Ok, let's talk about what I saw 2 years ago compared to today in the way of mechanics, content and the interface. The initial Tortage scenario while stunning is still a bit stale. I've gone through it from different places and really I try to minimize my time during the day unless I am short on gear. The nice thing is as a veteran player from 09-'10 I had a few account perks that allowed me swift leveling to get out of there. In this, I wish Funcom would put out like maybe 2 other possible starting areas. Don't get me wrong, I especially love the night time story progression. There are a couple of fun story lines with the picts in the Acheron ruins, but over all, it would be nice to start in a different area with different stories.
That being said, let's talk about graphics. DX10 is pretty intense even when your settings are not on maximum. For the immersive player this is some gorgeous stuff. Now, if you do have a mid-high end rig, you can get some really awesome terrain views as well as the clarity of your toon. I run a 5780 Radeon, 8 gigs of DDR3 Ram and a pretty decent 3mhz processor. Even on high graphics, I still range around 30-35 fps frame rate. Not too bad, though it can get a little chunky in the cities. I did get a little frustrated with server lag spikes that occasionally screwed up my combat combo sequences, but I'll tell you, it has improved considerably since I last played. Back then I was ranging around 15-20 fps with a fairly decent rig. At that point I had to keep my graphic settings pretty low to be able to play.
For game play mechanics, well casters need only to pick spell and let loose. Melee classes, you got work ahead of you for the combos. In the beginning its just mixing and matching single button combos based upon your opponent's defensive pattern. This isn't too hard, till you get into your 20's where you will need to keep a stock of lesser and greater hitting combo strikes on hand. I picked a Conqueror for survivability as a melee class. It's a little more challenging as they progress to figure out which formations and disciplines to mix and match as well as dropping banners or discipline abilities. Still not too difficult. I am still getting used to not hitting an auto target and auto white hit while in combat. I'll get to it as I progress.
The UI they give you as a default is OK in the beginning but as you progress you will need additional hotkey slots. That I promise you. So, for those who want to continue on beyond say lv 25, I suggest you install some customized UI's that are available. Curse still carries them and there are some pretty wicked ones out there. HOWEVER unless you are a guru at manually installing your files and taking out the bxml files or tweaking them, you need to download AoC UI installer for installing the customized UI skins. My personal favorites are Plagued UI - Revived and Bombata's Fire UI as far as reskinning and adding additional hot key bars. They are clean, can be made small with numerous slots for hotkeys. Makes it quite a bit easier to deal with additional stuff. Now one of the keys you should be aware of, and that is if your install gives errors or won't progress, try running the AOC installer as administrator. For some reason this seems to work a lot easier. The UI's don't take much more than 4 or 5 megs of space and the installer is pretty lite as well. Personally I recommend it. You may have to play with the key bindings a bit to set them the way best operates for you but it's still not too much of a chore. Just practice a bit with the combos to get your muscle memory down. I still haven't figured out how to program my mouse the macros needed to strafe left and right, but I'll get there. It won't just take the key hit like in WoW. Eh well, small issues but not game breakers.
Content after you leave Tortage is based down to 3 areas, Conarch Village in Cimmeria, Tesso in the Zeleta Wildlands, and hmmm, I forget the Stygian one, I never go there lol. Ehh I'll try that down the road and report on it. If you are looking for the Barbaric look, Conarch Village/Connal's Valley is the go to place. Killing Vanir sometimes reaps nice barbaric looking armor and weapons for those needing them. The missions have you travelling up and down twisting paths in the mountains and there is some storyline with Kern Wolf eye. Additionally, there are missions that require 3 or 4 players to down outdoor bosses. Now this is all well and good in a high populated server..but if you are on your own...not so much. So, if you are soloing, around level 25, hit up Tesso, there is a kick ass instance in the ruins there anyhow for 30ish player level.
Socially, like many mmo's you got good and bad people out there. Expect a rougher edge in the global channel here. If you don't have a thick skin or are offended easily, turn it off or don't play. Some people are a bit too far so I put them on ignore. The one annoying thing I see is the constant gold spammers as well as emails and and tells. That is annoying but there isn't much that will be done about it.
Server populations are kind of low. There are a total of four servers right now, 2 pvp and 2 pve. They aren't non existent, but still a little low for my tastes. I have seen people still adventuring in the low level ares, but most are doing solo stuff. Doesnt hurt to ask if you need help though. Currently I'm working out of the Wiccana server and for the most part people are reasonably helpful when I asked noobish questions.
Ok those are my observations for the day. Gonna go play now. See ya!!!
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