I picked up Age of Conan last night on a whim, and thought I'd write about my first impressions. First off, this is probably going to sound unnecessarily negative. AoC does a lot of stuff well. For example, the servers were up, running and pretty solid, which, sadly, is an accomplishment for an MMO. I really only glitched out once (I died once and the dialog to resurrect didn't come up), so technically the game--so far--is smooth. My issues are almost entirely design-driven, which I suppose is progress for the MMO industry.
A general warning, the technical requirements are pretty steep. I wouldn't pick AoC up if you have less than the recommended specs.
I'll start with the install process. When we talk about Blizzard games, we often throw around the word "polish". Whenever someone asks for a concrete example of polish, I point to the installation process for World of Warcraft. When you install WoW, the installer plays a noticeable sound (an orcish drum sound, I believe) when it is ready for the next CD. This allows you to do something else while the game is installing, and still be alerted when it is time for the next CD. Then when you insert the next CD, the install process automatically picks up from where it left off. (My guess is the autorun of the new CD communicates with the installer.)
That is polish. Taking the time and effort to clean up the little details that other people would leave undone. AoC's install, in contrast, worked fine. But you had to manually check if the installer was ready for the next DVD, and you had to click the OK button after putting in the DVD. It's a small thing, but it really symbolizes the difference between WoW and AoC, between Blizzard and the rest of the gaming industry. AoC works, and is serviceable and fun, but WoW is polished.
On to races and classes. There are three races: civilized good guys, who are white; noble barbarians, who are also white; and evil bad guys, who are black. Gotta love the casual racism of the gaming industry. These racial distinctions are enforced in the game. If you roll a Cimmerian, you cannot pick a non-white skin colour. If you roll a Stygian, you cannot pick a non-dark skin colour.
And the good/evil divide extends to classes. The black people have a single neutral class (the Archer), and all the other classes are outright evil (Demonologist, necromancer, Herald of some elder demon god, priest of Set). Meanwhile the white people have mostly good or neutral classes (there is one evil class, the Dark Templar).
Of course, Funcom probably justifies being racist by claiming to be "true to Conan's lore." Yeah, well, Howard was pretty damn sexist, but I don't see AoC imposing any but the most cosmetic differences between males and females. There aren't any stat differences between male and female characters, and either gender can be any class. But then I guess Funcom is European, and therefore, "Racism good! Sexism forbidden!"
Funcom will probably react to this by trotting out some token black NPC who they claim is a good guy ("See, not all black people are totally evil"). But actions speak louder than words. In Age of Conan, if you want to play a good, heroic class, you make a white character. If you want to play an evil class, you make a black character.