If there is anything better than playing as a barbarian savage to earn levels, loot, and glory… it’s doing it for free. It’s been no secret that Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures has seen a share of ups and downs in its nearly three years on the MMORPG circuit: incessant bugs, missing zones, and initially almost no content for players who surpassed level 20. Yet Funcom has methodically fixed their errors, and it’s shaping up save your money in the end.

With a slew of patches set to include new monsters, drops, equipment, storylines, and even characters, Funcom is transforming the subscription-based Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures into a Free-to-Play (F2P) hybrid with a shiny new name representing the new changes: Age of Conan: Unrated.

Funcom is rewarding the die-hard enthusiasts and the newcomers in a whole new way – giving players the option to choose between the free game or a monthly “premium” subscription.

Both groups of players will still have access to most of the same equipment and abilities, yet premium subscribers will get bonuses such as extra character slot allotments (eight instead of the normal two) and even gain access to “exclusive” deals in the new virtual marketplace that will soon be added to the title.

As for the “Unrated” designation in Age of Conan: Unrated, Funcom promises that a more “barbaric, brutal, and sexy setting” is in store – one that will not only encapsulate the ideas of Conan author Robert E. Howard, but also be used to tie-in the upcoming Conan the Barbarian film. Players will get a chance to see live-action characters in the digital world – as well as download an adventure pack that plays alongside the narrative of the film – bringing them all together as one big barbaric family.

Funcom isn’t the only group to take the F2P direction, with games like Lord of the Rings: Online enjoying great success with the change, and even Dungeons and Dragons Online starting off as F2P. That said, for long-term success, it will just be a matter of making sure the offers are worth it to the premium subscribers, which given the amount of dedication Funcom has put into the game already, doesn’t seem like it’ll be an issue.

Age of Conan: Unranted is currently out now for the PC (but still requires a subscription for the time being).

Source: Gamespot.com, (Age of Conan FAQ)