Okay, not really but pretty close.
I think I set an all time record for caving in on a MMO - at least for me. The subliminal message was planted during lunchtime on Thursday (I think it was) and in the evening I had bought the damn game. I went to Walmart expecting them to no be carrying a game rated M but they had it so I bought it, installed it, patched it and played it a little.
I started with a Bear Shaman, which did fine up until about level 10 when suddenly I stopped being able to hammer my way through more than one enemy at a time - at least reliably. After a bit of fiddling with my feats, I started to have an easier time with facing off with two creatures at a time, but would die on three. I must be missing something.
I have to say that the class concept is fun (imitation of Kinetics Defender or Disciple classes) but the lack of a direct heal is a bit of a stretch. I have to get used to playing without one and pre-buff regens (I've got two). One pops on when I attack (if I precast it) the other is on when cast - but there is a casting time which you actually have to wait for. Not a big deal, but when you're attacking and have to stop mashing those keys in sequence to get a spell off, it feels a bit odd and it's easy to forget to stop and let the spell finish. Now the trick with that spell is that there are feats you can take (think talents) that can put up an extra effect so that when you cast that spell it is enhanced.
That's cool, except when you're fighting more than one mob at a time and really need to do damage to make them stop doing damage to you. The heals really aren't enough for you to overcome the damage being done. Now if I was grouped with a Guardian, sure, no problem. That leaves me needing to drink potions to top of my (lame) healing ability. Does this seem right?
Maybe that's the intent of the game but it rubs me the wrong way. Why do I have healing abilities if I can't really use them to keep me up? Instead I have to use potions on top of my healing abilities? Bleh.
They're all regens too, so they stick around and don't stack like a direct heal does. I think one of them gives me a larger amount up front, but the re-use timer on that is sort of slow.
By the way, I did one mission where I was supposed to heal the peasants while the Red Hand was attacking them... it was a mess. Yeah, I kept them healed, but at the cost of my life a couple of times. What was the issue? Well, like a Kinetics Defender, everything in a range in front of me gets the heals I fire off which means I was healing myself, Valeria (who was supposed to be helping) and 3-4 peasants. Guess how much threat that generates? Enough that the 4-6 Red Hand in the area all come to me.
I created a Stygian Assassin and gave that a go. Things were surprisingly easier despite not having my own heals. I could step into groups of 3-4 leading off with a stealth attack that nearly killed one and then lay about me furiously with blades dripping poison. It was sick. I especially like the brutal damage done when attacking out of the shadows.
I was impressed that the Assassin had a slightly different path while in Tortage, so it seems Funcom made part of the solo quest reflect your base class (Fighter, Rogue, Healer or Caster). That's kind of cool, but I saw that at one point they merge onto the same story line so you don't really get to do a lot of your class specific stuff.
I also found that you had to be specific levels to advance the solo side of things - levels which you couldn't seem to reach in the solo content. Basically, you were booted out into the daytime to look for solo content.
Back to the Assassin though. I found this guy got a few more combos than the Bear Shaman and those combos advanced A LOT faster. I've got one that is up to version 6 or 7 while the highest with my Bear Shaman was about 2, maybe 3. I also got two stances; one is poison blade stance which does increased DPS and the other is some sort of unholy stance where you can steal essence from people which you can then consume to get stamina back. I went with Poison mostly.
For feats, you get things that emphasize this. I picked up the first poison feat and most of the second. The first poison feat makes you proc something that causes the target to take extra damage - something like 500% damage at full which is were I got it (might be 400%). I also picked up an ability that increases my dodge temporarily.
You also pick up some extra skills like Skulking which ncreases your movement while hidden and Subtlety which sounds like it reduces the threat you generate from your attacks. I did enjoy some of the missions that involved sneaking in and stealing stuff or killing a merchant. There weren't enough of those for my liking.
Yes, I got my Assassin up higher than the Bear Shaman, the Assassin is level 20 now and off Tortage. The final quest was okay, I wish it would have kept track of who you threatened and allowed you to kill them off. I can't imagine my Bear Shaman getting through that if the ending is the same.
Once you're off Tortage, you're into some starting area based on the race you picked. I'm in Khemi which is somewhere in Stygia. I think most of the people I've played with are from Cimmeria. Heh. Looks like I'll have to figure out how to get there.
