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While I'm moaning, I ought to advise you not to make the same mistake I did and play on a PvP server unless you want the added complication of trying to quest while the usual maladjusted halfwits strike at you in every entrance, respawn point and quest area. Not every area is open to PvP, but those that are can be a nightmare as you desperately try to collect 20 gems while a group of Level 20 morons - who surely must have something better to do in Hyboria by now - make your task nigh-impossible. At least the game takes a forgiving approach to death and resurrection. Penalties are fairly minor when you fall, and respawn points aren't too few and far between.
I should also note that, with loading screens every time you move between areas, Age of Conan doesn't quite give you the feeling of a coherent world that LOTRO or WoW does. In fact, with its heavy use of instancing, Age of Conan is closer in feel to Guild Wars. For some, this won't be an issue. For others, it could be a deal breaker.
None of the above has spoilt my general good vibes about Age of Conan, but it has made me a bit more careful about who I'd recommend it to. At the moment, it feels like a great MMO for hardcore, combat-loving veterans, and I can imagine action game fans liking the game's more visceral approach to combat, not to mention the magnificent visuals and strong atmosphere. That said, Age of Conan does not feel like a game for newbies, WoW socialites or more casual players, and I'd happily direct them back to WoW, LOTRO or even Guild Wars if they wanted a good time. Bear in mind, too, that this is just a snapshot. I still haven't experimented much with the different character classes, vast swathes of Hyboria remain unexplored, and I've still yet to see how social interactions or PvP will work out in the long term.
Plus, I'm seeing good things here: despite the thugs and griefers, the game is already beginning to develop the sort of friendly, helpful community that's a sure sign of an MMO going in the right direction. The world, its stories and the character progression will keep me coming back for more, and my main hope is that Age of Conan will get better as Hyboria opens up. After all, there are many strange lands left to see and fell beasts left to slay, not to mention mounts, PvP sieges and much, much more to enjoy. At the moment, I'd say Age of Conan was a good MMO with the potential to turn into a great one. I just hope that the grind doesn't get me down before it does.
A stunning and satisfyingly visceral fantasy MMO, though one that will suit the hardcore veteran or the action gamer better than the new or more casual players who embraced LOTRO or WoW. Quest design could be stronger, and grinding and griefing can make the experience frustrating.