I have played this game for 6 years and watched as it steadily drove itself into the ground.
I'm what you could call an AOC Loyalist.. or I was. Recent events in the game have Illuminated why this game is failing. For starters..
NPC Guards in World PVP zones ganking players for trying to pvp or gank other players. Not strategically placed mind you... The thing about guard npcs on open world pvp servers in mmos is they should never be placed as numerously as aoc does it. I MEAN THEY ARE EVERYWHERE. WHY EVEN BOTHER HAVING OPEN WORLD PVP. DCUO did a good job of keeping such things to a bare minimum.
I will give an honest review of the state of the game from my point of view.
You can level to 80 but along the way you will have a very hard time finding groups for low level dungeons even on the most populated server, the crom pve server. This is because the games population is in steady decline. So you're more or less on your own. At end game (Level 80) you can do 6 man dungeons which aren't bad and are quite rewarding. and you will be able to do 24 man raids.. If you can find a raid..
The 24 man raid. These generally consist of 4 groups of 6 combined to form a raid. Most bosses are tank and spank time sinks with need greed loot rolls that are open to all regardless of class. This leads to ninja looting on occasion. Most raids will be very controlling in dispersal of loot. There are on average 2-3 pieces of epic gear that drop per raid boss and raid instances can vary in how many bosses. from 3 to 8. Raids can take a few hours to complete so set aside some spare time on raid night, especially progression raids. expect alot of elitist attitude and assholism. and don't be surprised if you come away completely empty handed.. alot... I raided for 6 months once to get a piece of tier 2 gear. Yea ... If you haven't guessed by now this game is grind incarnate.
The 6 man dungeon, There are many variations of these. from revamped low level dungeons called "unchained mode" to the khitai expansion pack dungeons. They are mostly quick and like i said very rewarding. I would recommend these starting out for quick epic gear. Problem is you have to be subscribed to play most content in the game so dont go in expecting a free ride, this game is hardly "free to play".
Free to play model: Very poor. you are limited to 10 gold currency, can do no dungeon content aside from a couple of tier 1 raids. You can do all the pvp content which isn't much. These guys could learn alot from the other dev groups out there using f2p successfully. But some people prefer the subscription model. If you do this game could be for you.
Global chat - A fun time if you have a thick skin.. Think barrens chat in WoW. This is worse. But they do ban people for blatant non political correctness like using the N word or spewing homophobic slurs etc.
The PvP side
PvP- Neglected for ages but getting little tid-bits of attention now(too little too late). You have open world pvp which comes with ganking and all that fun. You have minigames which is limited to 3 x 6v6 ctf maps, 1 x 6v6 dm map where you can smash the enemy spawn and end the match quickly and 1 x 12v12 domination map which half your team goes afk most of the time because win or lose you still get a token which you need to buy pvp gear.
PvP Balance - Non existent. It's a paper rock scissors game. take that for what it is. this will never change although in this game sometimes scissors cuts rock and rock crushes paper and paper breaks scissors.. if that makes sense. the balance in this game doesn't make any sense. Tanks hit like trucks.
The minigame queue which i will describe below is horrible. The "balance algorithm" they supposedly installed in 2010 or so cannot seem to balance teams. So you'll end up on a good team or a ♥♥♥♥ty team.
Minigames and group pvp - I'm sorry did i say group pvp? The thing is in age of conan you CAN'T join pvp games with a group. Unless you are doing a full 6v6 tournament like a premade match and you have 2 full groups ready to go.. The public queue is completely random. You CANNOT decide who is on your team. This will induce episodes of rage. They will never change this aspect. We have tried and failed to convince them for years that making it a random queue is a bad idea.
PvP Gear dependance is high in pvp. As well as AAs (Alternate Advancement - do your own research if you care) The gap between vets and new players is immense. You will fight against rank 10 veterans with crappy gear and you will melt in seconds. You will get people trashing you verbally for even trying. Nothing like being called pure ♥♥♥♥ for trying to pvp when you're new just because you lack gear. The only way to quickly level up in pvp rank is to do weeks of pve resource grinding of rocks/materials called bori shrines. This is mindnumbing to say the least. I wont go further into detail on this. You can do your own research if you wish. Needless to say i opted to not do these bori shrines and it took me 4 years to pvp level to max and i pvp constantly.
Sieges are broken and when they do work noone sieges anyway. Forget about this aspect. They advertise this but its ♥♥♥♥.
The expansion pack requires an ACTIVE SUB to use its content even if you buy it you still must sub to use it. So dont buy the ex pack if you arent going to subscribe. They fail to mention this.
Guilds -Forget about making your own guild because it takes years to get off the ground and this game rewards large guilds not small ones. You can make a small guild but you'll never get anywhere without a guild city and those take time and or money and lots of manpower. To put it bluntly a guild consisting of say 200+ active unique members farming resource nodes daily would take 6 months to a year to build a guild city to full tier 3. . Some people sell these guild cities that are abandonded... I recommend buying one in this case. Again this game rewards zerg numbers. small guilds get crapped on usually. There is no alliance system and no faction system. You cannot kill guildies but you can kill anyone else.
Forums are heavily moderated. this irks me especially. you get infractions for anything they dont like and they are ban happy. its no wonder the forums are dead.
Will add more as it comes to me but as of now i quit the game and I donot recommend it. Unless you are a glutton for punishment.
OH yea , They have decided to nix the cross server tech plan/promise so i expect the ship will sink any time now. Save yourself the trouble and try a better game like neverwinter
Update: I do still play as of Nov 2014. I cant stay away. roll on fury and spread your @sses