Age of Conan Class Interview #4: The Assassin

Questions by Cody "Micajah" Bye, Managing Editor
Answers by Evan Michaels, System Designer for Funcom

The time has come for stealth, guile, and the silent kill. The last few weeks have been rife with information on the classes in the Age of Conan as our bi-weekly class interviews covered all of the Soldier archetypes in thorough detail. With the soldiers finished, the Ten Ton Hammer staff has refocused our next set of class interviews on the Rogue archetype, which features the Assassin, Ranger, and the ever-popular Barbarian classes. For our first of these three interviews, the Funcom developers wanted to concentrate on the mysterious Assassin. To find out more about this class, we asked a series of questions to Evan Michaels, system designer for Funcom, and he was happy to give us the nitty-gritty info. Enjoy the article and start dreaming about your future Assassin!

Ten Ton Hammer: Out of all the Rogue classes, the Assassin has really been the only class without a detailed preview. Why has it taken so long to get specific details about the Assassin class to the general public?

An Assassin sneaking up on his next kill.

Evan Michaels: Assassins were one of the more major “theme mergers" - bringing together the Lotus Master and Defiler classes into one - and as such has required a bit more work to fit everything together compared to some of the other classes, like the Guardian or Priest of Mitra that have been around for quite some time.

Given that the Assassin class has undergone so many changes over the last year, naturally it has ended up further down the list in terms of the order we approach class previews. In the end, however, we’ve been very happy with how the Assassin turned out and feel that it will be a very enjoyable class to play.

Ten Ton Hammer: Could you give a brief synopsis of the Assassin so everyone can understand what this particular class is all about? What are their strengths and weaknesses? What do they excel at?

Evan: The basis of the Assassin is (as the name may imply) killing swiftly and efficiently.  The Assassin is probably the deadliest of any class when it comes to raw power, having a variety of means with which to quickly dispatch his target of choice. So, simply put, an Assassin is definitely someone you want to have on your side of the battle as opposed to knifing you in the back. The Assassin is also the most proficient class when it comes to stealth, and has a bit of an easier time sneaking around than the other classes in the game.

As for weaknesses, his focus on stealth—which requires sacrificing heavier armor for silk to make less noise—and a very offensive-oriented mentality leave him a bit weaker defensively when compared to many of the other classes. Assassins rely more on evasion and other methods of rejuvenation—be it golden lotus extracts or more necrotic techniques, depending on their focus—rather than taking the brunt of many direct hits.

Ten Ton Hammer: In general – from the scant amount of video and descriptions of the Assassin that has filtered its way into the public – why does the Assassin have such an emphasis on melee combat? Weren’t Assassins just as good at killing people from a distance as they were with their close combat weaponry?

Evan: While Assassins are able to use crossbows and other forms of ranged weaponry, their strength is primarily in their ability to surprise and overwhelm their target quickly. Although one could accomplish this reasonably well with ranged attacks, the Assassin finds it more effective to be up close and personal, rapidly barraging his target with a flurry of quick jabs, poisoned blades, and other nasty techniques meant to expose his target’s weaknesses.

Ten Ton Hammer: While combat is important in AoC, there has also been an emphasis placed on stealth and guile as well, which the Assassin seems to be exceptionally good at. How will the Assassin’s stealth abilities allow him to gain an upper hand in certain encounters?

Evan: As was mentioned before, you are correct that the Assassin is exceptionally good at stealth, and the various advantages thereof.  The Assassin takes full advantage of this, gaining the upper hand by surprising unwary foes and debilitating them before they have time to gain the upper hand.

Given that the Assassin isn’t the most hearty fighter when it comes to getting directly attacked, being able to gain the element of surprise is a large boon for him. If skilled enough in sneaking around his chosen targets, the Assassin also has the ability to perform sneak attacks to further gain an advantage. He also has a number of abilities which have additional properties if used from stealth.

Ten Ton Hammer: For the Barbarian and the Ranger, it’s obvious what sort of benefits they can give to a party (melee and ranged DPS), but the Assassin’s party benefits aren’t so obvious. Why would an Assassin be a good person to include in a group? Should Assassins worry that they’re going to be labeled as the “loners” of AoC?

The after-effects of a completed assassination.

Evan: From a certain point of view, Assassins are a bit of a “selfish” class—however, one shouldn’t be so fast to dismiss that as them not being useful to a group.

Unlike the Barbarian, the Assassin generally does not have what we would consider direct “team buffs”, however he has a very wide toolset when it comes to debilitating his targets in ways that are generally quite useful in both solo and group gameplay.

His “Lethargy” combos, for instance, will dramatically lower the damage output of his chosen target, while he can further increase this effect with his “Atrophy” feats in the Lotus specialized tree.

