Welcome, my barbaric friends,we can delve into some of the class choices available in Funcom’s version of Hyboria. Given that I’m currently playing two rangers (one on Wiccana, one on Cimmeria), this column will ultimately focus heavily on those experiences. I’ll also toss in the occasional comment on assassins (my launch day character and now an alt) as well as how my rangers fare against all twelve classes.
Age of Conan is a unique title in many ways, but none are more readily apparent than the melee combat system and the newish take on traditional MMORPG class roles. If you’re new to the game or newly returned, chances are you’re having a bit of a time deciding which class is right for you. If you pick one based on prior genre experience, you may find some surprises in store. Hit the link below for some basic class breakdowns as well as my reasons for going ranger.
And what would a ranger know of this matter?
For starters, this ranger has leveled all twelve classes to 20 and done a fair amount of research, so I can at least speak to the basics of each and what may differentiate them from other game’s implementations. This is not intended to be an exhaustive class guide, nor advice on what to take for end-game (since I’m not there yet), but rather a primer that may assist newbs in narrowing the field and a collection of the info that I used in making my own class choice.
With that disclaimer out of the way, let’s see if we can’t grok Age of Conan’s class system. The big twelve are broken down into the following sub-categories: Rogues, Soldiers, Priests, and Mages. Some classes are race-restricted (i.e. you can’t roll a Stygian Bear Shaman), so you may find your choices narrowed a bit if you have a particular affinity for Aquilonians, Cimmerians, or Stygians.
Rage of Mages
Mages are perhaps the least noteworthy of Age of Conan’s classes. Not because they’re not fun, but because by and large they don’t make use of the newfangled directional combat system to the extent that melee types do. If you’re a caster, you basically spam ranged spells like every other MMORPG, though you generally look better doing it in Age of Conan. The exception to this is the hybrid Herald of Xotli, but the Demonologist and Necromancer strike me as very similar to their caster and pet-handling counterparts in many other games.
Herald of Xotli
The Herald is an interesting class, so much so that I defy anyone to find me another MMO that features a cloth wearing greatsword wielding caster class possessed of potent dark magic plus the ability to change into a demon. Still looking? Yeah, go ahead and give it up. From what I can tell at the early stages, Heralds are one of those ‘easy to learn/hard to master’ classes. In the right hands, the class can be deadly, just don’t expect to survive if your opponents decide to focus fire.
Demos are the epitome of the AoE-based caster. If you want to hurl fireballs, summon half-naked succubus pets, dole out a generous amount of crowd control, and generally make life miserable for groups of mobs, this is your class. I’ve also done a bit of PvP with my 21 demo, both in mini-games and in the White Sands/Underhalls portions of Tortage. Most one versus one encounters end up with my opponent dead or running away. I assure you this is not because I’m a skilled PvPer.
To start, I have to say that Age of Conan’s necromancer pets are the single grossest thing I’ve ever seen in an MMO. They are so nasty that I used to be amazed that people would actually want to play this class. Then I rolled one, got into a couple of White Sands fisticuffs, and instantly saw the appeal. Imagine a class that does massive damage, hefty DoTs, and can do both while kiting, and you’ll begin to see why Necro victims commonly shout a variation on “WTF overpowe……ugh” before face-planting on the rez pad.
Priests of the Temple
Healing is one of the areas where Funcom has thrown out the rulebook with regard to past MMORPGs. In Age of Conan, you rarely have to stare at your party’s health bars since most of the healing spells are AoE-based and affect your entire party. This frees up the priest to do damage in addition to medic duties, though some classes are currently more effective at this than others.
Priest of Mitra
Community opinions are pretty divided about the usefulness of PoMs after a few notable ner….er, changes made to crowd control range. My own PoM experience has been unremarkable, primarily because I’ve largely played solo to this point. Prior to level 25 the class fares well in PvE with an effective knockback, but PvP has been an exercise in frustration due to long casting times and a fair amount of squishiness.
