Sadly, I'm one of these people that still has stereo sound/speakers on his desktop computer, but thankfully, I have managed to experience Age of Conan in 5.1 and 7.1 digital surround sound. The audio engineering team at Funcom is to be applauded for their amazing ability to bring such sound to life for players on every-day home computers. The sound effects and music in 7.1 is mind-blowing, to say the least; in 5.1 it still delivers; and even in stereo sound with my humble Logitech speakers and subwoofer I am still able to sink myself in to the audio environment of Hyboria and its distinct sounds.
It may be a minion of the undead lurking up behind you, an arrow whistling passed your ear or the crunch of the snow beneath your feet in the Eiglophian Mountains; it's a refined, clear, and crisp sound that accompanies it. Furthermore, all sounds are in-sync with the according action. Drawing your sword from its sheathe is accompanied with its perfectly timed sound effects, and it sounds completely authentic. Funcom have gone to great lengths to ensure that as a player you are pulled in and immersed even by the audio elements of the game, and this is an important feature, because, like the movies, sound consists of half of the experience.
Regarding the music, every nation and every zone has a theme attached to it. It's difficult to describe the music in words, but take that epic orchestral sound that you might find in movies like Gladiator, Kingdom of Heaven, Conan the Barbarian (of course), Braveheart, and Highlander, and that's what you might find in Age of Conan. Not to mention the combat-dynamic music that has a tendency to get your pulse racing as your cutting down a Nemedian soldier or slicing through a Vanir Skulker. Mounted combat even has its unique combat music, and for both types of combat music, the longer you're in the fight, the more intense the music gets; a bit like one of those fight scenes in a movie where the fight between the good guy and the bad guy is topsy-turvey, both combatants are frantically doing their best to out-best each other, and the music tells this story! For those of you fortunate enough to own the Age of Conan Collector's Edition, you'd know that you are the proud owner of an Age of Conan soundtrack. My advice: take the CD and play it in your car, put the tracks on your iPod, make A Hymn for King Conan the bridal waltz at your wedding, what ever! Just listen to it in and outside of the game.
For outstanding music and sound effects, and for making the game enjoyable to listen to even on stereo sound, Funcom has pulled-up trumps with their audio engineering.
The score: 20 out of 20.