The Anvil of Crom: It's the Bear Shaman (barely)

Jef Reahard
J. Reahard|03.20.11

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The Anvil of Crom: It's the Bear Shaman (barely)
Well, the people have spoken, and it seems like I've got some new marching orders when it comes to Age of Conan. If you've been following the column for the last little while, you'll know that I'm running a miniseries that borrows heavily from Massively's Choose My Adventure pieces.

Every so often I'll offer up some polls relating to various gameplay choices, giving you the reader the opportunity to vicariously explore aspects of Funcom's fantasy title that may have lacked previous coverage. I'll report on my character's adventures on a regular basis, with the long-term goal being a pretty comprehensive record of what it's like to play AoC from 1 to 80, as well as a deep look at endgame.

In addition, it's a public character, so anyone who wants to group for dungeons, PvP, or general shenanigans can hit me up in game. Preambles aside, head past the cut to see the results of last week's polling and a glimpse into the future.

So it looks like I'll be making another character on the American PvE server known as Wiccana (and as I said last week in the comments, apologies to old-world AoC fans, but I'm still working on obtaining a European account). I'll also be starting the chronicle from level 1 as opposed to blowing through Tortage and beginning my reporting once I've left the isle of newb.

The man

The most important of last week's poll choices was, of course, the class decision. I don't think I have to tell anyone that your class choice in a game like Age of Conan goes a long way toward determining your play experience, and I'm happy to report that the winner is both an AoC class that I've never played and an MMO archetype that I've rarely rolled. The Bear Shaman is one of three priest/healer classes in the game, and owing to Funcom's unique take on traditional MMO classes, the BS is far from your average themepark healbot.

Shamans are race-restricted to Khitains and Cimmerians (which is perfectly OK with me, since I've rolled a ton of Aquilonians and Stygians since 2008, and Cimmeria remains one of the more starkly beautiful collections of zones in the massive genre).

Bear Shamans are currently regarded as the game's best healer class by quite a large margin (and one of the better classes, period), with high survivability as well as moderate-to-high damage in both PvE and PvP -- depending on feat builds, equipment, and player skill.

In terms of gear, the Shaman primarily uses two-handed blunt melee weapons and is also able to equip bows, crossbows, and thrown weapons. Unlike AoC's other two priest classes, the Shaman can equip medium armor, which when combined with heals and a high regeneration rate, makes him quite sturdy in most combat situations. My preliminary research has also indicated that Shamans are desirable group companions due to various debuffing abilities as well as spiffy support feats (including melee damage buffs and stamina heals).

All of this utility comes at a price, though, and that price is complexity. The player community collectively regards the Bear Shaman as one of AoC's more challenging classes, and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't mildly concerned about my ability to play one proficiently. I've spent the majority of my game time on a Demonologist, which -- aside from the occasional spellweave -- is an exercise in spamming ranged attack specials, kiting, and generally having nothing to do with AoC's unique combo system.

What's this? Circle-strafing and bunny hopping, you say?

I've never done either, to be quite honest. Also, I'm the type of player who would rather shave with a rusty chainsaw than theorycraft or obsess over builds and minutiae, so the next few months should be an interesting (and new) experience on several levels.

Finally, a quick word to the Herald of Xotli fans in the audience. Yes, I saw that the Bear Shaman beat out your class by one measly vote in last week's polling. Fear not though, as I'll be starting another miniseries very much like this one when the Blood and Glory PvP servers open up this summer (i.e., you'll have another chance to put me in control of a HoX and see what happens).

So, at the end of all that, I give you Oakarm, the Cimmerian Bear Shaman.

The plan

Here's where it gets interesting. By the time you read this, I'll probably be fairly deep into AoC's Tortage content (again, haha). My play times can be pretty erratic, so I'll set a couple of I'm-guaranteed-to-be-online-barring-death-or-half-naked-hula-girls-on-my-front-lawn time slots, and hopefully anyone interested in playing along will find one to their liking.

You can also /cc addbuddy Oakarm and chat me up whenever/wherever. In addition to dedicated gaming times, I'm usually hanging out in AoC on weekday mornings and early afternoons (Eastern Daylight) while performing my other Massively duties. This is semi-AFK time, though, so unless we've coordinated a minigame queue, dungeon crawl, or whatever else in advance, I'll be tabbing in and out.

For this coming week (i.e., Sunday, March 20th through Saturday, March 26th), let's try the following dedicated play windows:
  • Sunday, 6:00-8:00 p.m. EDT
  • Monday, 4:00-7:00 p.m. EDT
  • Thursday, 4:00-7:00 p.m. EDT
  • Saturday, 9:00-11:00 a.m. EDT
And that's about the extent of this week's Anvil of Crom. Thanks for taking part in the polls; I hope to see some of you in game. In the meantime, I leave you with an image of Oakarm shortly after he realized that spamming Shockstrike or Fires of Gehenna was no longer an option.

Jef Reahard is an 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
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