In terms of other specialized feat-based group utility, Assassins can train in many abilities which are quite useful, such as:
  • “Sabotage Armor”, which removes the directional shielding abilities of the target for a short period
  • “Cleansing Lotus”, which can remove poison effects from their group
  • “Necrotic Leech”, which deals area damage while also leeching mana, stamina, and health back to their party
  • “Burden to Bear”, which makes high-armor targets take additional damage for a period of time
These are just a few examples of the toolset of the Assassin, but you can probably see that while he is perhaps a bit single-minded in terms of focusing on killing his targets, the way he facilitates it can be a major asset to any group.

Ten Ton Hammer: Will an Assassin be able to solo his enemies? Both the Barbarian and the Ranger seem to have decent combat abilities, but the Assassin doesn’t seem to have anything that really makes him good at soloing. Are there ways for Assassins to solo effectively?

Evan: Yes, the Assassin will be able to kill enemies solo, however it does take a bit more calculated of an approach than perhaps you would find in the brute-force measures of a Barbarian.

Especially when utilizing the element of surprise, the Assassin can be quite formidable. Launching a sneak attack on a target, debuffing one or multiple targets with his Lethargy combos, then following up with a barrage of quick hits, poison or unholy damage-over-time combos and abilities can kill a target more swiftly than pretty much any class in the game.

On the flip-side, being careful is the way of the Assassin and getting caught off-guard is not something that will prove to be ideal. Even then, however, Assassins can spec into a number of evasive and recovery-oriented abilities, such as “Prediction” (passive evasion bonuses), “Necrotic Leech”, “Life Leech” (damage-based health recovery), “Cat’s Paw” (short-duration evasion buff), and “Golden Lotus Extract” (short duration healing effect) to deal with unforeseen situations.

Ten Ton Hammer: How will the Assassin's poison and unholy attacks work in combat? Are they going to be combos, or something that you will apply to your weapons before you enter combat?

Evan: The Assassin has a number of ways to utilize the effects of their chosen damage path, be it through stances, combos, or abilities. The first specialized feat available in their ‘Lotus’ and ‘Corruption’ trees will grant the respective stances used in association with either tree and allow the Assassin to deal passive poison and unholy damage on all of their melee attacks while active. Additionally, depending on the stance the Assassin is in at the time, their combos will take different forms and have slightly different effects corresponding with said stance.

Examples of this would be one combo which applies lingering poison damage while in Poison Stance (‘Poison Blades’) or deals instant unholy damage and collects Soul Fragments while in Unholy Stance (‘Corrupted Blades’.) As one might also expect, the optional special abilities found in either of the two trees are typically themed to match one of the two damage types or somehow interact with the nature of their respective stance.

Ten Ton Hammer: Are the Assassin's still going to have the ability to create restorative elixirs? How are these going to compliment potions created by an Alchemist?

Assassins aren't afraid to get down and dirty with the corpses they make.

Evan: While creating elixirs was an idea originally slated for the Lotus Master class, the Assassin himself will not have that ability specifically. Instead, the Assassin will have a number of abilities which grant temporary effects corresponding with the theme of the two ‘stances’ of the class. For example, specific to the Lotus tree is the ability to use restorative powers of ‘Golden Lotus Essences’ in order to heal the Assassin’s wounds.

Similar options would be the ability to remove poisons from himself and his group, become resilient against magical attacks used against him, or (as my personal favorite) use a bomb of mixed lotus powers to confuse his enemies, rendering them unable to tell friend from foe for a short period of time. Not to be left out, the Corruption tree has a number of more unholy-themed abilities which bestow short-term advantages upon the Assassin—often utilizing the Soul Fragments harvested from his victims in order to drain the life from his still-living targets or empower him with unholy strength.

Ten Ton Hammer: The Assassin character seems pretty neat, but is there anything else you’d like to tell the Ten Ton Hammer readers to attract them to this particular class in AoC?

Evan: Personally, I’ve been playing the Assassin quite a bit recently—especially in working on the specialized trees—and have to say I’ve really been having a blast with it. The Assassin is a really great class for people who like having a large strategic toolset, many abilities on the hotbar, and high damage-dealing potential.

After all, simply from a gamer’s perspective, when you start getting into using all your abilities to maximum potential it’s hard to resist watching your target’s HP plummet from the flurry of damage numbers on the screen caused by offhand procs, poisons, combos, and clickable special abilities!

What do you think of the Assassin? Will there be enough stealth and guile involved for you? Let us know on the forums!

Ten Ton Hammer is your unofficial source for Age of Conan news and articles!

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