Alternate Advancement isn't the only bar you'll be trying to push upwards as you journey through Khitai's undeniably gorgeous zones, though. The entire continent's gameplay is focused around 10 new factions - divided into five warring pairs, with the player asked to choose a side in each rivalry. Building your standing with these factions is the core task at hand, with a variety of quests - many of them repeatable, an echo of World of Warcraft's now all-pervasive Daily Quests - being on offer from each.
As you accumulate standing and tokens, high-level gear becomes available, although don't expect any of it to come easy. Godslayer guards its precious epic items jealously. Dedicated players will take many weeks or even months to get hold of desirable items - but this time, at least, they'll be getting gear worth flaunting.
The Asian setting has given Conan's art team a new lease of life, not only in terms of the breathtakingly beautiful environments, but also with gear that finally looks as epic as it sounds. Maintaining the game's low-fantasy feel while still providing players with visual rewards for their efforts is a tough balancing act, but it's one the game's artists have finally mastered, it seems. Most impressive of all are the new Tiger and Wolf mounts, each of which demands vast investment of time and effort to acquire, but which will provide dedicated players with the "wow!" factor the game had, thus far, been lacking.
All of this eye candy comes at a price, however. While the game's performance and graphical quality is incredible compared to its messy state two years ago, the Khitai zones place a fresh strain on PCs. They're bigger, more detailed and vastly more ambitious, and my trusty PC, which now breezes through the older zones of Hyboria with ease, found some of Khitai's more impressive sections to be a framerate-murdering challenge. It's arguably worth it for the visual spectacle, although devoted PvP players, in particular, will find themselves dialling down their graphics settings fairly quickly. Graphical glitches and lengthy data checks are also still an annoyance.
None of these flaws are game-breaking, and few of them seem to bother the game's devoted followers - and yes, there are plenty of those. The scaled-down number of servers now plays host to a pretty vibrant and active community of players, although there's a major cultural difference between the PvP servers and their PvE counterparts. The latter are genuinely friendly and helpful for newbies, the former, although arguably much closer to the PvP-focused "spirit" of the game, are rather aggressive and a lot quicker to tell questioning newcomers to "go back to WOW".
If Rise of the Godslayer's greatest strength is its laser-sharp focus on listening to the community and responding to what they want, it also makes it harder to recommend to new players. Gateway to Khitai is a welcome addition to the early game, but it's all you'll see of the expansion for a long while, with by far the best of the content being locked away behind the Great Wall.
For those active in Age of Conan already, however, Godslayer is a great step for the game. With well-considered new features, glorious artwork and fantastic music, it demonstrates Funcom's design and art teams firing on all cylinders, building on the work done by the technical team in bringing the game up to scratch over the past two years. Conan isn't about to threaten the biggest players in the MMO space, but it has found a niche for itself nonetheless, and Godslayer sees it settling into that role in confident and well-executed style.