In the Q&A compilation with Jason "Athelan" Stone (one of the Age of Conan game developers, who has a blog at mmorpg.com) that TenTonHammer posted today, this piece of information particularly caught my eye. One of the readers asked how would ranged mounted combat would work in AoC, and here's a quote from Athelan:
You can't cast offensive magic from horseback, so I do not expect you can use ranged mounted combat at all. This is because ranged combined with the mobility of horseback would become an exploitation issue with kiting in both PvE and PvP. However everyone has access to melee combat and could engage from their mounts in that way.I was pretty disappointed after reading this, even though playing a hun-like ranger (raining death upon my enemies from a horseback, and leaving before they realize what hit them) wasn't my idea of my main character. I'm more concerned with the fact that I won't be able to cast any offensive spells whatsoever with my Demonologist while riding a mount. I do realize it would be hard to balance because of kiting (ranged attacking while keeping a safe distance) like Athelan mentions, and the members of official AoC forums pointed that out too in this topic, but surely it isn't impossible! They could, for example, reduce the damage and accuracy of ranged attacks depending on the speed your mount is moving at.
You could say, "What's the big deal about ranged mounted combat? I don't need it at all." It's true that it's not one of the widely advertised, core features of the game; however, it's still described on the official site (as of today, March 31st, 2008). If you go to the description of Mounted Combat - which is dated 21.02.2008, by the way - you will notice that it contains this, among the other things:
Depending on the mount you are using, combat will unfold in different ways.So, as you can see, the official AoC community site does say you can use ranged weapons and magic from the back of your mount - even if it does mention not being able to use some kinds of spells. Could it be that Athelan is wrong? I really doubt it. The official site has been known to often contain outdated information, especially now when Funcom is doing so many changes preparing for the game release - which is just 50 days away from now!
If you are using magic or ranged weapons, it works much the same way as combat on foot – aim and fire! There are, however, certain disadvantages.
Loss of precision: Mounts have momentum and build up speed. Many will not turn on a dime!
Spells: Some spells may not work while mounted (since it can be quite difficult to think while bouncing up and down on several tons of mammoth).
Perhaps mounted ranged combat is something to look forward to in the next expansion? Funcom sure has a reputation of supporting their games long time after release. Their other MMORPG, Anarchy Online, had been running for 7 years now, and I even heard something about a much needed graphics engine update it's supposed to get soon. Here's to that.