What’s the concept?Conan the Barbarian was the making of Arnold Schwarzenegger, and considering how big he is you'd be a fool to ignore it. The move into the world of online gaming is one that came as a bit of a surprise to me, having seen the movies a long time ago and having heard very little about the franchise (which has quite a strong comic book fan base) the last thing I expected was a move into games.
Yet, it appears Conan is going the way of Jesus and resurrecting himself. Warner Brothers is going to be making another Conan film, with rumours of the Wachowski brothers directing and Arnie starring circulating round the web. More importantly, Funcom, the makers of Anarchy Online, have signed up to make the game.
You will play as your own unique character in a world where Conan rules as King. Aquilonia is on the brink of chaos with all sorts of mythical creatures' creating havoc. As with most MMORPG's you will be given the chance to carve your own destiny, making choices that will allow you to define your own path.
You get to play within the universe that you know and love from the movies, a world where warriors are in charge and the weak don't survive. When we asked Conan what his overall aim was in life with regards to his new MMORPG, he had this to say:
"To crush your enemies, to see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their women."
Whoa there Conan - don't let World of Warcraft hear you talk that kind of talk.
The game has won a variety of awards at the recent E3 from a whole host of games websites, however, considering that these sites like to give out awards like there is no tomorrow don't take too much notice of them. We'll reserve judgement until we've played it.
Interesting features? “Combat, combat, combat and that’s basically what the game is all about,” are the words of Gaute Godager at the recent Funcom event, the director for Age of Conan. By the looks of it that pretty neatly sums things up for the game, unsurprising, considering it revolves around barbarians and the like. "But", I hear you cry, "all MMORPG's have combat, what makes this so special?"
Well, for starters you can decapitate people... while riding on horseback! If you can't afford, or don't particularly like horses, why not go for a camel, a donkey or perhaps a pimped out mammoth. On top of that there is hand to hand combat, where you will be able to use a bow or a variety of other weapons taken from the film. Finally there is 'hiving', where groups of players will be able to set up towns and villages and then smash up other peoples towns and villages. Magic will take a back seat but you will get to fight the undead, amongst other rather bizarre creatures (check out the spider in the screenshot below).
When is it coming out? Initial plans were to get a release around the end of this year - that has since fallen through and the release date is now looking like first quarter of 2007. Funcom is specifically aiming at a March-May release date, beta testing has already begun and if you fancy getting online and flexing your Arnie like gaming muscles, you will increase your chances by signing up to the Age of Conan newsletter.
Will it be better than WoW? The Conan franchise enjoys its status as a cult classic, with hordes of fans from both the comic, movie and to a lesser extent the spin off television series - and yes, there was a Conan TV show (not too sure about it adding to Conan's popularity though). The major problem is - how many of those fans are gamers, further still, how many of them are gamers who will want to play a MMORPG?
Of course, as with all games the deciding factor will be how the game actually plays. The title won't be able to live off the back of the cult fanbase, and will need to bring in fresh barbarian blood if it is to become a market leader. The possibility of that is boosted by the announcement of a Conan movie; if that can make waves in Hollywood then the game might feel the ripple effect boosts its popularity. Unfortunately, past omens for MMORPG's based on movies do not bode well, both Star Wars Galaxies and The Matrix Online were dwarfed in popularity by the behemothic WoW.