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Video Game / Age of Conan

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Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures is a Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game set in the universe of Conan the Barbarian, originally created by Robert E. Howard; and developed by Funcom. It was originally released in 2008. As of July 2011, it has moved away from the original subscription-only model to a hybrid "Freemium" model, with a combination of free and paid content.

The world is remarkably faithful to Howard's original stories; with notable influences from both film versions (the original by John Milius starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, and the 2011 remake by Marcus Nispel starring Jason Momoa). Unsurprisingly, it partakes of many of the tropes present in its source material; as well as many specific to MMORPGs. Nearly all of the background music in the game is inspired by, or taken directly from, the soundtrack of the first movie.

The original release of the game met with considerable critical and public reaction, both positive and negative, for being more frankly and explicitly violent and sexual than was typical for MMORPGs up to that point. It was notable for being the first MMO to deliberately aim for a "Mature" rating; which was played up strongly in the advertising and promotion for the game. The "mature" aspect was similarly played up as part of the conversion to a "Freemium" hybrid model; with the original name for the update billed as Age of Conan: Unrated. The "Unrated" was changed to "Unchained" by release time.

One of the earliest criticisms of the game was the lack of story or character-development driven content available for mid-level players; with most quests consisting of extended grinding sessions. The game developers explained that they had not expected players to advance so quickly; and had delayed development of content beyond the beginner areas. However, from other sources, it seems equally likely that Funcom wanted to delay development until they were able to gauge the player reaction and membership numbers. Subsequent expansions have released a considerable amount of mid-level and high-level content; but the drop off in subscriber numbers after the initial release is thought to be a large part of the impetus for the move to a free/paid hybrid model.

This game provides examples of

  • Adam Smith Hates Your Guts: There are plenty of commodities in the player market which are prohibitively expensive to low level players, and of course they are most useful and necessary to low level players to advance.
  • Adjective Animal Alehouse: The Thirsty Dog and the Purple Carp.
  • Affably Evil. Some NPCs, like the Set priest quest-giver in Kheshatta. He isn't condescending and thanks and congratulates you for a job well done, even if said job is killing deviants of his religion.
  • Age of Titles
  • Allegedly Free Game: Although a lot of the game is now free to play, several of the mid- and high-level areas are available only to paid subscribers, or as a separate purchase. This includes the entire Khitai region outside the hub city - as well as Khitan as a cultural origin. Certain gameplay mechanics and abilities are also limited to paid subscribers. Nevertheless, the advertising really pounds on the "Free To Play" thing.
  • Amnesiac Hero: Yes, we know, it's one of the oldest plot devices out there. Just roll with it, OK?
  • An Adventurer Is You: Played pretty much straight, with many classes falling into the traditional roles. However, there are also some uncommon hybrid classes as well. The available classes are: Assassin, Barbarian, Bear Shaman, Conqueror, Dark Templar, Demonologist, Guardian, Herald of Xotli, Necromancer, Priest of Mitra, Ranger and Tempest of Set.
  • Arcadia: It's hard to wander the rolling hills and fields of Poitain without feeling relaxed and content. Even the Random Encounters that happen from time to time are hardly more than a nuisance.
  • Back Tracking: There is an enormous amount of this in the game; especially at beginner levels. Some quests consist predominantly of running back and forth over long distances carrying messages between NPCs. Others consist of chains of running back and forth between the same area, because the quest NPC couldn't be bothered to tell you everything you needed to do there up front. (Some character dialog choices lampshade this frustrating bit of activity.) Particularly frustrating at early levels, before mounts are available.
  • Beef Gate: The Vanir Ymirish warriors are one of the earliest and most notable examples. At first glance they appear to be the same level as other Vanir foes, but hitting one is like punching a brick wall that punches back hard. They are practically unkillable by a single player that isn't at least 20 levels above them. Rather than 'sealing off' an area, their intent is to encourage low-level characters to team up.
  • Big Good: King Conan, being the main heroic leader in the game.
  • Black Knight: The Dark Templars are heavy armored warriors wielding Black Magic provided by demons or dark gods.
  • Bloodier and Gorier: Much more than was typical for MMO games when it was released.
  • Boss Banter: There are many occasions when bosses speak directly to the player, and there is only one occasion when the boss talks to the player in a Destiny Quest.
    Mithrelle: "I tire of your meddling, slave. Tortage was only a minor setback. Now, the games are over. Your end approaches!"
  • Bottomless Magazines: Ranger class arrows/darts and other classes and NPCs who use bow/crossbow and arrow/darts seem limitless and their quivers seem to have arrows that magically appear.
  • Bribing Your Way to Victory: A lot of the content in the premium shop will provide substantial advantages to gameplay, especially at low levels. This is particularly true for the weapons and armour available to beginners.
