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Hands-on with Age of Conan's priests

Kyle Horner

A lot of things about Age of Conan are different from your average MMO, but some things are also similar. The healing classes in the game are a prime example of this, as each of the three classes rely on the whack-a-mole gameplay style while adding in some new choices. In other words, they all heal, but they all deal damage in different ways. I didn't realize how different each of AoC's healers truly were until I was able to sit down with them for a couple of days last weekend.

Over the course of the recent PvP weekend I did just that: fiddled around with the healing classes in Age of Conan. While I normally don't play the healer class in MMOs, I've dabbled in the selfless class archetype known as the healer. Because of this, I know how the healing gig typically goes in MMOs, but when I started playing the healers in AoC I found myself a bit surprised.

Gallery: Age of Conan Priests | 32 Photos

Bear Shaman

Imagine my surprise when -- much like Funcom promised -- Bear Shamans turned out to be competent combat classes with healing capabilities. As an added bonus, the shorthand for this class is BS, which I personally find to be a little bit funny. It almost seems like Funcom is tipping their hat to all the healers who've gotten their face consistently smashed in by melee-only classes for the past ten-plus years in MMOs.

Much like the Herald of Xotli is a mage class that can actually stand its ground in combat, the Bear Shaman is a healer who can take quite a few bonks to the noggin' and return the favor. It's like hearing that your favorite television show is probably going to be canceled only to hear news that they actually got resigned for a few more seasons: It brings joy to your heart.

The healing spells of the Bear Shaman are green and feature lots of leaves and nature-based special effects, whereas the Tempest of Set and Priest of Mitra's spells have their own visual themes. So it's never hard to figure out which of the three healing classes is helping you out. What I found to be especially impressive were the bear-themed spells that actually made me feel like a badass -- even if I was essentially a druid. To be honest, that's what I thought this class would be going into it: AoC's version of a druid class.

What I got instead was a class that wielded a giant hammer with as much impressiveness as any Barbarian and could also heal himself and his allies at the same time. It was pretty awesome. I wasn't planning on being a healer class when Age of Conan eventually came out, but now I may have to rethink my class strategy.

Tempest of Set

Where the Bear Shaman surprised me with its melee capabilities, the Tempest of Set did the same with its offensive magic. I knew that this class employed a lot of snake and lightning-themed magic, but Funcom went pretty wild with everything -- in a good way.

Of course, you still have all the healing standbys, although at level 20 I didn't see a revive spell for the Tempest of Set (but I could have simply missed it somehow). Truth be told, I spent a lot of my time using the Cobra Stare spell to snare my enemies while I pummeled them with lightning attacks. Of course if someone nearby needed it, throwing out heals was certainly do-able. Healing just is not what I wanted to focus on when there was a chance use giant magical snakes and lightning on my enemies.

However, after a couple of matches I found a nice balance of healing and nuking. The problem -- for me, at least -- was that I needed to find a good way to position myself in combat. As a Tempest of Set, you need to be close enough to your enemies to cast your hostile spells while remaining safely distanced enough to be able to heal your allies if needed. This wasn't really a problem with the Bear Shaman as that class is meant to be played up close and personal.

I can see skilled Tempest of Set players being quite a nuisance in PvP once they've gotten used to maintaining their range for all of their spells. There will probably be a good chunk of players who try the class -- because it does have some very cool spells -- and simply give up after a little while due to the challenge.

Priest of Mitra

If you want your standard, straight up healer, then here you go -- play a Priest of Mitra. Granted, this MMO being Age of Conan means that the Priest of Mitra does have offensive spells in its arsenal. Unlike its fellow healing classes, the class tends to lean more towards healing magic in its default build.

There's the option of adjusting class feats to make the Priest of Mitra a heavier damage dealer and I can easily see why some players will choose to do so; demons. In the small chunk of PvE content I was able to play during the PvP weekend I fought some demons and the Priest of Mitra dispatched those guys faster than any of the mages or other priests had before it.

Still, in the PvP mini-games I found myself sticking to other players and healing as much as I could. I did get into a few melee scrapes along the way, but I that usually ended with me face down in the mud. Although surprisingly, it seemed like the Priest of Mitra was able to take a few more blows than the Tempest of Set. I could have sworn they were both wearing the same armors, but unfortunately I was too caught up in the PvP matches to check throughly.

Another interesting note is that, at level 20, the Priest of Mitra seemed to be the only class with a revive spell. Although the resurrection spell had a fairly long cast time, which made it a bit bothersome to try and use in PvP battles where it's most useful.

Overall, if you're looking to be able to play the traditional healer then the Priest of Mitra is going to appeal to you greatly. There's no need to envy those who can whack around guys like a Bear Shaman or conjure magical snakes and lightning like the Tempest of Set. Why? Because whenever demons decide to attack -- and in Age of Conan, they're practically everywhere -- you'll be able to lay down some holy might.

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