Tharok has challenged me to note some things that Age of Conan does better than WoW. I'm going to try to do so.
Umm, the water is really, really pretty. Seriously, the reflection, refraction, and diffraction is superb. Simply putting my toon in the water ups the graphics quality by an order of magnitude.
The use of positional effects such as knockbacks is very nice. My Priest of Mitra got this spell Repulse, which flings all enemies close to you backwards, and does a fair bit of damage. It's a lot of fun to use, and is a great spell for a priest type character.
The melee combat is more reactive than WoW's combat. Where WoW tends to fall into set routine, AoC combat tends to make you push buttons in a unique order each time.
Quests are a lot easier to do as quest objectives are marked on your map, so you can just follow the arrows.
I think the LFG system is better, but I haven't actually used it yet.
Well, that's done, and I can go back to pointing silly design design decisions. This is just going to be a quick list of stuff, not really in any significant detail.
Melee Combat. I personally find melee combat to be awkward, and not really that deep. Hit the guy on the side with no shields is not the height of strategy. Maybe it will get better if you can start identifying when a combo has been started and what moves are coming up.
Death Penalties. When you die, you essentially "respawn" at a graveyard. You have a penalty to your stats, which will go away if you reach the spot where you died (or after 30 minutes). Of course, if you die far away from a respawn point you have to run all the way back to your body, and there are normally respawned mobs in the way. So you have to kill these mobs all over again, only this time it's harder because of the penalty.
Quest tracking. As far as I can tell, you can only track one quest at a time. However, if you pick up a new quest, the tracking automatically switches to the new quest. So what ends up happening is that I'm following the arrow to a quest item and I see someone who has a new quest. I pick up the quest, look at the mini-map to find my bearings, and realize that I have to open the quest log and re-select the old quest I was working on. This behaviour is supremely annoying.
Chat Window. Here's the general rule of chat windows: Chat windows are for communicating with other players, the rest of the interface is for communicating with the game. 9 times out of 10, the player does not need to see an actual message from the game if the UI has been designed properly. AoC shows too many messages. As well, by default you can only see 3 or so lines in the window. The worst is when you sell loot after adventuring, and every transaction is posted. I'm not really sure it's even possible to carry on a conversation while doing something using the default chat.
Instancing. AoC doesn't really feel like a world. It feels like a collection of instances strung together. The instancing tech to balance loads and over-crowding is quite clever, but I'm not sure it was a good idea. I quite clearly remember my first griffon flight in WoW, and realizing that I could see other people and they could see me, that I was still part of the world. That was amazingly cool. In fact, I think Blizzard's decision to instance off the Blood Elf and Draenai starting areas was a mistake, and AoC is making that same mistake on a far larger scale.
Balanced areas. I was doing a green (low-level) quest that involved killing level 5 monsters at about level 8. However, to get to the correct area I had to get past a level 11 monster that killed me every time. I finally waited for a higher level to come by and kill it, and followed him through.
Graphics. I don't really like the graphics. Technically, they may be better than WoW (more polygons, more insert-CG-buzzword-here, etc.), but I find that Blizzard makes much better use of colours, contrast, and shapes. But I'm not really a fan of "realistic" graphics. I find that games that go for realism are not as "vibrant" as real life, and that more cartoony games are more likely to achieve that vibrancy. Your personal taste may differ.
Inability to switch characters. If you want to switch to a different character, you get to exit from the game and log back in again. I cannot fathom how Funcom decided this was a good idea.
Company logos. Yes, Funcom, when I start your game, I really want to see all 100 logos of every single company that had a hand in the game, including the pizza shop down the street, as well as the opening movie. Seriously, every time you launch the game, you get to sit through all the opening movies (or more accurately, hit Esc a whole bunch of times). Please, for the love of all that is holy, gaming companies need to stop doing this! Play all the movies whenever you make a new character, or the first time the game launches, but after that let us get to the actual game ASAP!
This isn't a negative for Funcom, but something that would have been really cool is if they had provided a set of "WoW default keybindings". Basically press L to bring up the Journal, B to bring up the inventory, C to bring up the character screen, P to bring up the Abilities/Skills and N to bring up the Feat trees. Just to make it slightly easier to steal WoW players. Similar to what Excel did to capture Lotus 1-2-3 users, by implementing all the Lotus "slash" commands.
All in all, AoC hasn't really grabbed me yet. There hasn't been anything that has really made me excited to play, and there are enough annoyances to make me not want to play. Admittedly, I haven't levelled very far yet, my highest character is my Priest of Mitra at about level 11. However, I have put in several hours on a bunch of different characters trying to find one that I liked. I predict that I will probably try to get my Priest through the starting area over the weekend, just to get my money's worth out of the game, and then probably stop playing it.