  • Build Like an Egyptian: Stygia has pyramids that are far more impressive than those of Egypt (which canonically exists ten thousand years afterward).
  • Chainmail Bikini: Averted, oddly, as the comic adaptations were the trope namer. Although there are items of clothing/armour that fit this trope's appearance, the effectiveness of such armour is realistically low. The more effective the armour, the more it covers.
  • Commonplace Rare:
    • Many of the non-player inhabitants of the game wear cool armor and it can also be seen on armor racks. Can you buy it?... Nope! You'll usually be stuck with what you can afford, which will be the crappy looking stock vendor armor with half a dozen different texture variations. The really cool armor all comes from rare loot drops and raids.
    • Horses and horse training are expensive. Extra inventory space (in the form of a bigger bag to carry stuff) is hilariously expensive.
  • Darkest Africa/The Savage South: Stygia is this, being full of death-loving cults who worship dark gods and practice Black Magic; a population that will willingly sacrifice themselves in whatever way their evil masters tell them to - all ruled by an Evil Sorceror whom only King Conan himself could possibly hope to face and survive. It is a land regarded with awe and fear all across Hyboria. To drive the point home, two of the player factions (Aquilonia and Cimmeria) are busy repelling invasions, despite the great wealth and power of Aquilonia and the legendary reputation Cimmeria has for its warriors. Nobody... nobody... is trying to invade Stygia.
  • Dark Is Not Evil:
  • Death Is a Slap on the Wrist:
    • Dying means a short debuff; but it also allows you to teleport to any previously-located respawn point, making it a useful way to travel at times.
    • Lampshaded in one quest that requires you to be cursed in order to retrieve an artifact. The curse will "kill" you in ten minutes if you don't get the MacGuffin and give it to the quest giver who lifts the curse. If you die, respawn and return to the quest giver to try again, he asks how the hell you can be alive again. Your only reply is 'It's a Long Story'.
  • Disc-One Nuke: The store that sells in-game items for real cash is replete with overpowered low level gear that will make a player extremely effective for a long time. The cash store low level gear usually have stats that are 10-15 levels above the standard ingame low level gear.
  • Door to Before: Averted in many, but not all dungeons. An Escape Rope teleport is available once every half hour, otherwise Back Tracking is often your only option.
  • Elaborate Equals Effective: The most badass looking armor and weapons are almost always top level raid and pvp reward gear and are all better than the generic looking craftable gear.
  • Elemental Powers: Classes that use magic can use these elements as there are exceptions.
    • Earth: Bear Shaman has a unique ability that stuns his enemies using stone columns.
    • Electrical: Demonologist and Tempest of Set use lightning as attack elements.
    • Fire: Conqueror, Demonologist, Herald of Xotli (mostly) and Ranger like to play with fire.
    • Holy: This element is used exclusively in the Priest of Mitra class, showing it to be the purest of the classes.
    • Ice: Bear Shaman and Necromancer (mostly) use these elements. Necromancer uses it offensively while Bear Shaman uses it defensively.
    • Poison: Assassin (mostly) and Bear Shaman can be poisonous classes, which can spread poison on their enemies.
    • Unholy: Assassin, Dark Templar and Necromancer use this type of element, and Dark Templar uses it to drain life energy from enemies while Necromancer uses it offensively and Assassin can use passively.
  • Escape Rope: The "Path of Asura" is a free teleport you can do from any location in the game that will take you to a safe location, usually one of the starter towns for each character race. You can set your home point to any one of these preset locations at any time you like, but you can only use the ability once every half hour.
  • Fake Longevity:
    • The game suffered from this trope at its initial time of release - lots of 20 Bear Asses and Back Tracking. Updates, expansions and a focus on more character-driven content have nearly removed all trace of the trope.
    • However, crafting quests still invoke this trope quite strongly. In order to advance in the gathering skills necessary for crafting, players have to spend exorbitant amounts of time farming for extremely rare drops. Locations for the drops are highly limited in lower-level areas; or surrounded by strong, aggressive monsters in higher-level areas.
  • Fanservice:
    • Player characters can be played completely naked, with the exception of genitalia, which is covered by a sort of unremovable g-string brief. Fighting this way is generally not a good idea - without armor you'll be shredded.
    • An option known as "vanity" mode has been added. With this active, you can cause select pieces of your armour to turn invisible, but you still get the full protection from it.
    • True to the genre of Pulp Magazine-origin Sword and Sorcery, many NPCs wear very scant clothing, with exposed abs for the men and more than a little stripperiffic clothes for the women.
  • Fighting Irish: Robert E. Howard wrote the Cimmerians as ancestors of the Gaels: the Iron Age clans that would later become the Irish and Scottish people. Hence the Cimmerians in game have strong Irish/Scottish accents, art and architecture with a strongly Celtic aesthetic, and a talent for battle.
