My thoughts on the AoC Starting Area, Barbarian, and Bear Shaman

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I have been playing more classes lately and want to share my thoughts on the Barbarian and Bear Shaman. Before I do though, I want to talk a bit about the starting area of Age of Conan and give a few pieces of advice that might come in handy should you decide to get the game.

I consider levels 1-19 to be the “starting area” for AoC. These levels are here to show players what they can expect in the rest of Hyboria. As such they are supposed to be rather easy like an introductory course since it won’t be uncommon for there to be first time mmorpg players giving the game a try. Unfortunately that means there is quite a large amount of content that gets old very quickly for the veteran or experienced player. The Tortage area is full of quests but they are very simple “go here and pick this up off the ground” or “go here and kill 3 scorpion” quests. If you have ever completed the Durotar starting area for Orcs and Trolls in WoW you will be a pro at the Tortage content.

The content is linear and the story is very basic. Before some of you have a violent case of nerd rage and begin commenting with fists swinging I urge you to do a search on our blog here and see that I enjoy linear play. What I don’t like, in linear play or otherwise, is the mundane feeling of having to push through something to get to what I really want to do. I didn’t have that feeling the first time I played through the starting area, but I did the second time and every time after that.

What makes the Tortage area 10x worse than it should be is how much of it is “Single-Player only”. The real storyline of the Tortage area and truly the best content is restricted to night time and single-player only. This is very frustrating for me since I am a social player. I crave the random social interactions of mmorpgs and I really feel like I am denied that experience in 60% of the Tortage area. Compounded with redundant instancing of towns (aka Tortage 1, Tortage 2, Tortage 3, etc) the whole experience begins to feel very isolating and more like another hurdle I want to just jump over and be done with. I think Funcom realized this a few months ago. I believe this entire experience at one point in time was 100% single-player. What a nightmare that would have been. If I can give any advice it would be that you mix things up when playing through Tortage. Do some night quests then switch to Day and do a few. Don’t stick with one too long or you’ll burn out. The Night content is lonely and the Day content feels thrown together at the last minute.

The night content is well done though once you look past the forced single-player. It’s an interesting storyline and definitely fun the first time through. After the first time through, if you’re like me, you’re going to wish you could skip the whole thing and just start your character at level 20 when (supposedly) the more open and real mmorpg world and experience begins. If I were in Funcom’s shoes I would do all I can to reduce this Tortage experience to level 10 or 13. Let players get out into the world quicker so that they don’t feel suffocated in what feels like 20 levels of tutorial.

Bear Shaman
This class reminds me a lot of my Shaman from WoW at low levels. Very much a melee oriented character with a few minor support abilities early on that are better suited for soloing or duoing than they are grouping. I keep hearing people say “the Bear Shaman sucks early on!” but I can’t see what they’re talking about. With a decent 2hander I was crushing stuff to pieces at level 13 and never coming close to death. Early on, I think at level 4 or so, the Bear Shaman gets an ability that places a HoT on himself after his next successful melee hit. That thing rocks!

Supposedly the Bear Shaman is a mid to late bloomer. I can understand that. If you look at the class as a healer or true support role it’s definitely sub-par at low levels. But the class by itself is far from weak. One of my favorite things to do with my BS is to gather up 3 mobs and line them up, execute a forward attack combo that swings 3x, and watch them all be crushed into pieces. It’s like windfury for the WoW shaman, I swear! Great fun and a mean class to go 1v1 against in PvP.

Pros: Combos, stuns, decent dps, sturdiest of the healers, hot’s, good in pvp
Cons: Late bloomer, lacking in support abilities early, learning curve, too many adds = death

Woah.. I thought the Ranger did damage. The Barbarian rips stuff apart without any effort. It wasn’t until my Barbarian hit level 7 and I had my 2nd cunning strike combo that I realized how quickly this class sets itself apart as a damage dealer. I went to the White Sands area (a little island near Tortage) and shredded camps of 3 Picts at a time. I have no idea whether or not this class stays this way but it’s incredibly durable right now. I honestly could not tell the difference between the barb and the dark templar’s survivability but the difference in damage was night and day.

Being a rogue type class it’s great to be offered a 2hand weapon. I remember one of my Shadowblade alts in DAoC was a 2h spec and this feels a little similar. I took my Barbarian for a spin in the mini-games and tested 2h vs. dual wield and I definitely feel the 2hand has the edge. Big hits out of stealth + crits + the fast nature of AoC’s combat = scary. You can’t go wrong with this class at all and unless it somehow loses the edge later on… it’s going to be a very popular class right up there with the Ranger and Assassin. Just a tip: If you see a Barbarian running at you with a 2hander, you best run the other way.

Pros: Insane damage, great survivability, choice of DW/2h, stealth, unparalleled in pvp
Cons: It’s going to be overplayed

  • So what level would you estimate the bear shaman to “Bloom” I wan’t to play the class, but it’s so hard to level I can barely kill ONE mob my level.

