his kraken and the poor thing ended up washed up on the shore in the same way. I have contacted a FC developer who did a lot of work on Paikang and sadly he couldn't answer me about the origins of this washed up monster, because another person did work on this and he is no longer with the company.

Faction system
As a whole I like the faction system and found it extremly fitting to the Khitai political situation. I think I would like some more cross faction interatction outside of main enemy. For example Brittle Blade works closely with Scarlet Crircle, but at the same time they are acepting contracts on them. Wolves steal some dragon powder from Priests of Yun and so on. Those quests were interesting because I was wondering how one faction feels about another. Brittle Blade (again) considers Yuns "spooky bastards" and Yuns think about Yags as dedicated to their faith (which is respectful) but missguided. There are also too many questes (yes, in DAMN CHOSAIN) that are pretty much same thing for both sides like kill X members of opposite faction or Scholars are destroying war machines X and Tigers are crushing war machines Y. Yawnfest. Again as best quests in game I am poiting to Kara Korums and that includes all factions. The "hidden" factions were nice touch and I felt like all of the zones could have that hidden, quasi-faction twist to discover. Before Khitai revamp progressing with factions was hell on earth, real insanity and major screw up that made ROGS unpopular. I mean that: stupid stupid decision. I have leveled 3 factions to rank 4 and bought several khitai items with MOAS (you used to get around1-2 of those per quest) and loads and loads of gold. Looking back at it: man, what a waste. I thought it was a real bullshit and I am as dedicated as once can be to Age of Conan. Can't imagine how people that were merely checking out ROGS felt about months and months of grinding MOAS and then putting up dozens of gold pices. That was just poor game design. And I can understand that FC didn't want people to "beat" expansion right away, but c'mon you waaaaaaaaaaay overshoted this. I have one character and I feelt like it was almost impossible feat to get items I want, but same for someone with several alts must have felt like in a personalized hell.

The Hyrkanians
I have already posted how I feel about this faction and I damn stand by that opinion. It is a bullshit faction. Sadly they are in no way, shape or form like their brothers from beyond the wall (Gates to Khitai zones) and are way too much into their horses and getting bitten by snakes (do the quests and you will know what I mean by that). The only good thing about The Hyrkanians is that they give better MOAs for easier quests than Wolves have, but that is about it.

 The Wolves of the Steppes
The writers did justice to this band of robbers giving them a very "fight club" movie feel. This not a mere gathering of cutthroats, for them this is a lifestyle bound by rules. Those rules are so strong that even the leader of the Wolves is not above them. I like that. The wolves are cruel, deadly and efficient. I guess we could have gottem more "plunder" type of quests because as it is right now Wolves are more about causing havoc. I got to say that the Wolves are not as much defined by their wolf mount as Tamarin's Tigers are. I have really enjoyed raising my pup more than that doing same with with my lil' tiger. I would say that it is a very well done and defined faction and I could only wish to see them in other zones, for example how would they performed when pitted against Tamarin's Tigers? So much wasted potential *sigh*.

The Brittle Blade
"The blade is life for it can be easily broken". No other faction in the ROGS has left such a profound impression on me. Clearly the writers have put a lot of the work into the story line and the developers into the visual style of the Brittle Blade assassins. Love it or hate it the purple death dealers are wearing very detailed, ornate armor that cannot be mistaken for anything else.It is Brittle Blade. Personally I find the top tier armor a tad too heavy for assassin to wear, but that doesn't change the fact it is simply stunning. But enough about gear, lets see what this merry band of assassin is all about. At first the story of Brittle Blade unfolds very slowly: your contact in Grasslands is a fat assassin with very filthy mouth almost driven by greed alone. In Chosain you will be meet by an insecure assassin that claims to be "the best in the world" but you will beat every oonef his challenges. At this point you will very much get the impression that Brittle Blade is an organization of ...well assassins that simply accepts the contracts, executes the targets and cashes in fat wad of golds (can you get gold in wads?). The Kara Korum will destroy that image and take you into "inner circle". Your contact in Kara Korum is a professional and the Brittle Blade organization shows it's true face: it is a cult that worships the kill itself and the Death Goddess. It is said that when she comes to a dieing victim a man of courage can seize her and force to answer a single question. The organization is even trying to communicate with their deity (through very unconventional means I might add). What I found very surprising is that Brittle Blade is not only open to unconventional means of assassination, but also activly seeks and even develops means of ultimate destruction, so don't be fooled into thinking that Brittle Blade is about cloak & dagger assassination. After Kara Korum there comes Paikang and here you will finally meet the Master, head of Brittle Blade and at the same time assassin supreme (he really is..). Here you will also get a chance to experience Brittle Blade at it's best and grimmest. Every character you will meet is either devoted to the organizations cause or just a plain psychopath. Some are both. I won't spoli this particular thing but I can only say that the conclusion of the Brittle Blade faction quests is deeply satisfying (unlike other like Yun for example). A time spent amongst the Brittle Blade assassins will be undoubtedly cherished and remembered.

