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Hands-on with Age of Conan's Dark Templar class

Dan O'Halloran

The Consumer Electronics Show has hit Las Vegas in full force. The Massively team is here to roam the corridors of shiny, shiny, shiny gadgetry and ignore it all to to focus entirely on the content that is important to you. And that would be the shininess of Age of Conan.

Funcom is on hand with live connections to their AoC beta servers and two classes available for demo play. Before diving in, you should check out Michael Zenke's hands-on post he wrote for our mother site, Joystiq. It explains how combat works. Then come back here to read about my experiences with the Dark Templar. And a little later, I'll have another post detailing my Barbarian play.

Video of Dark Templar gameplay and Talent descriptions after the jump!

Gallery: Age of Conan CES 2008 Gallery | 10 Photos

WARNING#1: The video below was shot on my consumer grade digital camera with no audio. But it still shows off what I wanted you all to see: crazy combo moves.

WARNING #2: This game is still in beta. All the names, abilities, etc are subject to change. Don't come crying to me if this information no longer holds true come launch day.

The Dark Templar is one of three tanking classes in AoC and most akin to a Shadowknight in other games. Wearing light and medium chainmail, this tank uses his weapon attacks to trigger combo moves. The blood spilled in those moves triggers dark magic allowing the Dark Templar to leech health from the opponent and grant it to himself and his allies.

For the first 19 levels, all classes get damaging combo melee attacks. The character I demo'd was level 24 and had gained a few special combos that invoked his dark powers. By activating these new special combo skills, then executing the right moves, I was able to trigger the following:

  • Soul for a Feast: Drain life from the opponent, return it as health over time to the group.
  • Blood for Aid: Debuff the opponent's defense rating and increase their chance to be hit
  • Leech Life: Improve the effects of life drain on an opponent
My Dark Templar also had a castable buff called Martyrdom. It drains the caster's health and returns that health to the group overtime. Unlike Soul for a Feast, I could trigger this ability outside of combat. It's a toggle buff that I kept up constantly. It wasn't so draining on my life force that I would die if I didn't leech an enemy soon, but in hindsight, I probably shouldn't have used it while soloing.

Combo abilities are dependent on what weapon you are wielding. You can execute one combo, then in mid-battle, swap out weapons and execute a different combo. And depending what combo lands the killing blow, you have a chance to proc a Fatality superbuff or other effect. I heard one class has the Fatality effect of ripping the soul from their opponents body and using it as a pet for a few minutes.

Each class has a talent tree call Feats. In the current state of beta, each class has one archetype (tank, rogue, priest, mage) Feat tree and two class specific Feat trees. Each Feat tree has 20+ abilities. Some enhance current abilities passively, others grant new abilities.

For the Dark Templar, their specialty Feat trees are called Depravity and Desecration. Two Feats I saw that excited me the most were an AE stun (critical for tank classes) and a new combo that resulted in the Dark Templar raising a combat pet from the blood of his enemies.

Combat was fast and furious. Target the enemy, go in swinging, fire off your combo abilities for high damage and self-healing, hope for a Fatality, rinse and repeat. The video above pretty much sums up soloing, except I had some super GM buffs that kept me alive.

Overall, I was very impressed with the gameplay. It had the dark, bloody feel of a Conan novel. I wish I could have experienced group play, but at least I was able to get a feel for soloing. And it was fun. How many other games can say that for tank classes?

Age of Conan will launch globally on March 25.

Next: videos, talents and Feats for the Barbarian class.

Gallery: Age of Conan CES 2008 Gallery | 10 Photos

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