Rush into battle mounted on furious mammoths, or speed across rolling plains on horseback. It’s time we took a deeper look at mounted combat in Age of Conan!AoC has been on my radar for a while, but I've always been wary of how it will actually play. Still, the sheer scope of new things they're trying to deliver on has me enticed. If this feature, the combo-centric combat, and the siege warfare all play out well... Age of Conan could be a big breath of fresh air for the Fantasy MMO. A really big heaping gust of fresh air.
In a game where bloody, brutal and action oriented combat is held in such high regard, it seemed only natural for us at Funcom to make mounted combat equally as exhilarating. That meant going far beyond what other massive online games have done earlier.
Including mounted combat in Age of Conan is actually a significant step forward for the whole genre. Usually, mounts in these types of games are only used for getting from one place to another as quickly as possible, and not at all for doing damage.
But in Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures the value of a mount will extend far beyond being just a means of transportation. Whereas other massive online games will force you to dismount when fighting, Age of Conan allows you to stampede into battle mounted on anything from ferocious killer rhinos to noble steeds!
When we set out to design the mount system we knew we had to do two things: create a certain feeling of depth and excitement, in addition to making it balanced and fair.
Freedom of choice...
When you finally reach the required level to own and operate a mount in Age of Conan, there is a wide range of choices for you to make before you head out and buy one – and it goes well beyond just choosing what color you want it to be!
In addition to choosing what type of mount you want (horse, mammoth, rhino and so on), you also need to choose between different variations of that mount.
Each different type of mount has its own advantages and disadvantages. While the mammoth moves slowly, turns slowly and may be difficult to control, it can take a huge amount of beating. The horse, however, tends to be quick and easy to maneuver, but it will never stand up to the same amount of damage that the mammoth can take.
There are also variations of each different mounts. Some horses are quicker than others, while others rely more on heavy armor. What you choose to go for not only depends on how much money you have, it also depends on how you want to actually play the game!
Becoming one with your mount...
Heroic tales of Hyborian adventurers, who went through hell and came out on the other side with their trusted steed loyally by their side, are many and plentiful in the world of Conan. Becoming one with your mount is a necessary key to success.
When riding into battle on a mount in Age of Conan you will gain various bonuses depending on the mount you’re using. If you’re using a mammoth, for instance, you will get a solid health bonus that will benefit you in battle. But remember, should you get killed while mounted your mount will die with you – and vice versa!
The control system has been designed in such a way that your mount really feels like an extension of your own character, from the way it moves to the way some of them fights.
“Some mounts have a certain acceleration rate, such as the mammoth,” explains Svein Erik Jenset, one of the designers on Age of Conan. “Riding forward on the mammoth you will actually see that its speed increases slowly, and when you tell it to stop it will not stop right away – it will start to slow down before it eventually stops.”
Another case when you and your mount becomes one is while fighting. If you’re riding a horse you will actually have to swing your weapon yourself, trying to make impact. If you’re riding a mammoth on the other hand, it’s the mammoth that will do the fighting as it thrusts its giant tusks at the enemy!
Machine of death...
Fighting while mounted is an art that can be challenging to master in Age of Conan. For instance, in order to maximize your damage output you need to actually ride quickly past your enemy and then hit – the faster you go the more damage you will do! Of course, this also requires you to know exactly when to let your sword go or you’ll miss completely.
If you miss you will have to turn, and if you’re going fast you have to turn in a wide arc. And if you’re riding a mammoth even turning on the spot may take some time!
There is a variety of weapons (such as lances) you can use while mounted, and you can even cast spells and shoot with ranged weapons such as various bow types, but there are also certain limitations in terms of which combos and what spells you can use.
“You will have to evaluate each situation and see if it’s best ride into the battle or do it on foot,” says Gaute Godager, game director for Age of Conan. “Some mounts are really good camp breakers, while others can be used to actually crush entire buildings!”
I'll be watching it closer and closer as we near their launch date of March 25th. 2008 is looking to be a good year for these games... that is if they all come out on time finally.