The Shadows of Jade
While Brittle Blade is a multidimensional faction (one that cross-interacts with others!!) Shadows are totally defined by their ongoing crusade against the assassin. Seriously, I know that Brittle Blades are not even half as much into this conflict as Jades are. The Jade organisation is about about wealth redistribution aka rampant and blatant thievery....with some rules and guidelines. Oh and don't be mistaken by "thieves" remark members of this factions are skilled and agile fighters and a force that even the assassins recon with. Still there is a dark humor to this faction, and it's members are often disrespectful towards the Brittle Blade (while Brittle, oddly enough, respects Shadows). Seems like Shadows are a bit lost: their quest is to find the source of corruption in the empire and restore the order so they can, again, profit from the rich. Isn't it fucking obvious that shit went sideways since new guy (aka the god emperor) took over? So yeah, Shadows idea of "fixing" the empire is pretty much "kill the emperor". How does that make them different from Brittle Blade? The quests are weak compared to Brittle Blade and it seems like less energy went into creating them. One of the good things about Shadows is their leader which I won't spoil, but it will blow your mind. Apart from some minor issues with quests and lore (very little is disclosed about this faction) Shadows can offer best pet in game (sixth con which gives +100% fatality chance, a sick sick stuff) as well as pretty bad-ass armor. I am a bit stun locked when it comes to armor: one hand Brittle Blade has this powerful, unique and stylized look but Shadows of Jade are sporting this slick, rugged, light-weight (you can't say that about Brittle armor-o-rama) thief look. Honestly I wish that  I could I would join both of those factions at the same time.

Scholars of Cheng ho
Literally a joke faction. Not like an Easter egg funny or ha-ha funny, just plain joke that is insulting to the player. Hell, I personally feel insulted, by this nightmare of a faction. No other group in Age of Conan will offer you such bland, boring and unimaginative quest a long with dull back ground story. I know that I said same thing about Hyrkanians and I hereby apologize to those fine men and women of the eastern steppes. The title of "bullshit" faction officially goes to Scholars. First and foremost the visual style of this group is ridiculous. While for example Shadows of Jade armor is so realistic that it is almost believable that someone would actually dress this way. When it comes to Scholars all bets are off. I mean look at this...person to the left. Is this a dude or a gal? Whatever, it looks like someones aunt. I have NEVER seen anyone wearing this armor and for good reason: it is ridiculous. When it comes to questing you will spend most of your time rescuing....books, sabotaging war machines or pissing into enemies water supply (aka poisoning it). How is it possible that the ruler of the city enslaved the Scholars when 90% of the city's population consists of magic wielding battle mages that can command unearthly, magical creatures. I mean it: you have to suck pretty bad to have all those advantages and still be a slave. And now the final proof that this is, in fact, a poorly designed faction: I have leveled every single faction in ROGS to rank 4 except for Scholar.s I cannot bring myself to withstand the barrage of bullshit that is bestowed upon me with them. That and the faction has nothing I want which is pretty much a nail in a coffin. On a side note: I can understand how people can find the moon children cute. I will have to agree that the model on those little buggers is pretty rad and their look is very alien and mischievous. That is about it when it comes to cool stuff and this faction. Not good enough for me to sink my time into.

Tamarin Tigers
Exactly as stupid as Scholars. This faction doesn't even threats itself seriously: many quests dialog options end with "Master, grant me the vaaghasan now" (tiger mount). Yep, devs know why you have joined this faction and it is mount. Apart from flesh eating this faction is a regular militia. The quests are mirroring Scholars quests (destroy that, gather something, piss in in other things). I have leveled this faction to rank 4 by using my veteran points to buy insignia otherwise it would be HELL. Oh well, at least Scholars, in comparison, have their match. "And now young one, go gather some flesh for us to munch on" "Yes master, I shall, but before I go....can I have my damn vaaghasan now?".

