As I gear up to head back into Age of Conan and investigate the new expansion, Rise of the Godslayer, I am welcomed by a surprising addition via patch 1.07.2 – offline leveling. As happens with every patch, some players spread their arms wide. Others are one step from running naked through the streets and declaring the end of the world.
There are restrictions to keep power-levelers from taking the set-it-and-forget-it approach. Characters must be level 30 or higher. One level, per account, is added to a pool every four days. Levels can be dispersed to any applicable character, but the pool can never hold more than four levels.
Age of Conan’s new system is being compared to that of EVE Online, which allows players to select skills for offline advancement, but it is not so different from the XP-multipliers awarded to well-rested characters in World of Warcraft and Warhammer Online. The end result is the same regardless of the game – a player advances quicker with less time at the keyboard.
As a habitual explorer, a bonus for resting is not enough. I am compelled to investigate every cave and mountain. The meager XP offered for such wanderings is hardly enough to make bonuses noticeable, let alone competitive with raiders and PvP junkies. Meanwhile, my friends quest and grind until the gap between us seems insurmountable. Slowly but surely, we lose touch, and friendly conversation in chat digresses into a cordially brief, “Hey.”
Veterans are worried that offline leveling will cheapen their accomplishments and thrust a bevy of unskilled players into the end-game. Naysayers neglect to acknowledge that offline leveling does not gift players with free gear and notoriety. In fact, I suspect that players who use auto-leveling have the potential to become the strongest players Age of Conan has seen.
Without the ‘proper’ gear for their levels, nor the newly added Perks, auto-leveled players will have to work even harder to survive. Basic foes will seem unstoppable and well-equipped players will ruthlessly torment their underlings. Besides, in case I am completely off-base, I don’t recall players being forced to group with each other.
The likeliest scenario is that offline leveling will get the most usage from alts. Reaching level 80 via offline leveling will take 200 days and cost approximately $70 (USD) in subscription fees. I don’t foresee many newcomers paying to not play a game for nearly seven months. I do anticipate an influx of high-level alts ready and willing to serve the needs of their guilds.
Those who do use auto-leveling will still have a rough road ahead, and hopefully those who don’t use it can see the benefits of attracting new players to an excellent game that has had more than its share of struggles. As for myself, I only know that a free level every now and then is exactly what I need to keep pace, even if it means that my pitifully-geared character has to pass on the major battles.