  • Finishing Move: Depending on your class, this can be anything from a decapitation to dragging your opponent to hell.
  • Forced Level-Grinding: This was an enormous problem for players at launch trying to get past level 40 after all the questing content had dried up. Players were forced to grind the "Villas" which were repeatable quests involving killing mobs in a npc mansion over and over and over and over and over and over and over just to level up. This was one of the major contributing factors in the early downfall of the game. Player numbers evaporated to almost nothing in the first year of release because of the Sisyphean grindfest that didn't even provide any useful loot.
  • Ghibli Hills: Poitain, the Lacheish Plains and the Purple Lotus Swamp are all these for Aquilonia, Cimmeria and Stygia respectively. Random Encounters are common but not overwhelming. Poitain even reaches Arcadia levels of beauty.
  • Giant Space Flea from Nowhere: The 'World Boss' events that were added to the game in 2013 produce super-powerful bosses that dwarf the threats ordinarily faced by maximum-level characters. It takes dozens of PCs working in relays to finish them off... but they really don't have anything to do with the game-world at large.
  • Give Me Your Inventory Item: The resource gathering quests require you to hand over the resources you've gathered, including the quests for the ultra-rare resources (such as... tin?!) that take forever to find. The quest-givers demand you fork them over, rather than let you hang onto them for use in crafting later. Thankfully averted with the later craftsman quests - you get to keep your handicrafts to sell or give away as you like.
  • Go-Karting with Bowser: It's not uncommon for the priests of Crystal Dragon Jesus to join forces with assassins or wielders of Black Magic in order to beat up petty thugs or hunt big game.
  • Hand Wave: The original Conan mythos would have... in fact, did... regard teleportation and spontaneous return from death as black magic of the highest order. But this is a MMORPG, so you have to have them.
    • To be fair, your character's coming back to life is justified in-universe, and is explicitly stated as being black magic.
    • Some other elements are justified by some clever story work - for instance, the sudden upsurge of Cimmerian heroes visiting foreign lands is a consequence of their natural curiosity at hearing that one of their own now sits on the throne of a mighty kingdom.
  • Have a Nice Death: Among other things, "The maidens question your virility."
  • Heroic Build: While character creation offers a bit of customization in build, even the skinniest or heftiest player character falls in this region.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Casilda, a prostitute you rescue at the beginning of them game and who later helps prevent a Pict ritual that will make the volcano erupt.
  • Hotter and Sexier: This was perhaps the first MMORPG to feature female nudity. Additionally, prostitutes can be found in several locations throughout the game world. Some of them are topless.
  • Hub City: There are four cities in the game: Conarch Village in Cimmeria, Khemi in Stygia, Old Tarantia in Aquilonia and Tortage City in Tortage.
  • Infinity -1 Sword: There are many of these for each character class at endgame, to the point where it's hard to tell if there is an Infinity +1 Sword somewhere amongst them.
  • Level-Locked Loot: Just as inexplicable as it is in most MMOs. Maybe more: in addition to the usual Gameplay and Story Segregation that affects armor, weapons, food and drink, you are too dumb to ride a horse until level 40, at which time you also finally figure out how to wear a cape.
  • Little Bit Beastly: A creepy form of the trope applies to some Stygians - in particular, the ruling caste of Set worshippers have faint serpentine characteristics.
  • Magic is Evil: In keeping with the literary inspiration, almost all the magic-wielding classes use some form of Black Magic: at best a mage is a Well-Intentioned Extremist. Fortunately, if you race through town followed by your pack of skinless demons, the city guard don't bat an eye. The two exceptions are Priests of Mitra, who receive divine gifts from their benevolent god, and Bear Shamans, whose power is totemic.
  • Money Spider: Despite the prevalence of Shop Fodder, animal mobs that drop loot when you kill them still drop money too.
  • Nipple and Dimed: Averted. Female player characters can walk around topless.
  • Orcus on His Throne: Thoth-Amon, the game's Greater-Scope Villain, is perpetually plotting in his evil lair.
  • Organ Drops: Most animal mobs will drop claws, teeth, tails, venom sacs, etc. Aside from a few quest-related examples, these parts are just Shop Fodder.
  • Our Giants Are Bigger: The "Ymirish" half-giant elite warriors of the Vanir stand roughly ten feet tall and are very hard to kill due to their heritage and magical nature. At higher levels they appear next to their full giant brethren, the smallest of whom are twice as tall.
  • Overhead Interaction Indicator: Quest-givers have exclamation marks above their head (which according to Zero Punctuation, makes it look like they've just spotted Solid Snake).