The Yellow Priests of Yun
This faction is almost second to none (I still consider Brittle Blade lore the best). Almost everything about them is perfect: rich story, great armor design, cool rewards (different types of lotus). Perhaps just the leader - Kang - turned out to be a little of a fraud...or perhaps he is everything his followers claim he is? I can't really tell. I only find the quests Kang gives in Paikang a bit too grotesque.One of the most memorable quests for this faction was luring a village idiot to the altar, spilling his guts and then reading them to actually see (yes, in game  animation!) the temple in Paikang. Yes, and the temple is a marvel by its own right. The great thing is that the actual leader of the religion is of a royal blood and choosing Yun you will get thrown into the big politics and main story line. The Yuns are very devoted to their practices and are definitely not an "evil" faction, their practices are just very strange and alien to the westerners. I do recommend participating in the "orgy" which is a pretty nice event: on the 21:00 (server time) the leader of the Yuns will come out of the temple and initiate a dance that end with naked women jumping into flames. Not exactly my kind of party, but I think it would work for most of use without "jump into flame" part. Great idea to have this kind daily event (you get MOAs for dancing during the event!) and I can only wish that Funcom implemented this in other parts of the game.In closing I have to mention that this is ONE OF THE TWO lore based factions in ROGS, all other are fictional (non REH based). Here is the very short section of the book that mentions them:

'It was made from the black lotus, whose blossoms wave in the lost
jungles of Khitai, where only the yellow-skulled priests of Yun dwell.
Those blossoms strike dead any who smell of them.'
 - REH, The Tower of the Elephant

The Scarlet Circle
Big let down. Don't get me wrong, this faction is still pretty damn good, but definitely not close to what I expected from a faction that, for all we know, caused all the havoc in Khitai to begin with. The quests some times feel like I am doing evil for the sake of doing evil. I got that similar feeling from Yuns, but with that faction there is a burning conviction behind their action and cadaverous (is that a word?) wisdom to be learned. Scarlets are just assholes for no good reason. Just as Yun's temple Scarlet's Palace in Kara Korum is a jaw dropping sight and probably an most iconic and memorable experience that I have gotten out of Age of Conan. I didn't really get the reason for such a hatred for the Last Legion faction. Like why the all powerful mages of the east care about few, underpaid grunts? This faction doesn't one thing very nicely: it has cross-faction quests in which it is working hand-in-hand with Jiang Shi and Brittle Blade. I have mentioned in the beginning how I wished to see how one faction feels about the other and this Scarlets are providing. In closing I have to mention that this faction got the most stylized armors in game. It is totally not like Yag-Kosha or Shadows where the armors are half-realistic and believable, Scarlets are wearing stuff that will blow your mind. Wicked, wicked design and I like it.

This video illustrates my point about the Palace. It brings a tears of joy to think how I have fought to get into the Palace to make that movie. At that point I had my cultural set with Brittle Blade Blue pants. Man, those were they days of high adventure :D Nowadays I enter Palace like I own the place, guns blazing and face melting those Scarlet bastards. Yes, the gear/AA progression does its thing :X 
The Last Legion
What a lovable faction. Seriously, you just have to have a special place for the under dogs and that is exactly what Last Legion is. This honorable men and women are scrambling to keep the empire together and doing their best to save their homeland. How could you not honor that? The NPCs feel like they have been pulled straight from every single military Chinese movie of the last decade and I mean that as a complement (movies like Hero, The Curse of the Golden Flower, The Last Emperor). In other words: men of great honor and a great conviction to the cause. This epic struggle doesn't really show all that much in Grasslands where the Last Legion holds a reasonable control, Kara Korum is where it's at. In Kara Korum the war against the corruption is unwinnable and literally every able sword arm counts. The armor of this faction has this vibe that screams "Asian" and it is definitely what you would expect. I was kinda afraid that Funcom would go for "samurai" type of stuff and I am glad that they keept the japanese influence out of Khitai.

