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Combat, Combos, and Healing in Age of Conan (Review: Part 2 of 4)

by: Michael Hartman ; edited by: Michael Hartman ; updated: 4/17/2012 • Leave a comment

This is part 2 in a 4 part review of Age of Conan, an MMORPG from Funcom. To read the review from the beginning, see part 1.

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    COMBAT

    Combat is similar to that of most other fantasy MMORPGs with only one significant difference: COMBOS. Combos are one of the most heavily hyped features of Age of Conan, and they do indeed change things up significantly. Unfortunately, they change things up for the worse. Here is how combos work.

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    1) You press a button for the type of combo you want to execute. This button takes one of your hotbar spots.

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    2) You then must press buttons to execute melee attacks in the "swing directions" needed for the combo. At low levels, this is just one attack. At higher levels, this is usually 3 attacks (often in 3 different directions). All of these directional attacks require hotbar space (eventually taking 5 more hotbar slots).

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    3) If at any time you swing in the wrong direction, the combo completely fails.

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    4) If you are moving at any time during the completion of the combo, the combo fails. Yes, that is right. This is a melee combo system that forces you to stand still. It is like having a long, interactive casting time that has to be maintained with additional keypresses. It also makes kiting a melee player extremely easy for ranged attackers.

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    5) If your opponent happens to decide to move his shields in the direction of the last maneuver of your combo (shields can be positioned up, left, or right), you are massively out of luck. Your combo will simply do significantly less damage.

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    And what is the payoff of all this extra work? Nothing. The combos do not do anything spectacular, and in general are weaker than spells that require a single click. I cannot remember experiencing a more heavily hyped game system that fell flatter in practice.

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    Other aspects of combat are not nearly as bad, but they bring nothing new to the table. The spells are very standard in design and have relatively unimpressive effects.

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    HEALING AND SUPPORT

    Healing is a complete disaster in Age of Conan. Healing relies very heavily on Healing Over Time (HoT) spells rather than direct heals. The supposed goal is to allow healers to spend more time smiting their foes with nukes and less time healing. For some reason, the Age of Conan developers seem to think nobody wants to actually play a healing or support character. They seem to think everyone wants to deal damage and kill things. The complete and utter failure to acknowledge two major types of gameplay is absolutely mind boggling. If you like healing or support, you really should avoid this game completely.

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    As if this were not bad enough, the way HoTs generate aggro/threat is a nightmare. Since most healing is via HoTs, healers will generally try to keep HoTs on their group members at all times. Some of them last pretty long. This means when a battle ends you often have to stand around doing nothing while you wait for the HoT to expire. Why you might ask? Because if you don't, as soon as your tank/dps/puller pulls a mob it will immediately attack your healer once a HoT tick kicks in. Yes, you can manually click off the HoT, but the icons become very, very small once you get into your 30s or 40s, and you are just as likely to click off an important buff as you are the HoT. This system is horribly designed to say the least.

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    This article is part 2 of a 4 part review. Please continue reading:

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