Oh, speaking of playing with people - I got to play with Darren from The Common Sense Gamer (see link on the side, I'm too lazy to link it). He's playing a Ranger which looks like it's some sort of tank/rogue hybrid. He was charging into things and clobbering them well enough. A little too much charging if you ask me. I turned around for about 10 seconds to tell my son and his friend from down the street that they can't play downstairs and should play outside (the friend's mother and father don't like him playing video games so he keeps sneaking into our house to play Lego Star Wars on the PS3) and when I turned back, Darren was gone. It happened a couple of more times during the brief time playing with him. I was starting to wonder - is he on some sort of timer so he's trying to get a lot done in a short time or something? Well, turns out I was right because shortly after a comment in Group chat popped up saying, "BBL little one is up".
I swear I thought I saw him yell, "LEEEEROY JENKINS!" a few times... really...
My original thoughts still stand.
The performance of the game is somewhat lacking given that I have a system which played VG on the higher settings without a hitch. I'm on medium settings at the moment in AoC. The graphics aren't too bad, but the texture swapping is a little sluggish (I have a card with 512 mb RAM on it). I move into an area and sometimes I see the high quality textures and other times a few are the lowest quality textures. Overall, the game does look pretty, I'll give it that. I am tempted to pick up a new video card, something that supports DX10 properly so I'll have to start looking into that.
The gameplay is still what I thought it was. Click a combo, start pushing the 1, 2, or 3 or some variation of that. It's not painful but I suspect I might get tired of it before level 80 or I might have to replace a keyboard or two. Yeah, the blood and gore is kind of neat. I do like the fatality animations so far - I've seen a number from decapitations, throats getting sliced open to plunging a dagger into the enemy's heart and violently yanking it out. Anyway, we'll see how long it lasts. I just don't get a feeling that the attacks are really doing anything other than 'damage' which is something I miss from other games where you might stun, snare or otherwise affect the target in some fashion. It seems more like I'm making the guy do certain animations than anything else... Dance Dance Revolution with one hand.
I admit, I like the climbing and hiding aspects, especially the skulking aspect and extra damage when attacking from the shadows which adds an immersive feel. They really did a good job on immersion and feel. The game is really gritty and earthy. Lots of superstition and evil demons about. One thing I don't like, is that they don't really give much of an evil path to follow. I found myself taking quests that were 'nice' despite wanting to be a vicious murderer simply because that was all that was available. It'd be nice to have some options more on the evil side. Yeah, there are threatening responses in most cases, but as soon as I got off Tortage those options seemed to become lesser.
One example, a guy on the dock asks me to tell some merchant his cargo has been on the docks too long and is getting in the way. He has an hour to move it or lose it (literally). I get there and the guy scorns me and belittles me. There was no option to stick a dagger in his gullet or even threaten him. That was disappointing.
Another thing that is missing when you get off Tortage, voices. The people you talk to no longer have voices so you're stuck trying to read the text which isn't always easy to read - they need to give it a black edge so it stands out from the background better. The NPCs still seem to go through some motions, but there is no voice. I find it sort of jarring and disappointing.
Oh, bug - they need to replace the graphic for the Rebel's Dagger (reward for leaving Tortage) with something that looks less like a bow (maybe there is an issue in my database, I'll check later).
Khemi seems to consist of a small island surround by a larger city, though I've barely stepped off the island. Compared to Tortage, I get this overwhelming feel of "where to now?". I did manage to get a few quests (they're not too hard to find) and even found a contact for what appears to be an assassin's guild. I was given my first contract to kill a man in all black in the Khopesh Province (I think it was called). This is another spawned area like the White Sands Island.
By the way, it seems the 'Epic' versions of the instances are mostly empty of other players. It seems the mobs there have a lot more HPs so they last a lot longer. They don't seem to do more damage, just take a lot more. It makes for some really epic fights - go figure. I suspect this is where you want to go as a group for a bit more of a challenge. I don't know that I was getting any more XP, I didn't think to look.
Oh, I'm also a little disappointed my guy hasn't gotten laid yet, call it childish but they were hyping the nudity and such. I was expecting more from that aspect. The only boobs I saw were on some player that was standing there topless (I'm trying not to think of what the player was actually doing) and one other set on a NPC noblewoman that was standing at the top of stairs in Tortage with some other lady. I got the impression this was a graphical glitch though, it looked like the top she was wearing was clipped wrongly (or rightly if you're a depraved sicko that gets off on digital boobs). Despite saving two whores (the first one on the beach and then the one from the Bearded Clam - yes, that's the name of a brothel in Tortage, nice eh?) and one dancer you don't get an opportunity to be pleasured... ah well.
Overall, not too bad so far. I do miss dungeon delving and have yet to find a game that did dungeons like the original EQ and EQ2 expansion did them. VG came really close actually, but I couldn't really see myself getting back into that game. Ah well.. here's to hoping there is a dungeon.