Children of Yag-Kosha
In other words: followers of Yag. This faction is very nicely lifted from the lore as Yag-Kosha clearly had followers and it is mentioned in the book:

At last I alone was left, dreaming of old times among the ruined temples of
jungle-lost Khitai, worshipped as a god by an ancient yellow-skinned
 - REH, The Tower of the Elephant
I have expected a little more from this faction when it comes to questing. Sure, Children are helping people and all that, but their hatred for King Conan is hardly evident. I mean that guy LITERALY killed their God, like show some more anger. I really like how the writers have managed to explain how this peace loving faction justifies the violence it does in conflict with Yuns. One of the Yags gave me this explanation: Yag has a feets to dance, but also hands to break. A great, creative use of this quote from the book:

I will once more be Yogah of Yag, morning-crowned and shining, with
wings to fly, and feet to dance, and eyes to see, and hands to break.'
- REH, The Tower of the Elephant
Another good usage of the lore was when I confronted one of the priest about the point of praying to the dead god. Will this prayer even work? Sure it will for:

The life of man is not the life of Yag, nor is human death the
death of Yag.
- REH, The Tower of the Elephant 
Hats off to the Funcom writers for they have squeezed so much from so little and have done it in a manner that does justice to REH's classic.
Compared to Yuns the Yags are simply dull and, by Crom, this is especially evident in a hell hole we know as Chosain. In this zone you spend majority of your questing time fetching various herbs and animal pices for an old geezer that creates pots out of them. Hm...that is interesting, but I rather do the exorcisms on a demon possessed woman and then capture that demon for Yuns - seems like a more engaging activity.
Last but not least: the bullshit factor of one simple quest astounded me. In Paikang priest ask you to acquire any item that will help him to discover who killed Yag. Lucky a thief from Zamora (conveniently serving as mercenary in Chosain) offers such item for sale giving you a bitching price of 25g. Twenty-freaking-five HARD ONES. I won't spoil what what the item is (its lore based), but the conclusion of the quest is: "Oh Conan did it, but out of mercy? Our organisation sucks then". Paid 25g for that? Enjoy being shafted! One last downer is the lack of harismatic leader: every other faction has their "main man" be it "The Master" for Brittle Blade, Kang for Yuns, Pra-eun ruling over Scarlets or hm...yeah, I don't think Last Legion has a leader. Snap! Well neiter do Yags.
This faction has it's ups and downs and is largely over-shadowed by Yuns, but still is playing a significant enough role in ROGS story. That is good enough for me (minus 25g, what the fuck were you thinking???).

Jiang Shi
Jiang Shi or 僵屍 are pretty much Asian vampires. Now I know what are you thinking: vampires? Those guys suck ! Vampires are now nothing but beautiful, misunderstood creatures the  twilight series wants them to be. Wrong! Jiang Shi are still misunderstood, but ugly as hell. It is much more evident that you are Jiang Shi than having fangs. Interestingly enough some Jiang Shi are going feral because the transformation drove them insane, some keep their sanity but avoid the humanity by going on a exile to the Jiang Shi village in Kara Korum and some...well some I trying to pretend that nothing happened and are living their lives as they used to.. The Jiangi Shi feed on energy which is, conveniently, sucked out along with blood so the Jiang Shi are not bound on human pray, but can very much grab a hold of other creatures. Working for this faction will pretty much be a struggle to keep together their community in the wastelands and perhaps trying to help some of them to cure the curse. The Jiangi Shi are immortal, but can be slain with anything (no need for silver bullets) and don't posses any "super powers" or at least the game is not really showing that: fighting Jiang Shi is like fighting any other mobs. The great thing is that you can "become" Jiang Shi yourself by buying a permanent spell with your Rare Tokens. Great faction and the story it provides has an unexpected twist..

This faction pretty much has same feel to it as Last Legion: the under dogs are gathering strength to take on the big dog aka The Emperor. I have really liked the "winning hearts and minds of the common people" quest chain in Paikang. The NPC sends you on a wild ride around Paiking where you are solving every day woes and problems of the common folk of the Khitai in order to get them to support the Insurrection.
Neat! Even thou this is considered a "hidden" faction it is not even near as hidden (aka not hidden at all) as the Jiang Shi. Great story. One complaint thou: no freaking NPC to sell you stuff. Yep, this is THE ONLY faction that will give you sweet fuck all for all your effort. Not cool bro, not cool at all :(

One of the ROGS selling points was getting those two mounts: tiger or a wolf. We were told that you had to complete quests of EPIC PROPOTIONS in order to have a honor of sitting on tiger's ass. Sadly, such is not the case for the quests to get your mount can be done in one playing session (a bit longish one) and grinding rep till rank 4...well, there is nothing epic about it. Here is my beef with Khitai mounts: those are ruining Hyboria. When you think "Hyboria" do you think horses or perhaps this
Barbarian with 2hander on his Tiger Mount
The wolf and tiger mounts are fine in Khitai setting, but when you are seeing them in Cimmerian then  you know something is obviously messed up. I don't think it would be too crazy to ask for those mount to be Khitai only thing. I know that those are super expensive, but still allowing them outside the Khitai puts them out of context. Hyboria needs horses. The problem is that a large majority of veterans have tigers on at least one of their chars so you will be seeing those mounts reasonably often. Do not want!

