Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Search for the Ultimate Barbarian Game (Part 6)


The quintessential barbarian has had a few outings on video game systems.  I haven't had the chance to play them all, but what I did play pretty much covers the spectrum from bad to good.  Let's do this chronologically.

Conan (NES)

The NES game, called Conan: The Mysteries of Time, is a steaming pile of shit.  Being an NES game, you can't expect much from the graphics or sound, but the gameplay is terrible.  Conan begins with nothing but his fists and feet to defeat skeletons and green imps.  He has to pick up weapons from enemies to get out of the caves.  There is a fire breathing lion beast that guards the entrance.  To try to get past him without killing him is certain death.  In the video, the guy playing the game makes it look easy.  It's not.  First off, you have to do exactly what he is doing and there is nothing in the game that tells you what it is you have to do.  You have to figure all this out for yourself.  Bullshit.  Once you get out of there, you fight in a desert with these soldiers, or whatever.  There's also this woman who just stands there.  You see the guy playing kill her, but when you first see her, she doesn't look like she's doing any harm.  Once you get close, though, she turns into a giant snake and instantly kills you.

This game is ass backwards.  Kicking seems to do more damage than your sword against most enemies.  Punching is worthless.  You even get this fireball magic that is one of the most effective attacks (against most enemies - it doesn't work on that lion beast).  Problem is that Conan doesn't use magic.  He shuns magic and anyone who uses it.  He relies only on muscle and steel.

Pretty much avoid this game at all costs.  It's fucking terrible.  That's all there is to it.

Conan (XBOX, PS2, PC - 2004)

This game, which was originally to be called Conan: The Dark Axe, but was changed to just Conan, was available for the PS2. XBOX, and PC.  The catch: it was only released in Europe.  Fortunately, I found a download of the PC demo here.

To be honest, I thought this game would suck, but I was pleasantly surprised.  It does have its problems.  The controls could use some refining, as could the camera.  The graphics aren't the best.  They aren't the worst, but there are some giant serpents that look like they belong in a Disney cartoon (you'll see one in the video).  One thing I did like is the use of different buttons for certain types of attacks, which you can combine together for some combination attacks.  The action is okay.  During the demo, I fought against some cultist guards and skeletons, none of which were real dynamic combatants.  This game came out in 2004, one year before God of War set the standard on how modern hack 'n' slash games are made (which, of course, was influenced by games such as Devil May Cry).

Despite a lack of polish, overall, this is still an enjoyable game.  It feels a bit like Tomb Raider with swords.  There's quite a bit of those 3D game puzzles that were present in many Playstation-era action games, but I didn't come across anything that required any amount of lame-ass platforming, which is good.

This game also featured Conan's superior climbing skills, as he scaled sheer walls while skulking through the city at night.  This characteristic is usually not shown in most Conan games, so it was pretty sweet to see Conan climbing walls and going along rooftops like any respectable Cimmerian would.
I also like the cover of the 2004 game, which features a hot woman - always a plus.

Conan (XBOX 360, PS3 - 2007)

If the 2004 game is a product of pre-God of War action gaming, then the 2007 game for the XBOX 360 and PS3 was definitely a product of the post-God of War school of action gaming.  A bunch of whiny-ass Kratos fans complained that this game was a huge rip-off of God of War.  Well, yeah, of course it is.  God of War did a couple of things that kind of revolutionized hack 'n' slash games (for better or worse), so it makes sense that this game would utilize gameplay elements from it.  Some of these guys were even big enough dipshits to proclaim that Kratos could kick Conan's ass...

Okay, sure, Conan was highly derivative of God of War, but you little pussies better watch your fucking mouths!  Conan was one of the originals and you will give your respect to the man.  Kratos was nothing but an emo little douchebag.  "Oh no, I killed my family because I'm a bloodthirsty twat who does Ares' bidding like a little bitch.  I guess I'll just make everyone else feel like shit and then go kill myself.  That'll teach 'em.  You know what?  Fuck the gods of Olympus.  They don't care about me.  I'm gonna become an atheist and kill Ares."

When you follow the brutal greek god of war, what the hell do you expect, dumbass?  Go wear some eye makeup, emotard.  Yeah, he's a tragic hero.  So was Elric of Melniboné and he was 50 times cooler than Kratos' pouting ass.

So, boys, either you respect Conan or learn a lesson in soul crushing pain.
Anyway, this game does use what it learned from God of War to make a hack 'n' slash game with some high-octane action, but it's a mixed bag.  Combat feels much more brutal than the 2004 game, but it's also ridiculously complicated.  There are too many damn combos.  Conan can wield all kinds of weapons, which is awesome, but each one has about 20 different combo moves, which is too much to remember.  I hardly even used 10% of the combos when I rented the game.

