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Age of Conan Class Comparision: First 3 of 12

This weekend, I've taken it upon myself to give Age of Conan's classes a good test run, at least up to level 10. I know there's purists out there who feel it's their obligation to point out that you won't know what a given character class is capable of until you've played them all the way to the end. While I respect that opinion, I think it's also accurate to say that level 10 is far enough to see which direction the class is going in the broad scope of all the classes.

Today, whilst coping with unoptimized load times and frequent staggering relating to on-the-fly shader optimization, I've given the Barbarian, Priest of Mitra, and Herald of Xolti a good spin. So, without further ado:

Primary Function: Melee-range offense (slashing DoT "bleeding", PBAOE attack)
Secondary Function: Mitigation (stuns) and Scouting (stealth)
Short Description: The ferocious Barbarian's animal cunning is not suited for direct fights against disciplined and armored foes.

The level 10 Barbarian is limited in defensive capacity, with only light armor and no shields, like some kind of two-handed sword wielding rogue. Their ability to mitigate damage with stuns and knockdowns, while powerful, is too unreliable for regular protracted fights. Thus, their best bet is to end the fight quickly with rapid burst damage (such as a stealth attack).

Barbarians seem to have two modes of combat operation: Two-handed weapons or dual-wielding weapons. With the two-handed weapon out, the stun attack and an additional damage-over-time attacked is available. With dual-wielded weapons, the Cyclone of Steel point blank area of effect attack can be used. Either way, the Barbarian is really not intended to be on the receiving end of abuse for long.

Basic Tactic:
1. Hide
2. Find and assess targets.
3a. Begin the fight via sneak attack. (Requires sneaking up behind the enemy without being spotted.)
3b. If sneak attack is not viable (e.g. inability to approach, too many enemies at the target location) then begin fight with ranged attacks (bow or thrown weapons).
4. During melee combat, mitigate damage with Stunning Fist and Slam, ideally applying continuous damage over time from Butcher and Vicious Strike.
More Details: Official Link

Priest of Mitra
Primary Function: Healing/Nuking
Secondary Function: Buffing
Short Description: Though not much of a fighter, the Priest of Mitra more than makes up for it by wielding his holy power as both an instrument of healing and destruction.

The level-10 Priest of Mitra leans heavily on his magical capacity, however, this does not seem to impede his versatility at all, with a battery of healing-over-time and ranged spells. The holy-charged damage from the offensive attacks is actually quite good, capable of defeating or severely damaging many a respectable threat before they enter melee range. When a battle turns sour, the healing spells provide some recourse. (Surprisingly, the heals are all "over time"; None of them at this level seem to be the direct lump heals typically found on priests in MMORPGs.)

While they have no combo attacks, Priests of Mitra do have some minimalist melee survivability in that they can use a shield and hack away semi-effectively with a one handed blunt weapon. Still, a priest without any mana left is at a severe disadvantage. In that instance, it is advantageous that the entire stamina bar (normally used for combos) is entirely reserved for running away.

Basic Tactic:
1. Apply buffs (Divine Vigor, Shielding Litany)
2. Nuke target at range (Smite, Rebuke)
3. During melee, throw short casting time spells when recharged (Rebuke, Wave of Life). (Longer casting spells are more likely to be interrupted and may do no more than basic melee damage in the time it takes them to cast anyway.)
4. In threating situations, mitigate damage by knocking down nearby foes with Repulse.

Special Tactic: Heal and Run
1. With enough health remaining to survive the casting time, cast both heal over time spells (Emanation of Life, Wave of Life)
2. Double-tap backwards (dodge mode)
3. Run away.
4. Re-engage foes in melee when health has sufficiently regenerated.
More details: Official Link.

Herald of Xolti
Primary Function: Melee-range offense
Secondary Function: Mitigation (wards) and debuffs.
Short Description: When the going gets tough, any unarmored melee fighter could use an edge... the Herald of Xolti's edge is turning into a muscular, fire-breathing demon.

The level 10 Herald favors using a two-handed edged weapon to bring great close range offensive firepower to bear. The Molten Edge attack is capable of dispatching many respectable foes in one blow! The Desecrating Essence demon form, usable for 25 seconds every 3 minutes, essentially doubles the damage output of the herald, radiates a constant aura of fire damage, and regenerates stamina (among other lesser things). Defensively, the herald is quite weak: even in demon form, the Herald is essentially naked, protected only by cloth and a thin layer of magical wards.

Basic Tactic:
1. Buff up with Sign of Xolti and Contract of Protection before diving into battle.
2. Use Molten Steel Slash, Hell Strikes, and Hellfire Breath regularly: These are your hard-hitting attacks (especially the Molten Steel Slash, which I've seen crest over 300 damage pre-level-10).
3. It might help to use Desecrating Essence for the harder fights. Alternatively, you can just use it to increase your damage substantially. It's also useful for fleeing as it grants more than enough stamina to counter the draining rate of running.

More details: Official Link

Once I've finished reviewing all 12 classes, I should have a better idea as to their overall potencies, and I'll then be in a better position to really assess their primary and secondary functions.

That's all I'll have time for tonight. The servers went down shortly before midnight PST for a four hour update. Here's hoping they're coming out with a patch that solves the loading issues - I'm getting a little tired of staring at 10-minute-long loading screens.
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