Star Trek Online is barely a few months old, you’re still waist deep in Klingon targ, upgrading your ships, exploring the vastness of uncharted space, meeting new life and civilisations, and of course racking up STO credits along the way.

In your spare time you still frequent Atreia (someone needs to stop the Balaur, and lets face it, there’s aion kinah to be earned). On the not to distant horizon, the seductive siren call of Blizzard can be heard, urging you to return to your main, with the promise of a world changing expansion in the form of World of Warcraft: Cataclysm.

Let’s face it, you’ve only got so much time on your hands, and money doesn’t grow on trees. So why is it that Funcom’s chosen now to release the first expansion to their long troubled MMO, Age of Conan? Simple, because Rise of the Godslayer can compete with the best of the best.

There’s no getting around the fact that despite Funcom’s best intentions, Age of Conan didn’t have the most stellar of launches. Prior to launch, gamers and press were amazed at the amount of detail and apparent polish the Norwegian development studio was able to to apply. Folks bandied about the term “wow-killer”, and some wondered whether this high quality effort might be the first game to make a significant impact on World of Warcraft’s stranglehold on the MMO genre.

It wasn’t to be. Despite offering up some amazing music and eye-popping graphics, as well as a unique and visceral combat system far more dynamic and involving than any seen in the genre to date, Age of Conan’s launch was plagued with problems. There were the usual launch window technical issues, the game brought even the beefiest of systems to their knees, driver incompatibilities, memory leaks, ludicrous load times, you name it, AoC suffered from it. Despite this, those that persisted reported that the game itself was great… until you got past the starting area of Tortage and past level twenty.

Perhaps Funcom just didn’t anticipate how voracious MMO-gamers could be, maybe they didn’t expect folks to get through their early level content as quickly as they did, but gamers began reporting that past level twenty, there just wasn’t that much content, and higher than that, there was almost nothing as subscribers had to resort to intense grinding in order to level up, and no one likes grinding.

Impressive early sales and subscriber numbers count for nothing in the MMO market if you can’t hold on to them, and AoC began to hemorrhage players at an alarming rate. A month and a half in, and the flood of players leaving the game showed no signs of slowing, forums were aflame with disgruntled gamers venting their dissatisfaction. Drastic times called for drastic measures, and the first casualty came from an unlikely place, the very top. Game director Gaute Godager stepped down in a surprise move, such was the high profile failure of the game Funcom had banked so much on, and he was replaced by fan favorite Craig Morrison. This change heralded the first few steps in AoC’s path down the road to normalcy.

Over the past two years, Morrison and his team have worked diligently to better the game. They’ve been adding huge content patches to flesh out the gameplay, tweaks and balances to classes and combat, and engine improvements to eliminate the issues with game performance.

In fact, you could say that Age of Conan is a case study in how to save an MMO that looks to be on the skids. An unlimited free trial, email campaigns, constant community feedback, interaction and inventive community events have helped stabilise subscriber numbers, and now, with Rise of the Godslayer, Funcom are looking at giving AoC a second birth of sorts.

The first evidence of this, is in the fact that the entire original game is bundled in the retail package for Rise of the Godslayer, and at no extra cost. For anyone who’s had an eye on Age of Conan but hasn’t been sure about whether to dip their toes into the warm Stygian waters, this is a no-brainer. The amount of polish and content included in that $39.99 package is near unrivaled in the genre.

The massive marketing campaign makes it obvious that Funcom is targeting new players, and is actively looking at growing its subscriber base, but it hasn’t forgotten its bread and butter, the current subscribers that keep Hyboria ticking, earning aoc gold, rescuing priestesses and vanquishing Toth Amon’s minions. For them, Rise of the Godslayer offers up the new Khitan race, new mounts (wolves and tigers), a new alternative advancement system (complete with new feats and perks), a brand new faction system, and vast new areas to explore including the Chosain Province, The Northern Grasslands, Kara Korum, and Paikang.

All this, and of course there are literally hundreds of new quests, new storylines, new NPC’s and characters, armor sets, and a smart, Eastern-influenced look that’s unlike anything we’ve ever seen in Age of Conan classic.

But what’s the best thing about Rise of the Godslayer? The fact that Funcom seem to have learned the lessons of AoC’s tumultuous launch. Sure there are bugs, but any new MMO or expansion launch will have those, but critically, they aren’t on the game breaking level of the original game’s launch.

Perhaps even more important though, there’s content, and loads of it. You might even so Funcom’s over-compensating for something there’s so much. There’s no shortage of quests for bloodthirsty adventurers, and the scenery is stunning and diverse, bright and beautiful, it makes a great contrast to AoC classic’s blood soaked, grimy environs, and transitioning between the two locales is a welcome palette cleanser.

It’s almost impossible to find fault with Funcom’s launch of Rise of the Godslayer, and they should be commended for the work they’ve put in, improving the original game immeasurably. However, you have to ask what the future holds for this latest expansion. How will it hold its own against the new kid on the block in Star Trek Online, the rising onlyfans free trial number of increasingly successful free-to-play MMO’s in Free Realms, Dungeon’s and Dragon’s Online, and of course, looming shadow that is Blizzard’s own latest WoW expansion, Cataclysm. Will Rise of the Godslayer sink or swim?