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.


Anonymous said...

final words.. yah.. time for da new expansion.. will they bring it soon? I dont think they'll ever bring another expansion.. bunch of adventure packs = squeeze moneh from da rich till AoC's dead.

good read btw!

Lachann said...

Awesome read, Slith!

Can't imagine the work that went into writing this one, hehe:)

By the way, I am glad to see that I'm not the only one who adores Kara Korum. I usually get slapped around in /guild for saying that ;)

Unknown said...

Once again, nice work Slith!
And nice knowledge of every corner in Khitai. Just wondering, do u have anything else to explore. I mean incomming content is not your play style (dungeons, raid). So what you keep in game. This question i always ask myself and i realy want to hear your answer.

Slith said...


I was planing a post on that subject so I will anwser there :D