  • “Early on, I think at level 4 or so, the Bear Shaman gets an ability that places a HoT on himself after his next successful melee hit. That thing rocks!” that thing sucks in my opinion, 2 hp every second…

  • Alot of the Tortage experience might be because as testers limited by level caps we’ve done it like 5x – 10x each. I’ve done it so many times that I don’t actually mind it now because I know it so well I can blast through the first levels. That being said, yah it is pretty lame. I don’t find the voice acting all that well done and some of the theatrics in the cut scenes seem somewhat poorly animated. I hope there is a small amount of the chatbox covering cut scenes post 20, it just gets annoying and I spam through it. Sure a WoW quest interface isn’t all that story driven, but MMO’s and their server communities make their own story with all the politics and interguild drama. Especially with a borderlands PVP system like in Conan it should be very condusive to that sort of play at later levels when battlekeeps start getting rolled =)

  • @Galo: What level are you? Have you been keeping your gear current? Spending skill points and feats? As for when the class truly comes into its own I would guess closer to 25-30 based on playing it around 1-13 and at 20.

  • I have the blue chestpiece from the night vendor, and then all the medium armolr from the vendor, I cant find a good 2h blunt, using a 29.3 dps one, lvl 10 right now. I’m using my feats in spirits I beleive, and also in concentration and mana regen.

  • And you’re sure you’re fighting mobs your level with your best combos up and all? It might just be that your style conflicts with the BS class.

  • Well, I use crush armor, then internal bleeding, the cenurius strike 2. and I’m fighting mobs level 8-11

  • Yea i got my bard up to 13 last night and was raping people in the mini games. i could get away from any combat that i didnt think i could win and i would sneak up and pk people faster than they knew what hit them lol. Also had a deamon caster with me and we just coulnt be killed. Kinda sad but i do think that you are right this class will be very much over played. But all in all in the end, i think its a great class that is very balanced. We cant tank forever and we cant out dps much better than some of the other dps class. i have yet to see any other people QQing about how the barb plays and look forward to seing the down the line for the class.BTw did you guys hear about the 10th? OPEN PVP!! /cheer

  • as i was saying in the other blog the barb makes a nice puler with the bow as well. you can use it to move there shields around and get in some extra damage. though i think i still like the rangers ability to down enemys before they get close enough though *laughs*

  • Hey, I just got a phone call from GameStop (7:45 PM EST) that they have their pre-order packages in…at least at the stores here in Michigan.

  • @ Darrell:

    Yeah, Electronics Boutique here in Vancouver got our pre-order bonus cards in on May 1st, which has me covered for my War Mammoth and early access.

    Problem for me is that my gf would really like a Rhino, but we don’t have a lot of options for that. Best Buy Canada supposedly has it, but the stores here won’t preorder and when I tried to check online orders they were brutally honest with me and told me most likely the preorder would end up arriving three days after the launch date, d’oh.

    I don’t want to resort to eBay for the Rhino, but even just a glance there all I see are the Mammoth and Bow preorder cards.

    Ahh well, she’ll probably see a horse she likes anyway. =)

  • @keen… any thoughts on ToS? many of us are wondering how the casters/healers will hold up with all the crazy melee dps. maybe any word on pvp/pve caster durability in cloth?

    some posters on other sites have complained about many many deaths in the starting area. tougher for clothies? or just for people who are either 1) hopelessly without skill 2) new to mmo’s or 3) not using the active defenses. is it really possible that 1v2 same level mobs is certain death for clothies?? say it ain’t so!!!

    true or false? melee can’t be mobile when doing a combo; vice versus a mobile player/npc can’t be hit if they manage to get out of range before/during a combo?

  • @Keen… Will you be posting about the HoX and the conqueror? Those are the two classes I am interested in the most

  • any kind of information on demonologists/tempest of set would also be much much appreciated!

  • I’ve seen in many forums that the rougue classes seam a little overpowered dealing so much damage and also taking it.

    Do you think it is a “bug” in the balance of classes or shall be different in upper levels with Heavy Armors on soldiers?

  • Compared to the other classes rogues do feel overpowered. I can’t even begin to speculate abut the latter levels though but tank types usually come into their own (if they ever do) later in most games.

    It’s probably not a bug. At least I hope not.

  • I know this isn’t going to be a popular sentiment, but I ~like~ how the rogues may be overpowered, even though I’m not planning on playing any of the rogue classes (at least not as my main).

    Class balance IMHO is far over-rated and fussed about, especially since it’s impossible to perfect. Worse, the more the classes are balanced to 1:1 ratios, the more the team dynamics suffer. I’d like to see some classes as primarily support, especially in a game with collision detection where tanks can (sorta) tank in PvP.

    In that vision, a Rogue, by name and definition should be the most powerful in a 1:1 circumstance.

    Too much ‘balancing’ is for me, one of the biggest turnoffs for PvP and why I’ve been avoiding it for awhile now (the last time I had fun in PvP was when Alterac Valley was first released, heh).