AA system
Oh the AA system, how many QQs have you caused. I will be bold and say it right off the bat: I like the AA system, mostly. ROGS expansion clearly favors having 1 character (which I do) and so continuously playing that toon and getting MoAs, Mastery and Prowness will eventually lead to maxing out all the stuff the player wants. I am by no means a hardcore player (I don't raid, and play about 1-2h a day) and I can say that after a year I am near completing my plan for the perks. What I like about this system that it does work when it comes to progressing you through Khitai: same stuff that was insane to kill back a year ago is now either easy or manageable. The other thing is being able to improve your character, day after day. I remember back in 2009 when all I did, when not pvping, was running villas for no gain whatsoever (apart from little silver and trash drops). It was horrible. Now when I log on I know that this play session will add up with others and future ones. What is not to like when you can still progress your character? But all is not well in the Hyboria and the AA system is not without it flavs. First of all it takes SHIT LOAD of time and effort to gain perks. I couldn't even imagine re-doing the process nor starting another character. It is mind blowing. Second thing is that the AA system has WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY too many passive stuff instead of having active ones. When the first AA system has been announced I was under impression that players will be able to build their "deck" of 6 different perks and then perform differently based on their choices... kinda like Guild Wars. It turns out that very few perks are usable (meaning they giver another spell/combo/ability after putting them on perk bar) and most of the stuff is passive (CC resists, Magic resist, combo damage upgrades). So this results in two major issues: one being that a lot of passive stuff over time "grows" veteran's characters in such power that they can roll over poor noobies by sheer power of their passive upgrades (more combo damage, more penetration, more HP, more stamina etc.). The other flaw being that everyone runs around with cookie cutter builds. If you have only few perks that can be used actively and even fewer of them will be remotely viable. I don't know about other classes, but assassin has like 4 perks that are worth considering for your perk bar. Hell, even our major perk is passive (master assassin).

Furthermore the AA system was designed to make old world content be viable for veterans. Sure, Funcom could have raised the level cap to 90, but they have decided to progress characters in other ways. Granted, they have succeeded at that. You can still do old world content and not feel like your are steam rolling everything in your patch. Sure, it will be much easier to run instances like Slaughterhouse, but don't pay attention and....oooops, you got killed! On another side tho it is super hard to make content for 80lvl that on one hand can be for freshly dinged 80, blues wearing noobies, but could also be  for dinged out, kitted out 80lvl vents with pretty much maxed AAs and top notch gear. New instances in gateway to Khitai or Deadman's Hand showed that you simply cannot balance them for such a wide spectrum of players when on 80lvl it is not only gear that matters. Funcom is currently swifting from previous strategy and have already announced that Into the Breach, Lost City and Dead Mans will get their special versions for high end players. Good for you!

Waaaaaaaay too many. I am not a PVE guy, but Funcom went bat shit isane with the Khitai group instances. Granted, those that I did (Kara Korum) were pretty great, but I could never get group for others. Nevertheless people only do the Kara Korum Hard Modes (KK Runs) because it gives best rewards. Screw other bazillion of instance. Too bad.  I am surprised that the Paikang instances are deserted so fast after their release. Guess those were never popular.
The music
I don't think this needs any special write up: ground breaking, jaw droping. Northern Grasslands pice is iconic for this expansion and the rest is no worst. Bow down!

The verdict
Time to give ROGS a note, a final score: it is great. This is not the best expansion ever made for sure, but considering all the above (especially story) I think calling it just "good" would not do it justice. It is a solid addition to the AOC and one that almost could be a new game of itself.  I am still enjoying it profoundly and Kara Korum will always have a special place in my heart.Based on what I have experienced in Khitai I can only wish that Age of Conan was made like that back in 2008.