  • Perpetually Static: Despite all the adventures a player will embark on, the game world never experiences any fundamental change. The Vanir are still always on the doorstep of Cimmeria, ready to invade. Tortage is endlessly teetering on the brink of revolution while the Picts howl outside its walls without ever actually coming over them. The Nemedians are still trying to subvert Aquilonia and have Conan assassinated, Thoth-Amon is still on his throne in Stygia, trying to call forth whatever dark gods will help him conquer the world.
  • Purely Aesthetic Gender: Temporarily subverted: A short period after the game's launch, females did less damage in melee combat, due to slower attack animations. Otherwise, the trope is in full force; to the degree that even the more "mature" dialog choices are available regardless of character gender.
  • Rated M for Manly: Remember the name of the game! You will fight a tiger. You will fight multiple tigers. You will cross deserts and glaciers and climb mighty mountains to battle unfathomable horrors... on a regular basis.
  • Real Is Brown: A common complaint during the early days of the game was how dark and muddy the artwork appeared compared to other games. Some improvement has been made, but it is still a strong example of this trope.
  • Revenue-Enhancing Devices: A whole lot of functional and purely cosmetic stuff in the premium cash shop. See Allegedly Free Game and Bribing Your Way to Victory, above.
  • Scary Impractical Armor: Many of the endgame armors look incredibly intimidating, yet are not quite as effective at physical protection as their stats suggest.
  • Shining City: Tarantia, capital of Aquilonia is incredibly beautiful with shining white spires and spacious buildings with beautiful facades of enormous pseudo-Greek columns. The whole city is made out of gleaming white limestone and is by far the most impressive city in the game.
  • Shop Fodder: Not as much as some MMOs. Mostly used to avoid Money Spiders, and the drops are reasonably realistic. Monsters still drop body parts that you can sell for cash, and human mobs sometimes drop chunks of semi-precious metal and semi-rare gems in lieu of money.
  • Socketed Equipment: Craftable weapons and armor have sockets for gems that boost their stats. This is as an alternative to endgame gear drops which are still almost always superior anyway.
  • Sorting Algorithm of Weapon Effectiveness: Averted with item vendors: the top level vendor gear is usually available at the same place that the low level gear is available, players just can't use it until they have levelled up. Played straight with the handful of gear that can be scavenged from enemies: the tougher enemies always drop higher level gear.
  • Squishy Wizard: Applies to varying degrees to all Mage classes. Particularly bad with the Herald of Xotli; a hybrid melee/mage class whose magic is limited to buffs and close-combat attacks, with some damage limiting abilities, and which is limited to weak cloth armour.
  • Stat Sticks: Some weapons have these effects, like boosting a player's intelligence or stamina/mana regen. The weapons themselves are still class-locked and cannot be wielded by players with the wrong class type.
  • Super Mode: The Herald of Xotli and Necromancer classes have this ability. The Herald of Xotli class has the Desecrating Essence and the more powerful version called Avatar of Xotli which both transform the character into a demon for a limited time; the Necromancer class has the ability called Ritual of Lich that transforms the character into a Lich for a short period of time, but at the cost of invulnerability against holy attacks.
  • Take Your Time: In full effect with all but a precious few timed quests. Sometimes your quest journal will tell you that that time is of the essence and you have to race to get the task done. You don't.
  • There Is No Kill like Overkill: One quest in Tortage involves you killing an army of Children of Acheron... but they've got a Healing Factor that extends beyond death. How do you bypass their immortality? Call on Chekhov's Volcano to reduce the whole bunch to ash!
  • 20 Bear Asses: While many quests of a more interesting nature exist, this trope is still often in effect.
  • Unusable Enemy Equipment: Every sentient enemy comes at you with as much gear as they can afford (even if that's just a filthy loincloth and a sharpened stick), but when you loot the remains you'll be lucky to find even one of the bits of gear that are clearly visible on the corpse.
  • Unkempt Beauty: True of all player characters and a startling percentage of the computer-controlled ones. It's rare for a man not to be brooding, handsome and muscular... while the women tend to look like shipwrecked glamor models.
  • Vapor Wear: Most of the clothes worn by female player characters and NPCs make it obvious that they are not wearing any undergarments.
  • We Buy Anything: All that Shop Fodder has to go somewhere. Just about every NPC shopkeeper is happy to take it off your hands.
  • Wheel of Pain: One appears in Cimmeria. It might be the same as the one from the 1980's film.
  • World of Buxom:
    • The models provided don't even allow for female player characters with a modest bust size, even using the advanced customization feature. Even the smallest-breasted women in this game would be considered stacked in real life.
    • As of the "Unchained" revision, a premium shop item was added that allows females to significantly increase their bust size (temporarily). A similar item allowing males to enhance their physique is also available.