  • Well Tortage used to be a level 1-20 (5-10 hour intro) to the game earlier in beta. Basically trying to up the “production value” of say a starting area in wow where there is basically no story line at all.

    This is why the 1-20 has very little in common with the rest of the game. Now if it is good or bad I don´t really know and I am not even sure if it matters that much.

    But what I do think they gain by the destiny quest and large instancing in tortage is that it will probably be easier to play there even with say 10000 other people than it was to start burning crusade with everyone trying to tag the same mob.

  • About assasins
    a)I found it very strange that a waitress (?!) is my instructor and the fact that somehow i got my stances/combos like “hi now that u ve talk to me u have learned 2 stances!may i take your order now?”.I wanted something deeper than that.
    b)About the stealth mode.At wow (among other games) u could tell from the npc reaction if u were about to be spotted or not.At AoC one moment u r in stealth and the next moment u been chased by 10 mobs
    c)This skill point system is a bit odd.I always have enough points to learn all of my skills to max and on top of that i got many points left.So, why choose and not simply auto maxed by the game?Theres no thinking about “hmm what should i choose ? climbing or something else ?”
    And last i wanna ask if its normal to die each end every tim e (or run away) when facing 3 mobs at the same lvl as me.I am 10 lvl i got descent gear but it seems that i cant kill a group of 10/10/09 lvl npcs.I mean its a tutorial isnt it?I just wanna adventure around and do solo 1-13!

  • A) does it matter who is your instructor ? in wow it is some random npc where you buy the abilities.

    B) there used to be indicators for your stealth level earlier in closed beta (similiar to thief). they want to add it back in some time after launch again. perhaps at launch. hard to know the features of the dev version is in some aspect 3 months ahead of even the closed beta.

    3. yes at early level you do but you get more skills like hidding, perception, bandaging, fast healing, concentration etc etc and then you do not have enough point for everything. but yeah it is strange one can´t see all the skills at level one imho.

    well that depends on your class ofc and how good you are I would say. some classes can charge in and take out 2-3 mobs no problem and with some others you gotta be a bit more cautious.

  • I can’t even believe you guys are waxing intellectual about class balance with level 13 skills and abilities. Does this not seem idiotic to anyone else? I feel like I’m taking fuckin crazy pills.

  • Yes i believe that asking from devs for balanced classes all the way from 1-80 is a bit idiotic.That what matters most is at lvl 80 all classes have even chances at 1vs1 pvp (same gear).Thats the optimum but its very very difficult.

  • I never understood why people worry about a class being “overplayed”. If that is the class you like, who cares how many people play it? I guess it comes down to the game design and if the developers allow you to things on your own. The only problem I ever had with an overplayed class was in WoW with my Rogue. Once I hit 60 I couldn’t find a group to save my life. That is the only MMO where I had that problem though.

  • @kmxs: It’s good to talk about a class’s capabilities early on. If someone doesn’t want to struggle for 50 levels just to start having an easier time then they may want to avoid certain classes. And since many people DO pvp at low levels it’s a perfectly acceptable conversation. Lay off the pills. 😉

    @Flying Norseman: Guilds only want certain amounts of X or Y class. Groups won’t fill up with multiples of the same class. Playing the overplayed class is a huge stigma to some. I personally avoid the super overplayed classes for 2 reasons. 1) Getting groups has proven to be tougher and 2) Often they are the first target for the nerfbat.

    @All the people asking for info on another class: I’ll get the class info out when I can. I’ve been playing the closed beta more to experience life beyond the low levels. I’ll comment on the HoX, ToS, and Conq soon.

  • For me it all stems back to EverQuest. On my server druids were extremely overplayed and it was really difficult for me to find a group when I needed to. Ever since then I haven’t liked the feeling of playing anything that is “overplayed.”

  • I can’t remember an MMO I have played where someone didn’t think each class got some sort of nerf. I don’t think it has anything to do with the popularity of the class. If a guild will only accept X number of a certain class, then I am not interested in that guild.

  • @Graev: I think they were overplayed on every server, plus in the beginning they weren’t that good in groups just soloing. I made the same mistake and finally just re-rolled enchanter before Kunark came out.

    @Keen I still think its crazy to base any opinions off of a lvl 13, not because its unacceptable talk, because its probably not going to give much of a clear representation of what it will be like at 80. We could form an opinion now and be easily disappointed. Think WoW Shadow Priest. You didn’t even get to really see them play out until lvl 40. Then they became one of the best PVP classes in the game.

    Too each his own I guess, but someone deciding not to play a class because it wasn’t great at 13 might be kicking themselves later on only to find out they get a couple class defining features later on.

  • @kmxs: I’m simply stating how they will play at and around 13. I know things change later. The basic “feel” of the class though ‘usually’ never changes. If I don’t like being a tank at 13, chances are it’s not worth struggling through it until 80. That sorta thing.

  • I know this is off topic, but anyone know when the switch to twenty is supposed to happen? I have dug through the funcom forum and didn’t see anything.

  • bear shaman does really good dammage that I can see… the problem is staying alive.