Tempest of Set
The ToS is one of those classes that you love or hate, depending on whether you rolled one or are playing against one. In keeping with Age of Conan’s unique approach to the healer archetype, the ToS is one of the game’s premier AoE damage dealers. The class is as adept at pumping out DPS as it is at repairing it. While many have cried for nerfs to the Tempest, the reality is that they’re quite fragile. PvE through level 25 is generally a breeze, provided you can keep from aggroing the entire zone with your destructive awesomeness.
Bear Shamans, like Tempests of Set, are healer/DPS hybrids. The main difference is that the Shaman does single target damage as opposed to area effects. Shamans are also a bit heartier, given that they can equip medium armor and man the front lines more effectively than squishies wearing cloth. Looking at the feat tree, you can opt to spec yourself into a very effective healer or a very effective damage dealer.
Soldiers of Fortune
If you’re looking to play Age of Conan’s equivalent of the heavy plate wearing meatshield, look no further. The guard is the game’s closest thing to a traditional tank though, true to form, the class can also be specced into an effective damage dealer. Min/max players may want to note that the 1.07 patch delivered a mitigation nerf of between one to two percent to soldiers, ostensibly “to make armor much more future proof, in order to accommodate the substantial power increases obtainable through the expansion” according to Ilaliya, AoC lead system designer.
Conquerors are a pretty spectacular jack-of-all-trades type class, and can be built to damage, tank or off tank, crowd control, and generally make a nuisance of themselves in both PvE and PvP. While they can’t use a shield like their guardian brethren, they do wear full plate and are able to take a beating while dishing out punishment. In addition, the class features retributive damage utility, meaning you get a bit of extra help in combat without actively mashing buttons.
Dark Templars are a curiosity, in that they’re technically a tank but they also have access to healing abilities and offensive magic, life drains, and more. My experience with DT’s is rather limited up to this point, but the general consensus in the community is that the class is another of the ‘easy to play/hard to master’ variety. Conceptually, the class sounds very similar to Vanguard’s Dread Knight (a personal favorite), and so it’s next on my list of alts after I finish up my ranger.
The stealth bombers of Hyboria, rogues do large amounts of damage across the board but must selectively pick their targets and/or operate from the shadows to be most effective. If you like skulking about and ruining someone’s day before they even know you’re there, this is your archetype.
Sins are quite simply the highest single target melee DPS in the game. Conversely, they wear cloth armor and are the squishiest melee class in the game. For the uninitiated, that means if you don’t kill your target in your initial flurry of moves (or you don’t attack from stealth), you probably won’t make it. While assassins do have a few crowd control abilities, it is generally unwise to take on multiple foes.
Given that King Conan himself is of the barbarian persuasion, it’s no surprise that this is a popular class and also a fairly effective one. An interesting hybrid between fighter and stealth, the barb can dual-wield, employ stuns and knockbacks, and put out significant damage in both PvE and PvP. They are the guerilla fighters in Age of Conan; their fearsome damage capabilities are offset by the fact that sustained fights tend to go against them, and they are restricted to light armor.
Ah, the ranger. High DPS, stealth, traps/snares/stuns, effective from range and up close, the ability to track both players and mobs, and, oh yeah, decent defenses courtesy of medium armor. Did I leave anything out? Most rangers invest feat points in either bow or crossbow skills. The former being quite effective in PvE and PvP (salvo anyone?) and the latter being primarily used for PvE due to the AoE capabilities. Since this week’s column is pushing the limits of my attention span, we’ll save an in-depth discussion of the ranger for a future entry. For now, just know that I’ve been playing MMOs since the late 1990s, and I’ve never enjoyed a class as much as AoC’s ranger. Granted, I’m level 30 on my Wiccana character (crossbows), and 23 on Cimmeria (bows), but so far it is an absolute blast.
So there you have it, a brief look at what makes each of Age of Conan’s classes tick. As I’m still a relative newb, these are, of course, preliminary findings. Over the course of the column, we’ll dive deeper into the game’s mechanics as well as specifics on the ranger, assassin, and as many alts as I can roll. Feel free to post your own class experiences in the comments.