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.
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.
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, and until next week, you know the drill:
Age of Conan beta and launch day veteran, as well as the creator of Massively's weekly Anvil of Crom. Feel free to suggest a column topic, propose a guide, or perform a verbal fatality via firstname.lastname@example.org.