Enemies who constantly block can also be a pain in the ass, too, as you have to use a certain move to break their defense.  I hate that.  In the 2004 game, all you had to do was attack where the enemy was not blocking by changing attacks, something that Age of Conan would utilize later on.  What really gets annoying is that, once you get far enough, that's all the enemies do, constantly block your attacks.  It's a cheap and stupid way to ramp up the difficulty.  Once I got to that level, I got sick of playing.

2007's Conan also had topless women, just like God of War.  While this is kind of awesome, it's not that big of a deal.  In God of War, the breasts look kind of funny.  Does every woman in Greece have dark brown or red nipples?  What happened to pink nipples?  Thankfully, Conan has better graphics and the women don't have strange nipple colors.  Unfortunately, the girls aren't really a significant part of the game.  You usually find them hidden amongst levels, chained to a post.  When you free them, nothing really happens.  You can't even get a good close up at them.  At least Kratos had the good sense to fuck the women; I'll give him that.  Honestly, God of War was more gratuitous about showing bare tit flesh.  Conan just kind of put it in as an afterthought.
Conan cannot live on battle alone.  He's got to take some time to partake of naked female flesh.

Though the game does have some good action and nice graphics, it wears thin after a while, as the game just gets cheaper with the enemies you combat.  I'd say rent this one.  Don't bother investing anything more than a few days into it.

Oh, and Kratos, I'm sorry I called you a whiny emo bitch.  I just wish you'd stop being such a grumpy dick.  I can't see myself playing through four games with you pitching a damn fit through the whole thing.  Take a Prozac, learn some meditation techniques; just quit being cranky.

Finally, we come to Age of Conan, the long awaited MMORPG that allows players to explore the world of Hyboria with more freedom than ever before.  Of course, everyone was too damn busy playing World of Warcraft to notice, but screw them.

Visually, Age of Conan looks fantastic, not just for the graphics, but for the scenery itself.  Epic landscapes await you - ancient ruins, shadow haunted jungles, lush forests and mountains, and cities whose majesty is only matched by their corruption.  You can enter a town and actually watch townspeople haggle and converse in the bazaar, though there are those quest giving NPCs that just kind of hang around there with nothing better to do than ask 500 players per day to retrieve their sewing supplies.  The music is great, too.  It lends a sort of exotic flavor to your traditional sword & sorcery variety.

Actually, I'm not a big MMO fan.  The only games I enjoyed playing prior to this were City of Heroes, Champions Online (I like superhero MMOs), and Guild Wars (you can do your own thing there and not worry about some motherfucker interfering with your quest).  I tried the 14-day trial they offered and went forth into Hyboria.  Of course, I played a Cimmerian.  For the most part, I enjoyed the game.  I didn't get past the starting area, Tortage Island, so there was a lot of things I didn't get to experience.  I was almost high enough level to delve into a ruin filled with devious Black Ones, though, which would have been awesome.  For the most part, I fought shitloads of Picts (they were taking residence in an old Acheronian ruin) and a lot of savage beasts.  Also, if you play a female (and, no, I didn't), you can actually go around topless, you know, if you like to do your adventuring with your tits out, which is great.

One thing I need to mention, though.  I wanted to see what kind of roleplaying servers (which are servers on the game that actually reinforce and encourage roleplaying, instead of just running around, doing quests and chatting about a bunch of bullshit that's irrelevant to the game.  It seemed that the only RP server was also a PVP (Player Vs Player) server, which meant if someone wanted to kill me, they could sure as hell try.  Of course, I couldn't find one single person who was roleplaying their character on the server.  Needless to say, once I reached a certain level, I couldn't go around doing quests without some unwashed, sexually inept motherfucker who had a character that was twice my level come up and just fucking slaughter me within seconds.  At first, I told myself, "Hey, I'm on a PVP server.  These things happen."  One day, I went into an underground ruin for a quest when I find a bunch of these cocksuckers camping out, looking for lower level characters to massacre.  I kept respawning and they kept killing me, all the while masturbating over their tiny little victory while their grandmother sits right next to them watching The Price Is Right (which I have nothing against that show, by the way).

It was about this time that I said, "Fuck this," and stopped playing, period.  I would have made a new character on a non-PVP server, but, by that time, I had already invested so much in that character that I didn't want to go through that again.

Honestly, those little fucks better be glad I don't know where they live.  If I ever find one of those PVP-sexual taint-lickers, I'll pull out the business end of their large intestine and graft it onto their mouth, so that they'll be constantly forced to eat their own shit.

As a whole, Age of Conan is a pretty good MMO.  If you're not too busy having World of Warcraft's baby, you should give it a try.  Honestly, I have problems tolerating stupid people long enough to play MMOs for an extended period of time.  If I could get a bunch of friends together for a group, that would be nice.  Alas, no one seems to care enough, so the hell with them.

That not only wraps up the Conan games, but my exhaustive list of barbarian games I've played.  So do any of them rank high enough to become the ultimate barbarian video game?  Tune in tomorrow to find out.

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